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Furnishings: A Job Well Done

Every city has one—a furniture showroom that showcases the new, the cutting edge, and the progressive. A place where you can see the shape of things to come. Chicago has been the beneficiary of two outstanding talents: first, the redoubtable Holly Hunt, and now Thomas Job.

Job quit his longtime job at KnollTextiles six years ago to follow his dream of owning his own business. He started small, representing just three lines: furniture by Nancy Corzine and Ted Boerner and lighting by Phoenix Day. Today he handles some 30 different lines of furniture, fabrics, and lighting, as well as antiques and artwork. The range is wide, but there are common denominators: Every piece is large-scale, sculptural, and natural. “I love understated luxury, whether it’s furniture, art, or clothing,” says Job. “I love texture and form more than a velvet-covered sofa with fringe.”

If you salivate at the thought of beaver-tooth mahogany, cerused oak, and giant slabs of old teak, you have found the perfect mate. “Our clients are cerebral and interested in taking chances,” he notes. Such 20th-century masters as Eileen Gray, Jean-Michel Frank, and Pierre Chareau are represented, as are furnishings by Andrée Putman, Pucci International, and Niedermaier; rugs by Christopher Farr and Denis Colomb; and fabrics by Zimmer+Rohde and Zoffany. Job even created his own furniture line four years ago, the Riley Collection (named for a favorite nephew) that comprises chairs, ottomans, and beds of woven belt leather.

Now that the vaguely Zen/dark wood look has become ubiquitous, what does Job think the future of furniture holds? “Our customers appreciate ethnic references in design, and I think the Asian influence will be around for a while longer,” he reflects. “But people are always searching for the next look, and I think South America is ripe for attention.”

Lighter woods are selling particularly well these days, especially the scrubbed oak finish on Dessin Fournir’s latest series of chairs (“It looks like pickled oak, but less tormented,” Job comments). They are upholstered in leather and resemble French pieces from the ’30s and ’40s. Lacquered chests and consoles from Gérard that pay homage to the 1940s work of Samuel Marx are also popular.

Scale is still, in a word, large. “We have a lot of space in the Midwest, and the houses are big here,” Job says. “People are still looking to furnish those big living rooms and master bedrooms with statement pieces.” Right now he is making long sofas (9 to 12 feet) and dining tables that range from a minimum of 8 feet to 16 feet. Since Job also has his own factory, which allows him a shorter lead time and stricter quality and cost control, he has expanded into doing more customized work.

Job’s fans are probably interested in knowing what he surrounds himself with at home. “Primitive art and paintings, antique rugs,” he replies. “My aesthetic is akin to interior designer Bruce Gregga and antiques dealer Axel Vervoordt. I’m not into small knickknacks and I’m not a big fan of ormolu or gilt. Everything is tightly edited.”

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