Designer Jonathan Rachman On the Travel-Inspired Goods in His New Store
The designer, famous among celebs for the flower shop he launched a decade ago, on his new décor store filled with travel-inspired wares.
San Francisco doesn’t need another shop stuffed to the gills with midcentury modern, and thanks to Jonathan Rachman, it's not getting one right now. The designer, long known for his noncomformist streak, is going his own way with a new cosmopolitan atelier and store, filled with poetic collectibles and curiosities amassed during his decades of travel, along with items from his own travel-inspired line.
Born in Sumatra, Rachman lived in several countries before opening his flower shop Fleur’t in San Francisco in 2002, which caught the attention of celebrities like Oprah, Marc Jacobs, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Madonna. He opened Jonathan Rachman Design in 2009, decorating the interiors of mansions and wineries throughout the Bay Area. And on November 6, he opens J. Rachman in the city’s Mid Market neighborhood. Here’s a peek at what to expect.
What inspired you to open J. Rachman?
I wanted to bring back the romance and charm of the old neighborhood shop. I’ve designed boutique hotels, villas and high-rise condos, winery estates, and mansions in some of the world’s most posh cities, and in various styles (modern, traditional, transitional, and everything in between). But this store is the core of my labor of love: I want to share with everyone that I am a story teller, a self-proclaimed romantic, and have a passion for collecting—so here I am.
You’re known for your unique sense of style. How will the store reflect that?
I have seen enough new stores selling reproductions, faux industrial décor, or the same items from the same brands that everyone else has. I like to preserve things and tell stories with my collections, as well as learn about the origin of an item from the older objects. I am obsessed with collecting artifacts, oddities, vintage pieces, and antiques from my travels around the world, and things inspired by my childhood memories.
You could have opened your store in any city in the world—what made you choose San Francisco?
It’s the perfect embodiment of my style: it’s East-West, it’s an old-new or a new-old city, it’s a big-small city and a small-big city. It is most European as well as most Asian in many ways, and it’s this “Eurasian” nature and romance that speaks to and inspires me.
I am also not your typical designer, as I have no formal education in design and as a result, my aesthetics are non-formulaic, and this gives me a different point of view. Likewise, San Francisco is not typical and is known for its welcoming nature, especially for the voyagers, expats, and transplants. As much as it is an established city, it is constantly changing. It’s classic, yet current. I love it.
You pull a lot of your inspiration from global jaunts. How do you describe your travel style?
I’m a neurotic traveler. I still change into my PJs on a long flight, yet I like my proper linen and China while I am enjoying my in-flight meal. I’m also obsessed with the idea of creating the perfect leather travel bag, done the old fashion way, from Italy—growing up my parents always had proper carry-on and week-end bags.
What are some places from your recent travels that inspired your new store?
My favorite hotels in London, the Connaught and Claridge’s. Old school, proper luxury inspires me to stay true to my design aesthetic: classic, quality, longevity ... and not trendy.
What can we expect to find in it?
Plenty of travel-inspired wares. My own leather goods, including carry on and weekend bags handcrafted in Italy. I designed a fabric collection with Bolt Textiles using our Left Bank-meets-Bali fabric style, and our first collection is called The Sisters, inspired by the strong women in my life.
Also, hand-painted crystal glassware designed by my friend Margot Lar, decorative Italian silk pillows by Alexandra D. Fosters, my amazing collections of silhouettes that date to the 17th century, antique hardware from Bali and India, and many other collectibles, from a UK top hat collection to antique Japanese combs to drug store counters from Iowa.
Yes. We also have grab-and-go floral arrangements, so it’s all come full circle.