Q&A with WestEdge Featured Designer: Jared Rusten from J. Rusten Furniture Studio

(Jared Rusten with his California Series table) San Francisco-based Jared Rusten of J. Rusten Furniture Studio is the guy who's been making those breathtaking tables shaped like the state of California. Chances are, you’ve seen the pieces pop up in blogosphere, and if not, they’re worth a look. Of course, Rusten has salvaged all of his local walnut and utilized old-world craftsmanship techniques to create his works. Think of him as the West Coast version of a Brooklyn intellectual carpenter, only without the attendant irony. Here, he takes Lonny's Proust-inspired questionnaire.

1. Antique or modern? Modern, but with one or two carefully curated vintage treasures.

2. City or country? City, with monthly excursions to swimming holes or to buy salvaged wood.

3. Which colors do you use most? Wood colors!

4. Favorite materials or textures? For working: Claro walnut is my favorite material—it has the most personality of any wood species in my opinion. For fun, vintage denim from the 1960s and earlier has my favorite texture, depth, even indigo smell.

(Orchard Slab Table. Photos courtesy of J. Rusten)
5. What is your favorite interior design-related word? Custom.

6. Does your current home look like the one you grew up in? Not at all. I grew up in dreary suburban rentals. I think the dullness motivated me to entertain myself through creative pursuits. Now my living space and work studios are a wall apart in the most vibrant neighborhood I could find.

7. Does a room need a view? It should have more than one!

8. Favorite designer or architect? (As of today) Charles and Ray Eames. 

9. Which design blog, website, TV show, or magazine would you be lost without? For checking out my fellow woodworkers: Wood Design. Otherwise, almost every book that has a Taschen logo or a Taunton Press logo treats me right, inspiration-wise.

10. What qualities do you most admire in a room? Care of layout for the intended purpose, absence of clutter, natural light source, attention to detail in the trim/doors.

11. What is a forbidden word in your house? Trendy. It suggests something that is good now but won't be good later. Of course, I appreciate change and newness now and then, but I want to surround myself with objects that have a classic coolness... a timelessness. I say, when you see a trend coming, run the other way. So glad I didn't get that bird silhouette/mustache/chevron tattoo... ha ha.

12. Design rule you love to break? I have to admit, I don't think I know what the rules are. I've probably been breaking them this whole time.

13. What is your favorite room in the house? The biggest one in the day and the smallest one at night.

14. What is your most treasured possession? The toolbox I made 12 years ago when was still in woodworking school and just starting out with a huge chip on my shoulder. I have lots of vintage collections, but that piece is truly irreplaceable—I'll never have the time or patience to make something for myself like that again.

15. What do you wish you could do without? Sleep, or the obsessive need to know what's going on in the world all the time.

16. How does West Coast design differ from East Coast design? Does it? It's probably a cliche, but I think West Coast design is just more free, more loose, less bound by convention and class... It takes more risks and isn't satisfied with the status quo. From the earliest settlers, the Gold Rush seekers, the farmers, and recently the tech folk, the most daring and courageous have flocked to the fertile West to forge new paths and make their mark.

17. What is your favorite thing about the West Coast—design-related or otherwise? Maybe redundant from the previous question. I most appreciate the spirit of innovation, the nerve to ask "Why is it like this? We have to be able to make it better!"

18. If you could live in one historical figure’s house, whose would it be? Eames Case Study House #8. 

19. On what movie set would you like to live? The Great Gatsby (1974). Cool clothes, lots of parties.

20. To which country would you move for the design? Japan. 

21. If you were reborn as a piece of furniture or an object, what would it be? A tree. Then, maybe a piece of furniture. A chair.

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