INTERIOR DESIGNER OF JONATHAN RACHMAN DESIGN AND STORE OWNER OF J.RACHMAN
San Francisco-based, Chinese-Indonesian interior designer Jonathan Rachman has lived a life full of serendipitous twists and turns. Born in Sumatra, he received his education in Switzerland and has lived and worked in San Francisco up till today. Initially a floral designer, he became an interior designer and set up his interior design business, Jonathan Rachman Design, in 2009. Two years ago, he opened J.Rachman on Market Street in San Francisco selling antiques and vintage pieces, as well as his own line of leather bags. We speak to Jonathan to find out more of his colourful life and work.
You have lived and worked in three continents, Asia, Europe and North America. Which of these places has had the most influence on your personal style?
I like to say I am a citizen of the world, so it is very hard to pick a single place which has the most influence on my personal aesthetic. I have lived the longest in the US, yet, it was during my younger years that I developed a very strong sense of aesthetic. Back then, I was exposed to a plethora of visual aesthetics in Indonesia, Asia and, soon after, the classical European architectures and interiors.
Everything I do has a touch of romance, including my selection of vintage pieces. I almost never look for vintage goods; they always seem to stumble into my path serendipitously.
Before you became an interior designer, you were a floral designer. How, and why, did you make the transition?
The transition happened very naturally even though I did not have any plans on becoming an interior designer. It started with a few noted individuals who enjoyed my floral arrangements, and then commissioned me to design flowers for events such as the 60th anniversary of the United Nations. It progressed to events, in which I would decorate the spaces, and even decide on the menu and music. One of the attendees enjoyed my event design and later asked me to decorate her living space. We started in one room and eventually did the rest of the house. Once completed, she asked me to design her summer home, and the rest is history. Word spread in San Francisco that I designed houses and, informally, I became an interior designer.
How has your upbringing and experience as a floral designer shaped you as an interior designer?
Being a floral designer is part of being an interior designer. For me, the flowers are the icing on a cake as they complete the look of the space. A space without fresh flowers is like a beautiful lady or handsome gentleman who goes to a party without any jewellery or cuff links. My experience as a floral designer has helped me to think ahead, plan and cohesively design as an interior designer – it has trained me to imagine colours and textures and how the final product will look like.
What is good design to you?
It depends on the eye of the beholder, because how a particular design resonates with someone is deeply personal. To me, good design should be enjoyable, effortless, and be representative of who I am. The same is true for my interior design projects. I ask: Does this design represent them as an individual? Or if it’s a business: Is it a commercial project? If the answer is yes, it is a good design.
What is your approach to designing interior spaces?
My approach has always been ownerfocused, as well as considering the function and intended use of the space.
An interior space should reflect the owner’s aesthetics and personality. I also believe that timelessness of a design is superior to trendy styles, so I always start with the classics and adjust when necessary.
ABOVE A leather cuff designed by Jonathan.
TOP The Jonathan Weekender is his interpretation of the perfect leather travel bag. Handmade by Italian artisans, it is made of raw horse leather and ruthenium hardware.
RIGHT An interior space should contain elements of both the old and the new, as Jonathan believes that “the beauty of vintage is made more stunning in a contemporary setting”.
RIGHT, MIDDLE Jonathan started out designing floral arrangements, before designing interior spaces such as this apartment in San Mateo, California.
RIGHT, BOTTOM The kitchen and dining spaces are made visually distinct from each other through the contrasting flooring patterns.
BELOW Artfully placed antiques become functional art pieces on this coffee table.
(OPPOSITE) TOP You can find an assorted selection of pillows and antique items at his store.
BELOW Jonathan often selects vintage pieces that invoke nostalgia for his childhood or the places he once lived.
text ISABELLE TOW photo DAVID DUNCAN LIVINGSTON, AUBRIE PICK PHOTOGRAPHY, JEFFREY FULGENCIO,