“Berlin, twenty stools, three days, an opening party, it’s going to be SWEEEEEEEEEET,” promised architect-turned-designer Jon Kleinhample, last we ever so sluggishly spoke, slumped down into a brown leather sofa. Several glasses of Slovenian wine with an old friend and design colleague of ten years will have this effect. I was passing through from Berlin to New York via London then and had decided to detour. In Jon’s Bruxellois apartment, post-dinner, I admit I was apprehensive of this ambitious endeavor. “Yeah? Sounds intense. How about some whiskey?”
Since February blanketed in snow, Jon’s styled his hipster scruff into the full blown beard of a wood-chopping denim-wearing American lumberjack. Inside BOLD Space gallery on Torstrasse Berlin, he shakes my hand with a grin. As his arm extends forward, the movement reveals his log tattoo peeking out from the sleeve of his black t-shirt. It’s fitting, considering his label – LMBRJK – is a purveyor of what Jon calls “digital wood” that melds fabrication technology with traditional tooling in “transforming rough and finished lumber into designed objects.” His eyes sparkle with nervous anticipation of the opening party for his SADL Stool Concept Store. As promised few months ago, twenty beautiful creations sprout in a mushroom cluster in the space.
His partner Masa Lončarič, to whom Jon credits much of his operation, oversees the final details but pauses to show off her “diamond” earrings, produced in-house. Across the room, their interning assistant Camille Pennequin works on chilling a massive shipment of Sierra Nevada beers, specifically taste tested and selected the day before to represent the designer’s connection and love for the natural elements of Northern California. Meanwhile the Companion Coffee boys, Chris Onton and Shawn Barber, set up the ingredients for the event-exclusive tea based cocktails. The two coffee geniuses infamous for their world class barista skills bring the same precision and science to the world of drinks; digital scales and chemistry beakers are their weapons of creation as opposed to shakers.
The crowd steadily builds with the night and the “Die Fluffers” spin tunes unusual for Berlin’s electro-saturated party scene. The small cocktail bar enjoy a steady order of drinks. But the center of attention through the party are the exotic SADL Stools; the crowd admire and test, trying to decide whether they’ll opt for the sanded or the raw finish. The unique aesthetic of both makes for a hard call. Jon, visibly relaxed and enjoying the soirée, sips on a deliciously potent “Old Fashioned” cocktail but engages the interested on his design philosophy and process.
Starting with an education in architecture ten years back, Jon has since worked for the likes of Neil Denari Architects (Los Angeles), Asymptote Architecture (New York City), and Barkow Leibinger Architekten (Berlin). Although his digital skills were honed razor sharp, his curiosity for the tangible has led him on a divergent path with a downshift in design scale. Coming from a world of architecture that inherently tolerates small errors, I suspect this change stems from his desire to perfect all aspects of a design. His forms now are inspired by various natural elements – the curves of a human body, the petals of a tulip – and modeled in 3D software. The smooth object is treated as a topography model and industrial grade laser cutters blaze out the profiles after which everything is assembled, clamped down, constructed, and finished by hand.
Excitingly in just a few weeks, LMBRJK will be moving their headquarters from Bruxelles into a two story converted horse-stable in Antwerp. There Jon and Masa will set up not only their home, design studio and LMBRJK Boutique, but also establish collaborative grounds for design events, exhibitions, creative dinner parties (both are quite the culinary experts), and of course a café. Knowing Jon and his appreciation for design that extends even into corporeal consumption, the coffee will be nothing short of perfection.
Now while the SADL Stool Concept Store has closed its Berlin doors after a celebratory bottle of Côtes du Rhône, LMBRJK express ambitions of taking the store mobile and hitting major cities across the globe. With my newly acquired SADL stool, I sit with Jon to get the details. He confirms that New York is a GO for this year as is Amsterdam in October, replete with an exclusive dinner featuring an acclaimed chef. “And the plan is to take LMBRJK to Copenhagen, Tokyo, Seoul, and Los Angeles. So…Watch out!”