I've decided to find out the stories behind some of New Zealand's design pioneers, and I thought you might like to hear them too! So let's start with jon jansen...
Jon jansen is not the name of a designer but of a legendary NZ store, and the brand behind some of our country’s most iconic furniture.
In 1951, having fallen in love - like the rest of the world - with Scandinavian modernist design, Kiwi toy maker Lincoln Laidlaw decided to open a contemporary furniture store. He found a space in Auckland’s Queen’s Arcade and began importing furniture from Scandinavia, America and England, with pieces from the best designers of the day, including Arne Jacobsen and Charles Eames. The jon jansen brand also manufactured some well-known Grant Featherston and Douglas Snelling designs under license.
Lincoln then went looking for an in-house designer for jon jansen, and found Dutchman Edzer (Bob) Roukema. Bob came aboard and began creating an original collection of contemporary chairs, tables and couches under the jon jansen brand. The style and quality of his work sat comfortably alongside the famed international pieces.
Bob Roukema pieces are some of New Zealand’s finest examples of mid-century modern design, as highly sought-after today as they became all those years ago.
Jon jansen soon moved from a small boutique in Queen’s Arcade to huge premises on Symonds Street - a flagship, three-floor design destination. The building facade was yellow and blue, with a very bold, sans serif logo. And inside, the furniture was set against a simple black and white interior, many pieces spot-lit like the artworks they were.
For the time, jon jansen was a progressive, experimental design house, and events and exhibitions were held in the space regularly. Jon Jansen furniture was also sold in other stores around the country.
Tougher controls on importing, increased competition and the departure of Bob Roukema to New York eventually spelt the end of the jon jansen heyday. But its success had undoubtedly inspired the NZ design community, and paved the way for so many new furniture brands.
jon jansen logo - artistry in timber.
The original logo and label.
And here's the same table today (for sale here). Maybe my favourite piece.
Actually, this is my favourite. A desk designed by Bob Roukema for Jon Jansen.
Can someone please start making these again?
The tilted-back Contour Chair - one of the most recognisable designs by Bob Roukema for Jon Jansen
Jon Jansen string wall unit - looks as though it could have been designed this year
Jon Jansen dining suite
NZ Design Classics is sponsored by Mr Bigglesworthy, who source and sell original design classics.
Credit where its due:
Archival image negatives from Auckland Museum Library. Information sourced from two great books, 40 Legends of New Zealand Design and At Home, A Century of New Zealand Design, both by Douglas Lloyd Jenkins. And lots of images taken from Mr Bigglesworthy, because they have beautiful, original Jon Jansen pieces in their showroom.