City Joinery People:  Jonah Zuckerman and Others

Accomplished designer and master craftsman, Jonah Zuckerman conceived his studio around a simple premise: build contemporary furniture using traditional techniques. Since 1996, Jonah has dedicated himself to this pursuit, growing City Joinery from a one-person operation to a company of eleven people in a 6,000 square foot space.

Jonah grew up in a leafy section of New York City with his parents, two siblings and many pets. He began his interest in design as a child, making pinball machines, crossbows and go-carts in the basement. One of Jonah’s earliest woodworking memories is creating a doghouse for Pushkin, the family dog, with his grandfather’s help.

After getting a degree in Fine Arts at Brown University in 1988, where he was also able to take advantage of proximity to the Rhode Island School of Design and study furniture making there, Jonah went on to get a masters degree in architecture at Harvard University. He worked in a Vermont furniture factory for a year after college and came to appreciate the complexity of the production process. He also observed how the quality of production is directly related to the extent to which craftspeople enjoy their work.

A Fulbright scholarship in 1993 brought Jonah to live in Nepal for a year. Living among the Newar people, he learned the traditional woodworking techniques employed in their elaborate doors and windows. The complexity of their joinery attracted him. His appreciation for their work intensified over time and this experience led him to begin seriously considering the idea of becoming a furniture maker.

Back in New York, working by day in a large architecture firm, Jonah spent his nights designing and making furniture: a lantern for a friend’s wedding, a TV cabinet for his sister, a desk for a friend’s father. One evening Jonah designed a bookshelf for a friend, whose constraint was that it be airy, adjustable and easy to move. Thus was born “Leaning Shelves,” now a perennial favorite at City Joinery.

Jonah left his job in 1996 and since then has dedicated himself full-time to furniture making.

The staff of City Joinery are all committed craftspeople with diverse backgrounds—from fine arts to cooking, and from automotive to construction.  They are all people who thrill in their intelligence flowing through their hands. With Jonah, they share a passion for wood, as a beautiful, sustainable material.