LUXE has teamed up with fragrance maven Lumira in a regular column exploring the nature of scent and the spirit of travel. This month, furniture designer Jonathan West share his travel philosophy and favourite Sydney haunts.
Jonathan West’s furniture can be found in some of the most Instagrammable cafes and restaurants about town — The Cornersmith, Archie Rose Distillery and Mecca Coffee, just to name a few. We caught up with the charismatic creative to find out how he balances work and play.
I’m originally from Orange in Central West NSW, however I’ve now called Sydney home for the past twenty years. I started my business four years ago, having spent the prior decade working in different joinery and cabinet making workshops.
Sydney can be a tough city to start a business in — there are lots of competition, and commercial leases are expensive, so I started as a one-man operation. However, as the projects I took on grew in both size and scale, it quite organically grew into our current team of four, operating from my workshop in St Peters.
We design and make furniture predominately in wood, but we also work with other raw materials such as steel, brass, copper and some textiles. Apart from furniture, we also collaborate frequently with other designers, architects and builders producing joinery for different interior spaces. I get huge satisfaction from both aspects of our work and find the collaboration a constant source of inspiration and excitement.
I like to wake up early: I love the peace and stillness of the morning, watching my garden slowly fill with soft light, coffee and calm, before my children awakes and the sounds and business of the day takes over. I arrive at my workshop, via a five-minute bike ride, usually around 7:30am and depending on what we are working on, I’ll spend a few hours in my office on all the unromantic aspects of running a business.
I usually make it to the workshop floor by midmorning, where I might be helping the team glue up a large table, making components for a production run of stools or chairs, it might be prototyping a new design, welding a custom steel bracket, applying finish to a completed piece – it’s really a varied experience. I’m home by 5pm, to the joy and rigours of having two young children. My wife Shauna also works with the business so the afternoons are mostly a juggle, then it's dinner with the family and the cycle repeats!
Scent is such a powerful sensory experience, and our workshop is alive with it! Good and bad, it’s many and varied, the smell of timber being the most obvious. It’s amazing how different the smell of timber species can be, from delicate and sweet rosewood to acrid American ash and everything in between. There is also the smell of different oils and finishes we use (some more pleasing than others) and then there’s the smell of chemical reactions. For example, if we a creating a custom patina on brass or copper, the smell of welding fumes, a dull blade not cutting well and burning in the wood. Scent is everywhere in our workshop.
The smell/memory association is really quite amazing. When we moved into our current workshop in St Peters, I was standing by our entrance closing the roller door for the day, and I’m still not sure what the smell is — maybe something about the mechanics or grease on the roller door — but the smell sends me straight back to being a child, perhaps five or six, standing by the door of the cool store on my grandparents orchard in Orange. The nostalgia and transportation of this memory is almost blinding.
Travel definitely plays an important part in my life. My wife is Canadian, so there's an annual trip home for her, and I try to make it there every few years, usually around Christmas time. Being such a long haul flight from Australia, we try and visit a few places while we're there: We spent a few weeks in Mexico on our last last trip, for instance.
The business is very demanding, with long days and tight deadlines. To avoid getting burnt out, we’ve worked out that short and frequent holidays are the key. We are spending a long weekend in Patonga in the next month, we try to get to Orange where my parents live a few times a year and we have an annual family holiday to Peregian Beach at the end of spring.
EAT: Cornersmith is a definite favourite. Their approach to food, seasonality and sustainability is amazing. Fleetwood Macchiato, my local coffee shop, plays a part in most weekends — awesome coffee and teas. I’m also totally addicted to their chipotle chili oil! Where we live in Newtown, there are so many great options for casual eating out. Cairo Takeaway on Enmore Road does the best falafel roll. Now, that’s a big statement!
PLAY: We have young children, so getting out on the weekend is a high priority. Beaches feature heavily, pretty much eight months of the year. Clovelly is a favourite with its Euro-feeling concrete slab, or Gordons Bay on the rocks. I love Mahon Ocean Pool at Maroubra and Little Bay… there are too many options. My kids love biking at Centennial Park as there are many places to hide and explore. The Art Gallery of NSW and the MCA always have great exhibits, not to mention any of the smaller, but equally amazing, contemporary galleries.
SHOP: Sydney is quite spread out, but I love that there are pockets scattered around with shopping gems. Most of the shopping I do is either for records or plants. Repressed Records and Halcyon Days in Newtown are awesome independent record shops that always have something that I need to add to the collection. Revolve Records hidden in Erskineville is great if you’ve got time to dig. Local plant shops at Newtown Garden Market or Butterfly Blooms near my workshop in St Peters are also lovely to browse. If I’m in the city, Kinokuniya in the Galeries Victoria is a must for books.
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