Friday, April 4, 2008

Retail Therapy: Jason Lees Design

Talk about finding treasures where you least expect them ... The Jason Lees Design showroom is tucked into a small storefront in Oakland's sleepy little Glenview District, which isn't exactly known as a hopping retail or design center. (Totally random fact: Both Tom Hanks and Clint Eastwood grew up there.)

But that suits Lees just fine, since his customers tend to seek him out rather than simply happening upon his gorgeous furnishings.

The self-taught furniture designer creates wood pieces that combine a midcentury modern aesthetic and a Zen sensibility with playful bursts of color, and that somehow manage to be both sleek and warm. "I love modern design, but I didn't want my furniture to be cold," the British-born, California-bred Lees explains. Behind him is the BASIS American walnut and red lacquer media cabinet, $3,050.

His designs have won accolades from such prestigious publications as Metropolitan Home, The World of Interiors, and Better Homes and Gardens, and Lees counts luxury hotels and major universities -- as well as the requisite architects and interior designers -- among his clients. Not bad for a guy who's only had his shingle out for four years. (Prior to venturing out on his own, Lees worked for a large interior design firm.)

Lees' handcrafted furniture collection is, as you might expect, an investment: Prices start at about $1,110 and go up to nearly $5,000. To be honest, I can't afford any of this stuff -- and I suspect that many of you can't, either. But each exquisitely made piece is worthy of saving up for and hanging onto for a good long time.

A look at some of the furniture on display in Lees' showroom:

In the foreground is the TERRACE coffee table, $2,765, crafted from wenge, painted wood, and glass; against the wall is the PLANE media cabinet in walnut, $3,995.

A round WALLSCAPE display unit, $4,950, in walnut and white lacquer. The shelves are topped with tiny models of Lees' designs.

The rift-sawn white oak and Richlite SPAN desk, $3,640, is Lees' newest product. In addition to Richlite, made from compressed paper, the furniture maker has also begun to incorporate other sustainable materials, such as certified organic domestic bamboo, into his work.

Another new design is the BACKDROP wall-mounted media console, $3,740, constructed from lacquered oak with walnut pulls.

The zebrawood OUTLINE writing desk, $3,910, and the minuscule model that Lees built first.

Custom teak and lacquer display bookshelves. Lees can craft semi- or totally custom pieces to your specifications, which generally adds about 20 percent to the final price.

NETWORK 2x2 display cubes in walnut and lacquer, $3,060.

The RECESS coffee table in teak, $2,190, is one of Lees' most popular pieces.

Lees' versatile walnut WHOLESOME design, $2,170, can be used as either a coffee table or a bench.

Left: Custom bamboo table. Right: LATITUDE zebrawood occasional table, $2,125.

On its own, a single EASE unit in walnut, $1,125, is a chic low table. Stack two or more, and it becomes a bookshelf. Clever and functional!

The Jason Lees Design showroom is located at 1577 East 38th Street in Oakland. Hours are Monday through Saturday by appointment. Click here to see more of Lees' work.

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