Summer Studio: Understated Wood Furniture by Architect-Turned-Woodworker Jack Sasaki

At an age when most folks are digging their heels into their chosen profession or pondering retirement, Jack Sasaki, a trained architect, opted to quit his job at the company he had worked for for three decades—and begin afresh in a new field. “At age 55, I was given an opportunity to start a company where I can spend every day practicing what I really love—design and product-making. My company name, Summer Studio, expresses my state of mind. I feel that I am in the summer of my life!” he tells us.

Summer Studio is his wood furniture and lighting company in Southern California. As its founder and creative director, Jack designs every piece. (In addition to an MBA and masters in architecture, he’s also a skilled woodworker.) “We make every product in our workshop in LA, which allows for a high level of quality control and product customization,” he says.

The pieces all have a refined simplicity to them and as such, are reminiscent of the work of George Nakashima, one of Jack’s heroes. “I am moved  by the life story of Nakashima, who was once in a Japanese Internment Camp during WWII and started his furniture-making studio relatively later in his life in order to secure his family’s independence,” says Jack, who also counts Japanese architect Tadao Ando as an inspiration. “The story made me believe in the personal power to make a way in my life through design and craft.”

Below, some of our favorite pieces from his workshop.

Photography courtesy of Summer Studio.

Summer Studio Design by Jack Sasaki, Crane Floor Lamp Above: “When I started designing furniture, I had to learn that architecture and product design are fundamentally different fields,” says Jack. “My first pieces were boxy and less appealing. I had to consciously change my mindset to make products with ‘charm’ in an understated way, which was such difficult task!” Pictured are his Crane Floor Lamp ($850) in solid white oak (also available in black walnut); and Alpine Stool ($480), available in white oak, black walnut, and black ash.

Above: “My favorite piece is our new Nord Chair and Counter Stool. They’re inspired by Swedish folk chairs, which have surprisingly contemporary appeal,” says Jack. ; $750 and $890.

Summer Studio Design by Jack Sasaki, Rim Table Above: “My advantage as a designer is that I am a skilled woodworker, and we have fully equipped workshops, allowing me to make mockups and prototypes in a very speedy fashion.” The wall-mounted Rim Table has a 12-inch tray; $350.
Summer Studio Design by Jack Sasaki, Woven Bow Back Chair Above: “We love our black finish, which makes the sculptural quality of our furniture stand out. We have two ways of dyeing wood in black. One is to use black dye for our stools and chairs. We also ebonize, which is a natural and food-safe method to dye wood to deep black by using a chemical reaction with tannin contained in the wood. We use this method for our serving boards,” says Jack. Pictured is the Woven Bow Back Chair, featuring copper fittings and webbing made from Danish Cotton Flag Halyard.
Summer Studio Design by Jack Sasaki, Lotus Tables Above: His Lotus Tables can be grouped together or used separately.
Summer Studio Design by Jack Sasaki, Fin Stool Above: “I think my Japanese background influences my design on an unconscious level. I don’t intentionally express Japanese-ness in my furniture, but I’ve been told by people that my pieces have Japanese aesthetics, which takes me by surprise sometimes,” says Jack. Pictured are the Woven Bow Back Chair, a Lotus Table, and the Fin Stool ($480).

You can find Summer Studio products on his web store, as well as at some of our favorite retailers, including Nicky Kehoe and Tortoise General Store in LA, and Canoe in Portland, OR.

For more wood pieces we love, see:

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