After graduating from Carnegie Mellon with an Architectural Degree, Jonathan Nelson set off to practice in the Boston office of CPF Dominich and Hicks. In his second year at the firm, the town of Killington Vermont chose his scheme for a 100-unit condominium complex, Mountain Green. Nelson went on to lead the project until he left the firm to study in Italy.
Eager to enrich his design education, the next stop for Nelson was the internationally renowned Domus Academy in Milan. While his early success in architecture was rewarding, his study with such luminaries as Ettore Sottsass, Mario Bellini and Gaetano Pesce at Domus was truly awe-inspiring. Nelson returned to the US to focus on furniture and product design, influenced by his immersive experience with Italian design in general and the Memphis aesthetic in particular. The diverse and innovative design projects that have ensued are noted in the following design biography.
Acciaio (Italian for metal) was Nelson’s first series of rod‐framed furniture with belting leather and perforated metal. The stacking chairs had solid steel rod frames in chrome or black and the perforated metal seats were finished in chrome, powder-coated primary colors and black or white. The collection included stacking chairs, leather lounge chairs and tables. This first series after Nelson’s Domus experience, demonstrated the designer’s fascination with bent form and an ability to infuse minimalist design with color and detail.
The Astrogami Collection of chairs, ottomans and tables was an example of Nelson’s experimentation with unconventional materials. Here Nelson bent panels of industrial aluminum diamond plate, generally used on heavy equipment, to create the structure for his furniture. The seating surfaces were covered in soft Ultrasuede, which married the contrasting hard and soft surfaces, and gave this forward design an elegant comfort. The Astrogami Collection was available only through the cutting edge Manhattan showroom, Furniture of the Twentieth Century.
Further use of Ultrasuede came with a commission to develop a chair for the Ultrasuede HP ad campaign “A Fabrication of Your Imagination”. The voluptuous Bella Figura chair appeared in the ad with a beautiful model draped across its ample curves in the national editions of Glamour, Esquire, and Interior Design among others. The chair and collection are still in demand and available by custom order.
In 2014, inspired by living in the natural splendor of New Hope, PA in rural Bucks County, Mr. Nelson began to concentrate on sustainability and local sourcing. After creating pieces using sustainable solid walnut with copper accents, Jonathan was asked to develop a group of tabletop products using the same materials for The Jewish Museum in Manhattan where they are still available today.
Researching vernacular American furniture in 2015, Mr. Nelson's design aesthetic focused on reinterpreting an American classic, the iconic Adirondack chair. This rustic American chair is beloved for its utility but not so much for its bulk and its lack of comfort. Taking an architectural approach, Nelson slimmed down the bulk and reshaped the back. By running the backboards horizontally, he was able to create a curved lumbar support that vastly improves the comfort of the chair. The added detachable padded headrest completes the chair. This visually and ergonomically improved design is made locally in New Hope, PA, of sustainable American cedar. Nelson's "New Hope Chair" is destined to become the new American classic as it gracefully weathers over time to a soft silver-grey patina.