An Interview with Jonathan Chow - An Interior Designer in the United States
Recently I chatted with the inspiring Jonathan who is a Junior Interior Designer in the United States. He had some fascinating things to say about his field, so I wanted to share them with you.
Here is the interview...
Tell us a bit about yourself – where do you live, what do you do, and what is your passion? Please include how you got into your current field.
Hello there! My name is Jonathan and I currently live in San Francisco. I received my bachelor of fine arts in Interior Design from San Jose State University in 2016. Since then, I’ve been working with a commercial design firm called RMW architecture & interiors in San Francisco as an Junior interior designer.
I love commercial and hospitality design. Right now, the firm I work for focuses on workplace designs all around the Bay Area—from Sacramento, San Francisco, San Jose, to Oakland. I love designing workplaces in San Francisco because there’s always the challenge of designing with historical buildings.
I got into this field when I was taking a career test in high school to see what I could study in university. The first thing that popped up in the results was “INTERIOR DESIGNER.” As an amateur back then, I thought interior design was was like HGTV—decorating spaces, sewing pillows, etc. However, it was not what I expected when I started my classes in university.
Instead, it was all about space planning, construction documents, and conceptual designs. The decorating part was just the fluff. University has taught me that design is not just about beauty, but also functionality. If a space is not functional, then what is the point of making it gorgeous?
One of the purposes as interior designers is to improve people’s productivity through better space planning and aesthetics. Because of that philosophy, I discovered that interior design is the right career for me. I get the chance to improve people’s work and living habits through interior design.
Are there any specific areas you specialise in? And why did you choose this area?
Currently I am focused on workplace design due to the boom of start-up companies in San Francisco and the Silicon Valley. It’s so much fun doing workplace designs right now because we get to be exposed to many companies with different personalities.
Because these companies are so different and unique from each other, each of our projects look different from each other. Further, furniture and textiles are ever evolving each year. Every manufacturer comes out with new furniture, textiles, lighting, etc and we get to integrate those new products into our projects.
In the future, however, I would love to pursue hospitality design—specifically restaurants. I have always loved the food and beverage industry and it’s interesting to see how design can affect people’s mood while they enjoy their meals.
Does your art or design have a particular style?
I am a sucker for mid-century modern designs. Specifically in the furniture category. It’s the workmanship that people put into what they design and build an accent arm chair, etc.
Is there any particular colour palette that you use when you design? How do current colour trends influence your design?
I personally love Jewel and mauve tones when it comes to colour palette. The rich deep colours from those tones really make a space pop. These tones also make the space look elegant and classy. Especially paired with midcentury furniture, it really makes the space come together. Not only that, but when applying these tones to a corporate space, it makes it more residential.
Does trend play a big part in your design? Can you please tell us more on why you do or do not follow a trend, and how do you find your customers respond to it? Who do you see as a trend leader in your industry?
Most definitely trend plays a huge part in my designs. As stated in the previous answer, corporate spaces are now more residential because they want their employees to be more productive. In the past, corporate spaces were dull, with high workstation partitions. Now, it is all about the open office concept with residential furniture.
These are the main trends that are still considered in start up companies. Nevertheless, there will definitely be companies who do not wish to follow trends. Instead they want design that has longevity--the idea of timeless design. So when it comes to timeless design, we have to strategically search for furniture, textiles, and colors that makes it timeless.
All in all, I believe that the trends in my design are based on what the client wants.
Personally, I love midcentury design because of its simplicity and wood workmanship. I feel that midcentury design will always be a thing. From the MadMen era to 2018 and counting. Surely, there are furniture companies like Stellar Works who create hybrids in midcentury design to keep the style new and fresh.
I see that Studio O+A, and Design Blitz as trend setters in the industry I am in. They have a great team with great design capabilities that makes a boring space into something energetic and memorable. Check them out. http://o-plus-a.com – Studio O+A and http://www.designblitzsf.com – Design Blitz
In the interior design world, what is on trend in your country right now? What do you see as the next trends to hit in 18 months?
I think that in my country, the trend is really dispersed. But if anything, I see that modern and midcentury interior design is a trend in the USA. It's hard to know exactly what trends will hit in the next 18 months as design is ever evolving. But I do want to see more wall covering selections with patterns that you, Maggie, create.
If your customers are renovating their living room on a small budget and want to focus on one item, what do you suggest would make the biggest impact?
For a small budget living room renovation, I would say that wall treatments will make an impact. Specifically paint colors, wallpaper, or some sort of wall covering. They're affordable and paints and wallpapers come in a variety of colors, patterns, and textures.
Some great suggestions I can give is selecting an accent wall and make a huge pop to it. If the accent wall you select is the wall behind the TV, then a pop of paint or even stickable wood wall planks like Stikwood are a great way to make the room visually appealing.
I really loved finding out about Jonathan’s journey in Interior Design so far. His experience in commercial workspaces is fascinating to learn about and I am excited to hear that he thinks surface patterns are going to play a large part in upcoming design. And, Jonathan is my cousin-in-law. I am so very proud of him. I hope we will be able to collaborate one day and I am looking forward to the day.