Recently I have the pleasure of sitting down with (O.K., actually emailing back and forth with; this is the era of the Golden Globe winning The Social Network) Adam Fitzgerald, architect and furniture designer extraordinaire. I hope you will find as much inspiration from his work and his advice as I have!
Please tell us a bit about how your company came to be – your creative background and how you began to build your
I’ve been an architect for over 20 years, but I’ve designed and built furniture since I was in graduate school. Working
with furniture is satisfying for me because it’s such an intimate thing. We interact with furniture on a daily basis, and
almost constantly at that. Plus it’s easier to take chances with furniture. When you’re doing a building that costs
millions of dollars it can be tough to get the client to try something different. So furniture offers me the opportunity to
experiment, and try things that are “on the edge”. I was also motivated to design and build furniture when I first got
out of school because I couldn’t find good contemporary furniture that was affordable, so it’s always been a goal of
mine to sell a line that is creative, but also affordable to most people.
Please take us on a bit of a virtual tour of your studio. What’s the neighborhood like? What were some of your
priorities when finding a space where you need to be creative?
My current studio is fairly ordinary. It’s a “flex” space with an office and a large open area for the shop. The
neighborhood is a gritty area on the north side of Denver. I really like this kind of neighborhood. There’s a real
mix of businesses and artists in the area. I can find sources for all kinds of materials and ideas just by talking with
people in my building. There’s everything here from another contemporary furniture company to companies that mill
complex machine parts. So the “community” I could say, is very important in choosing a space. Before this location
I had a space here in Denver in a building with ten artists that offered a great a chance for feedback and inspiration.
Unfortunately the owner sold the building, and we were booted to the street!
When I step outside I get a great view of the Denver skyline with the mountains in the background which isn’t too
bad! I can even see the last building I did in the skyline—a 41 story condominium that I finished off last year, right
before I started Jackson Street Furniture.
Where do you start when designing something new? A sketch? A wood sample? A dream?
I get inspiration everywhere. I often get ideas from ordinary things I see that have nothing to do with furniture but
that have a geometry, or character that strikes me as beautiful. I’ve consciously tried to stay away from studying the
history of furniture, or specific styles. I try approach furniture design from the “outside”. In school, I had to study a lot
of architectural history and I think when designing you can actually use “style” as a crutch that keeps you from really
trying more innovative things. I sketch all my ideas. Many of them go nowhere, but I keep them all. I revisit them
every so often. I’ve found that often a sketch from years ago will inspire a new idea when I look at it with fresh eyes.
How do you stay inspired? Any advice for those who are suffering from a creative block?
I always keep a sketchbook close by. When inspiration hits, I sketch it out. Sometimes it will be months or even
years before I come back to it, but I also might go into the studio the next day and start building it. The building
process keeps me inspired. I often start with an idea I’ve sketched but by the time I’m done it’s morphed into
something entirely different. That keeps the creative juices flowing—I love being spontaneous with design.
If I’m “blocked’ creatively, I try to get away from what I’m working on and rejuvenate my mind by doing something
else. I think the subconscious takes over if you’re distracted and before long, new ideas work their way to the
Onto the furniture! There is something a dash Rat Pack about some of your pieces to me (I mean that as a
compliment – am I way off?), in particular the Zoom Table and BOG (O)Val Table. I also feel a sense of nostalgia
when I look at the Open Wide Table. You clearly balance a touch of retro inspiration with your contemporary designs.
How do you balance the old and the new?
I definitely think you’re right about some of my furniture having a mid century quality, and I’ve had others tell me that
as well. (I like the idea of Dean Martin pulling up next to the Zoom table with a scotch and a cigarette!) But it’s not
really something I consciously strive for. I’ve always been drawn to simple geometry and forms that are streamlined,
but also a bit quirky and unusual—not the more rigid, formal shapes of “classical” modernism. I love the designs you
find on fabrics from the 50’s and 60’s.
Do you have any words of wisdom for creatives who are ready to make the leap into a building a business?
First, if it’s something you love to do—definitely go for it. Life’s short, and you’ve got to take chances. Second, I think
it’s important to dive into the deep end, so to speak. Go “all in”, and immerse yourself in it. To me, that’s the only
way to do your best work, and give yourself and your ideas the best shot at being successful.
Adam, thanks so much for sitting down with us today and sharing your inspirations and advice! To see the Jackson Street Furniture line, click here.
Hi, I'm Becky. I live in Atlanta. Besides acting as the "Editorial Director" here on Hatch, you can find me spewing lots of design opinions and tips over at Houzz. Make me happy -- leave a comment!