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In The Studio With Mark Jupiter

Struck first by the sheer size, it’s the detail of Mark Jupiter’s furniture that catches your eye—live edges, ornate metal inlays—some tables even constructed from a single cut of wood. This esteemed level of craftsmanship is what sets Jupiter apart and is what prompted a collaboration between us + the master woodworker. Designed just for us, Jupiter’s WORKSPACE collection of meeting + conference tables tests the boundaries of scale and showcase the art of woodworking. Jupiter’s work is on full display at his Brooklyn showroom, just a stone’s throw from our west elm headquarters.

Inside Jupiter's spacious, industrial showroom, oversized furniture sits like art. The scale of his work is never more apparent than it is here, where a table 40 feet long seems almost dwarfed by lofted ceilings + expansive windows. A few blocks from the showroom in Dumbo is Jupiter’s studio—a converted soap factory built in 1915.

Jupiter, a fourth-generation woodworker, is someone who appreciates history. ­Much of the original architecture and machine footprints have been left intact. Tools and sawdust cover every surface, while large cuts of wood—some of which have been milled from 200-year-old sunken logs found at the bottom of America’s southern waterways—lean against walls. The space could seem daunting if it wasn’t for the reggae music, dart board and friendly faces of Jupiter’s team filling the space. Jupiter seems to enjoy the process of creating as much as he enjoys the craft itself—a sentiment we can certainly get behind. Take a peek at our studio visit and hear what Jupiter has to say about his process and workspace below.

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As a fourth-generation woodworker, we’re sure you’ve seen a lot of design iterations. Where do you look for inspiration + a fresh perspective?
For me, there’s a through line in design that transcends trends we see in the current market. Design to me is timeless—inspiration comes by way of the collective unconscious of the general public; it’s in the energy of NYC. Our work is influenced by a combination of taking in the buzz of the city and listening intently to the desires and hearts of my clients—there’s a sweet spot here when our designs are born.

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You have an amazing team. How did you all come together?
One thing that I’ve always been really good at is recognizing talent. There’s a feeling I get when I ask questions and listen intently to the answers, I can tell who’s got it. I also just love to surround myself with positive and interesting human beings—I’m lucky in that I feel like everyone that works with me is precisely that.

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You mentioned that some of the wood you use is turn-of-the-century cypress timber sourced from the bottom of a river. What makes working with rare wood types like this different from new material? 
Today, most wood you can purchase is sourced from 20 to 40-year-old trees. It’s beautiful, but so different than the old-growth trees of long ago. The reason we can’t just purchase this old-growth timber at the lumberyard is that it simply no longer exists—we’ve harvested almost all of it. It’s actually a bit scary and sad.  So, the only way to get these magical trees into your work is to find it! There’s 1200-year-old redwood salvaged from old water towers, 700-year-old sunken cypress that was once part of a log raft heading to a saw mill a couple centuries ago, 500-year-old heart pine salvaged from the old factories and oak and chestnut taken from thousands of disintegrating barns. Finding it is a labor of love, but so worth it. 

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You’ve chosen to use reclaimed wood and maintain sustainable work standards. What inspired you to go that direction with your work?
Currently about 20% of the work I do uses reclaimed materials. However, reclaimed material is easily some of the most beautiful and most fun stuff to work with. My whole career has been guided by sustainability, so of course re-using materials whenever possible just makes the most sense. I’m quite partial to the insanely beautiful old growth lumber that sadly just doesn't exist growing on the planet anymore. 

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The materials you work with are incredible even in their most raw state. Do you tend to let the material dictate the design, or is it the other way around?  
For me, it’s all about the material. Not listening to the material you’re working with and letting it dictate the design direction means that you’re letting your ego get in the way of true inspiration.

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What makes designing for an office setting different from your typical work?
I’ve realized that whether it’s the home or the office, people just want to look at beautiful things. I love being able to make a workplace reflect the qualities of home.

Photos by Landon Vonderschmidt

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3 comments

  • Just BEAUTIFUL work!

    Susanne Brunetzky
  • Striking designs and workmanship, and a great team! We love our table.

    Elise Raz
  • Exquisite tables, beautiful wood, unique design!

    Judith Hoffman

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