J. Rusten’s Rocking Chair

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If the world of furniture-design had haute couture houses, Jared Rusten’s San Francisco based studio would be one of a small handful. Unlike a fashion atelier though, Jared, and his eponymously named J. Rusten Furniture Studio defy easy classification. Certainly, most of the work the studio produces will read as “furniture” (chairs to sit in, tables to place things upon) but witnessing the care taken in shaping each subtle line, and feeling every hand-buffed surface it is clear that these pieces occupy a rare space where art, design, and hand-craft meet. The name Jared prefers for this type of woodwork is “studio furniture”, a term to describe one of a kind, or limited production objects created in a studio rather than a high volume factory. Jared’s work then is not a collection of “products” so much as of “pieces”, and each original design he delivers to a client is cataloged, numbered, and accompanied by a letter-pressed certificate of authenticity. Which, may prove valuable as some early J. Rusten chairs have already found collectors on the sec- ondary art market.

Jared’s interest in design can be traced back to a childhood where his mother taught private art classes in their suburban garage, and where art materials were plentiful. A chance view- ing of a PBS woodworking show in high school opened Jared’s mind to the pursuit of furniture-making and after a frustrating year pursuing a design degree and feeling impatient to build his own ideas, Jared enrolled in a small Los Angeles area college with a bustling woodworking program. For two years he studied and apprenticed with some of the area’s most talented master craftsman, exploring his own designs in the evenings and on weekends. In 2003, Jared moved back to the SF bay area to open J. Rusten Furniture Studio, and by 2004, only 3 years after making the decision to devote himself to building studio furniture, Jared had four original chair designs that he was invited to exhibit at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Since then, Jared continues to exhibit new work across the country in large design shows, and museums, shipping pieces all over the world and attracting a loyal base of collectors including corporate clients like Google, Levi’s, Etsy, and many others.

Having spent so much time working on large private com- missions, Jared has been excited in recent years to return to the practice that first stoked his passion for furniture design: chair building. His latest offering is The Modern Rocking Chair, a sculptural and dynamic piece that defies what many imagine when they think “rocking chair”. “I’ve always wanted to design a rocking chair, but I’ll admit I was intimidated. The physics involved in creating a comfortable rocker are so complex, and I didn’t want to draw upon any other rocking chair design that I had seen.” Indeed, Jared’s design looks like no other rocking chair. Going back to one of his earliest chair designs, he revived the form of a laminated slat seat held within a rigid, cantilevered frame. The light-colored frame is crisp and modern, with subtle curves that trace a continuous, unbroken line. The eight laminated seat slats are made from warm-toned woods like walnut or cherry, and they articulate a glowing dramatic waterfall, bouncing upward slightly to provide critical lumbar support, carving a deep seat recess and finally washing out over the top of a shaped front stretcher. He is often told by admirers that it is the most comfortable wood chair they have ever sat in. “I think it’s important to have at least one heirloom piece that will grow in value with age and that you can pass on to future generations. The other decor in a home can become the frame to showcase that one distinctive and special object.” And, though Jared’s work might be the furniture equivalent of a meal at The French Laundry or a haute couture gown, his pieces are still accessible and without pretense. “With some studio furniture, function and comfort is secondary to the concept. I think there can be a harmony of function and form, while also showcasing the rare, natural beauty of the wood.”

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Text by Emily Otreicher