Jiun Ho earned wunderkind status by launching his first furniture collection when he was only 26. “I guess I decided to pay my dues by living my dream and following my passion for design,” he says. Three years later, the collection has expanded to include nearly 80 pieces. “I am always drawing and rarely go anywhere without my sketchbook. Then I elaborate and develop ideas on my computer,” he says. “A bit of old and a bit of new.”
Raised in Malaysia, educated in Iowa and now based in San Francisco, Ho blends Eastern and Western influences with the greatest of ease. The sophisticated result evokes the cosmopolitan sensibilities of Shanghai between the world wars, with historical references and clean lines that make his pieces equally at home in traditional and modern interiors. “With my Soleil lighting collection, which we launched in January, I think I have created the perfect balance between Western classicism and Eastern beauty,” he says. “You can’t really tell what era they belong to.”
Ho views his design ethos as both evolutionary and revolutionary. “Evolution comes from understanding how to improve your work and your customers’ needs,” he says. “Revolution, I feel, comes from the excitement of pushing the limits of design and creating something distinctive and unique.” His square Denske dining table, which expands to seat 12, exemplifies his attention to form without neglecting function. “I haven’t seen anything like it in the marketplace, and I had to invent the mechanism to expand the square. The table changes the whole dining experience, making it more intimate and allowing all of the people at the table to interact, which is not the case with long, rectangular dining tables.”
Ho enjoys experimenting with materials. “As a designer I like the challenge of sourcing a lot of funky, exotic and innovative materials and using them to create something that is beautiful and comfortable,” he says. His latest Ikebana series of five tables (each named after one of the five styles of ikebana flower arranging) have brass legs and are finished in a new range of light, mushroom-colored woods. “They are elegant and dramatic, yet understated.” Ho’s thoughts rarely stray from those who use his furniture, and their comfort is paramount. “The client should be the central focus of all good design, and to design well you must understand how they live and how they use your designs,” he says. And sometimes this understanding prompts Ho to modify a current design. When he learned that the small occasional tables that tucked beneath his Manchu coffee table were being used as chairs, he adapted them to include cushions and a tray. “It allows clients to use the pieces in many different ways,” he explains.
Jiun Ho, 415.437.2284, www.jiunho.com. Available at Thomas Lavin
Los Angeles, 310.278.2456, www.thomaslavin.com
Clodagh Collection Showroom, New York, 212.780.5300, www.clodagh.com
Design Atelier, Chicago, 312.822.0440