01.24.22

Current, Classic and Romantic: The life and work of designer Jonathan Rachman

A life well lived will almost certainly include a bit of elegance, culture, and romance. Designer Jonathan Rachman’s work blends all three and invites those who are fortunate enough to enjoy his designs to relish in the diverse beauty that life has to offer. From his beginnings as a floral designer to his current focus as a celebrated interior designer, his work is rich with influences from around the globe and yet close to his heart. His designs can be seen in the pages of Elle Décor, Vogue, and House Beautiful (to name only a few) and he has recently been named as a top American Designer. In addition to his collaborations with various high-profile brands designing textiles and light fixtures, he is also in the process of developing his own fragrance and candle line. We caught up with the (very busy) designer to learn more about his life, work, and how his love of vintage and antiques impacts his designs.

Photo by Suzanna Scott

Today, Jonathan Rachman is surrounded by beauty (often of his own making), but his career did not start out in the world of design. After graduating with a degree in Hospitality Management, he went on to spend over a decade in the corporate and non-profit sectors. It wasn’t until 2002 when he switched gears and opened his own flower shop that his career in beauty and design would begin. This is not to say that he had not always been inspired by the world around him. Growing up in Indonesia, he found inspiration around every corner.

Photo by Suzanna Scott

He explains, “Indonesia is an amazingly rich country not only in cultures but also in its sources and craftsmanship.  Everywhere I looked: in my own home, in the market, at the beach, during our travel, I was surrounded by beautiful fabrics worn every day by the women who raised me, the vendors at the market as well as strangers I encountered daily…Indonesia had over 17,000 islands and over 800 languages.  As you can imagine, every village, town, city and island is different from the next.  I was surrounded by painting, sculpture, textiles and other design elements in my childhood, and I was basically simmered in them.  Architecture was part of my life daily, colors and patterned envelope my childhood.  Even street food, snacks and food were always presented beautifully.  In Indonesia, a house always has its hierarchy: the formal areas vs. the more casual, the sacred area vs. the uncouth area, based on certain cultures and religions of the area – all of these elements shaped my upbringing and later influenced my aesthetics.  Indonesians are very resourceful and creative in a way that I have never seen in other countries.  This shaped my future in my work life.”

Photo by Douglas Friedman

It was this resourcefulness that led him to open his flower shop, a decision that would change his life forever. Before long, his unique work with flowers caught the attention of some majorly bold-faced names in the world of design. “Long story short Marc Jacobs and his company hired me to be their floral designer and connected me to Oprah, Sarah Jessica, Madonna.  Later, the Four Seasons, MTV and the United Nations asked me to design their events. People who attended these parties tracked me down and asked me to design their properties and the rest is history!”

Photo by Douglas Friedman

And while the fashion set finds his work to be inspirational, the feeling is definitely mutual. “My first passion in design was fashion, in fact, my graduate study was in in fashion:  Fashion icons and legends such as Monsieur Dior and Hubert de Givenchy as well as theater and fashion icon Oliver Messel inspired and influenced me.”

Photo by Douglas Friedman

In addition to his love of designers from the golden age of fashion, he also has a special place in his heart for vintage and antique furniture and art which play a crucial role in his designs. “I always use them in my design.  I cannot think about a project that I didn’t use them.  I am passionate about vintage and antiques!”

Photo by Drew Altizer

This can be seen not only in the spaces he creates for his clients but also in his own home. “We have a lot of artifacts from Bali that we incorporate into our garden as well as interiors.  Bali is an important island and place for us.  Not only it is one of the most beautiful spots on earth, it is also where our family and we have spent a lot of memorable times and occasions during our 28 years as a couple.  Every trip (we think it’s over 40 times), we always found something meaningful to us to remind us of the occasion – be it a sculpture, a painting, temple artifact or other memorabilia…. the last time we were there before the pandemic, we spent our Christmas and new year with my parents we called the Loro Blonyo or the inseparable couple.  That trip, we acquired a pair of Loro Blonyo sculpture from – one of the most simple ones, yet oldest ones we own to remember our role models, our parents.”

Photo by Douglas Friedman

Pieces with a history that can grow over time within a family are part of what makes a home truly special and showcase the love of the people who live there. “My home’s style is me, as described by my first monograph, a gorgeous coffee table book published by a French publisher: Flammarion – the title is Currently Classic.  My home is current yet classic, the way I always design.  However, my home is filled with my husband’s and my personal items we collect in our 28 years of relationship and our family history.  Because of who we are as a couple and individual, it is also a juxtaposition of East meets West. On top of that, I am a self-proclaimed romantic 😉 so yes, our home style is extremely romantic.” Indeed when asked to describe his work in three words, he very aptly chooses: “Current, Classic and Romantic.”

Photo by Drew Altizer

To those who hope to create unique collections in their own homes, he offers these words of advice when shopping vintage. “With everything else in life: stay true to yourself, be original and authentic – never try to look or to be someone else…and if you look, shop and listen closely, these pieces will call you.  Lastly, experiment, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes!”

 

6 Questions with Designer Jonathan Rachman

 

TLV: What are your most beloved color combinations/ patterns?

JR: Color combo: Chartreuse over warm deep charcoal or shades of green over green over green!! / Pattern: my design for Ellis Dunn : Andi Stripes and Priati, a pattern I designed in the Sisters Collections based on my love for the women who helped me to get where I am, East meets West

 

TLV: Era or a design style that you are particularly inspired by?

JR: I don’t have specific era I particularly obsessed with but I love combining eras : juxtaposing 2-3 eras: collide them fabulously!  For example, Hollywood glam mixed with Mid Century and 19th century French and add a splash of Mid Century, or try combining Art Deco with Louis XVI style pieces and throw in some chinoiserie and modern pieces.

 

TLV: Where would you like to travel next for design inspiration?

JR: I have been to almost 100 countries but the one place I want to go back to with my husband (he’s never been) is Baroness Karen Blixen farm in Kenya, the base of Out of Africa (the movie) – her last heiress was a dear friend of ours: the story, romance and setting are always inspiring!

 

TLV: Do you have any dream projects or something that you would love to work on that you have not yet had the chance?

JR: To design not only the interiors but the entire branding, style, scheme of a commercial airline: the lounges, the uniform, the exterior and interior of an aircraft, the cocktail napkin, the font and logo….you get the point.

 

TLV: What are you currently reading / watching?

JR: Diaghilev , a very thick, dense and inspiring biography of him – I received this book as  a gift form Claud Cecil Gurney the founder of de Gournay, but I simply call him Daddy.

I am watching The Story of Yanxi Palace: speaking of extremely inspiring !! It showcase the most beautiful interiors, fabrics, art and yes, drama!!

 

TLV: What is next for you as a designer?

JR: My first monograph, a gorgeous coffee table book which will be published by Flammarion I am currently working on with my co-author Dean Rhys Morgan titled: Currently Classic to commemorate my career in design, not only in Interior Design but floral and my love of travel.  I am especially excited for the limited special edition which will come in a silk box with a few special surprises!!

Click here to shop from Jonathan’s personal collection, available exclusively on TLV!

Profile Photo by Suzanna Scott / Text by Liana Hayles Newton

2 thoughts on “Current, Classic and Romantic: The life and work of designer Jonathan Rachman”

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TLV is about sharing, supporting and discovering all that's great about the community we live in. We strive to inspire, enlighten and sometimes entertain. Our team of tastemakers are mothers, wives, sisters and friends, and together we share our musings about love, life and home.
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