By Laura Goldstein
If furniture designer, Simon Johns ever decides to retire, he can convert his rustic home and studio outbuilding near the shores of the picturesque Missisquoi River in Southern Quebec, into a charming B&B (filled with his nature-inspired pieces, of course!)
The 7-acre property, now buried deep in winter snow, covers vast forests of ash, oak and white and yellow birch. “We as a family go cross-country skiing, snowboarding and hiking and there are so many lakes nearby, so the environment definitely defines my work,” Johns explains via Facetime. But it’s the stone, specifically the striated shale in the area that appears to have had such a profound affect on his imagination.
A curated selection of Simon Johns furniture is showcased at the SwitzerCultCreative showroom, 1725 West 3rd Avenue.
Johns’ furniture straddles both modern and warmly organic worlds making his designs so versatile in a variety of interiors.
“It started with stones from the river and the surrounding cliffs,” says Johns, who specializes in limited edition and custom pieces. His Missisquoi Collection of coffee and side tables like Missisquoi 01, is composed of a spectacularly textured boulder of multi-coloured stone anchoring the piece and juxtaposed with a more delicate blackened ash tabletop. Missisquoi 02 is two-levels: a piece of laser-cut shale resembling a puzzle piece on the bottom is topped by gold-plated ash and steel adding a contemporary elegance to Mother Nature’s original.
Johns began his career as a theatrical set designer so it’s not surprising that his furniture are as much sculptural art pieces as they are functional. They can’t help but illicit an emotional response by everyone who views them, and the urge to touch their surfaces is encouraged.
Sketching by hand from photographs he shoots while walking his property, “I’m trying to play with asymmetrical angles and I love the way shadows are cast on textured tree trunks,” he admits.
Like a magician’s illusion, The Ledge Console appears to float above the floor (it actually safely anchors to the wall.) Mimicking crumbling, jagged stone, the ash components have been scored across the grain contrasting with the opaque glass top which mirrors the reflection of water. Playfully fooling the eye, the functional cabinet actually opens to reveal the perfect space for a dry bar or storage for books. The Shale Credenza floor-mounted on brass or chrome plated steel, is a larger optical illusion with details of a cliff’s ridges like a geographical map, etched by hand and machine into the ash façade.
Johns does dabble in lighting. He designed Trillium Banquette Lamps for the luxurious Monarque restaurant in Montreal. The Trillium Floor Lamp was inspired by the fragile wildflowers that grow in the forests on our property,” he says. “Made of brass and ash, three rings hide the light source hidden within.”
“I’m currently experimenting with aluminum casting for the 2020 Architectural Digest Design Show in New York in March and I’ve developed 3-foot wood wall panels that mimic the textures of a cliff and making them available to order by architects and interior designers. We’ve actually installed them as a door already and they look amazing,” he enthuses.