Heirloom-quality furniture usually starts with a set of fundamental elements. These include structurally sound methods grounded in old-world style, sustainable materials with timeless longevity and a distinct intrinsic flair. For Chicago furniture designer Jason Lewis, it also includes a hands-on, made-to-order approach. Introduced to woodworking by his father early on, Lewis later studied under Berthold Schwaiger, a local expert who ran an apprenticeship for aspiring woodworkers. “I wanted to do something tangible, and I just stumbled across Berthold one day,” he admits. Arbitrary or not, the year-long experience gave Lewis the push to break out on his own, which he did in 2002 when he opened his first shop in Oak Park. Today, his trademark style—sculptural flowing lines, smooth transitions and unique joinery—brings a more polished, restrained feel to his custom furnishings. “There’s a simplicity of form, quality of execution and attention to detail at the core of my work,” says Lewis. “And each of these elements creates something special, unique and beautiful, without being overly done.”
LX: What’s inspiring you now?
JL: I’ve always been inspired by a midcentury feel. I’m drawn to that period of design aesthetically, so a lot of those notions filter into my work.
LX: Favorite local design shops:
JL: Salvage One is my favorite place to wander around. I have a weakness for random building parts and they have three floors chock-full of them. Room 406, a new showroom from Troscan Design + Furnishings, has a great mix of furniture—including some of my own pieces—and unique housewares combined with beautiful vintage items.
LX: Dream commission:
JL: I’d love to do an entire house of furniture like George Nakashima did for Nelson Rockefeller. It’d be something where the furniture drives the whole vision of the space.
LX: What makes you happiest about your work?
JL: To be able to build, use my hands, and make things that people respond to is amazing.
LX: Preferred piece to build:
JL: Chairs. I think it’s a challenge to design a chair that’s both beautiful and comfortable.