Acclaimed Washington architect Hugh Newell Jacobsen’s design philosophy includes the maxim “People look good in my buildings.”
The same could be said of the custom furnishings that Jacobsen and his son Simon Jacobsen, also a principal in Jacobsen Architecture, create for many of these elegant homes. Now Hugh, 83, who has had his own firm since 1958, and Simon, 47, have introduced a line of furnishings originally designed for clients in the Caribbean, Nantucket, Paris and London. The 50 tables, beds, sofas and light fixtures on display at the Archer design studio in Georgetown reflect the Jacobsen vision of modernism blended with traditionalism.
“It’s an unusual approach to design. We design the interiors first,” Simon says. “The spaces the clients require are designed, then furniture and seating groups are developed and then the architecture. Most architects design a house and fill it with stuff and hope it works out. We do it the other way around.”
Priced at $1,600 for the clear acrylic Velo stool to $20,000 for the Halo light ring, an elegant crown of lights, the collection reflects the elegant and spare look of Jacobsen houses. “We realized that we were sitting on an enormous catalogue of custom-designed furniture,” says Simon, who notes the firm would get many requests for the pieces from readers who saw them in shelter magazines.
The Jacobsens’ client list includes Meryl Streep and James Garner. In the Martha’s Vineyard saltbox retreat Hugh designed for Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in the early 1980s, the bedrooms incorporated a number of his pieces, including the elegant Floating Nightstands. These are part of the new collection ($2,400), available in a white gloss base with a glass, Corian or stone top. A collection of indoor/outdoor furniture made for a Dominican beach villa is offered in teak: ottomans, chairs, settees and benches. The slim stainless steel four-poster bed, inspired by an 18th-century design, has been part of many Jacobsen projects.
The Jacobsens, both listed on AD 100, Architectural Digest’s list of top architects and designers, began talking this year with Archer’s owner, Robert Chapman, about having the 33rd Street gallery become the authorized manufacturer of their collection. “The pieces show the Jacobsen style, and it’s clean, crisp, comfortable and easy to live with,” Chapman says.
Simon says the furniture is versatile and easily fits in with other designers’ work. “They are not dominating pieces that take over a room,” he says. “They can live and play well with others.”