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Highland Park native Jordan Goodman grew up with a love for building. From his affinity for LEGOs to constructing all the furniture in his childhood bedroom, as he grew up he started realizing that this could become more than an extracurricular pastime. Equipped with a background in architecture and furniture craftsmanship, Goodman launched his own company in 2007, JG Custom Design, which recently moved into its home in one of The Merchandise Mart’s highly coveted gallery spaces. Sheridan Road asks him about his past, present, and future in furniture design.
Sheridan Road: Growing up in Highland Park, did you always have this interest in design? Was there anything about the North Shore that might have influenced your future in furniture design?
Jordan Goodman: For as long as I can remember, I have been interested in constructing things. As a young boy, my brother and I would play with LEGOs, model cars, and rockets, and build forts using our couch. After shop class in middle school, I fell in love with working with wood. During high school, we moved into a new house and I built all the furniture for my bedroom. This was my first experience building an actual piece of furniture. At this point, however, I did not realize this was anything more than a hobby and a desire to use power tools. Throughout my younger years, however, I was always interested in art and design. At Highland Park High School, I began taking architecture courses and working for a developer. I knew I wanted to pursue a career in design and architecture, however, it was not until my senior year in college that I finally realized my true passion was furniture design.
SR: How long has JG Custom Design been around? How did you muster up the courage to launch your own firm?
JG: JG Custom Design was formally established in 2009. After college, I went to work for another furniture maker. While I enjoyed it immensely, I knew I did not want to have a career building other people’s designs. I love the design process as well as the building process, and I wanted the freedom to design and build what I felt passionate about. For me, the challenge of designing a new piece that stands out as something fresh and unique is what truly drives me. After attending the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in Maine, I knew I needed to establish my own business. My first showing of my designs was at the American Craft Exhibition show in 2009 where I won the Best Emerging Artist Award. Since then, my business has grown steadily.
SR: How would you describe your aesthetic? What makes your designs unique?
JG: My goal is to elevate an ordinary object and, through my personal aesthetic, reinterpret it in an enhanced way. With every project, I strive to design beautiful, well-crafted furniture that is rich in detail.
With a background in architecture, I push myself to create intricate designs that maintain an elegant simplicity. I try to incorporate the interesting parts of the things I love into my furniture to create something especially unique and different.
SR: How did it feel to win the Best Emerging Artist Award?
JG: This will be my third time showing at ACE. It was such a great accomplishment to win the Best Emerging Artist for my own company, and ACE was my platform to launch my new company to a local audience I had grown up with. It was so special to win this award and have my efforts over the previous six years truly validated.
SR: After going to school in St. Louis and on the East Coast, what brought you back to Chicago?
JG: I always wanted to and planned to return to Chicago and set up my business here. I love Chicago and want to remain near my family. Through my business, I have been traveling around the country, showing in L.A., New York, San Francisco, etc. The experience has been great, but I am always happy to come home to Chicago.
SR: What are your plans for the future? Where would you like to see yourself and your company in 10 years?
JG: I would love JG Custom Design to be a widespread high-end furniture company that is well known in the international design market. For now, I am very content slowly building a dedicated consumer base that supports new young designers and a superior product in design and quality.