Shed Some Light | Jonathan Browning Studios

Fabulously Modern Inspired by the Past

"For me to be modern, I don't go forwardI go back."

Jonathan Browning
About Jonathan Browning Studios

Founded in 2003 by Jonathan Browning and Marco Heithaus, Jonathan Browning Studios designs and manufactures some of the finest bronze, brass, and steel products in the world.

A love of classicism and industrial design sets the stage for timeless collections that include chandeliers, sconces, torchieres, table lamps, and more. These fixtures are always modern, beautiful, and meant to last forever.

 
What is Modern? The Gilded Age.

“I have two great obsessions: French Beaux Arts classicism and 20th Century industrial design. There is a constant tension between the two in everything I design, whether product or interiors.”

We spoke to Jonathan Browning about his fabulously modern designs. A bold and confident designer, he described that he “lives in the past but designs completely modern things.” Jonathan shared that he has “zero interest” in other designer’s current work, in what the industry is doing, in what is showcased at design centers or retail or magazines—he doesn’t look because it’s not inspiring to him.

Trendy? Never. Timeless? Yes. “Why do we let someone dictate the trends to us? What is it about individuality that has to be squelched?” he asks. Trends are offensive, depressing, and uninspiring, according to Jonathan. Everyone gets on one page, and that’s a loss.

 
The Inspiration—
Industrial + Decorative Design.

“Sexy industrial yet decorative design – that’s my inspiration.”

Jonathan’s best kept secret, which he shares willingly and often, is to go to what’s inspiring. For him, it’s the past, which, as he puts it, is “100 times richer than what’s currently happening.” He considers the Gilded Age, including the French School of Fine Arts in the 19th century, the high point of culture for the modern age. The studio combines classical and industrial design in its creations. Jonathan is fascinated by the beauty of classical French design, alongside the metalwork in architecture—how a design can still be attractive while using rivets and steel. He turns to three heroes, who historically pushed the aesthetic envelope in decorative arts and beauty, for constant inspiration: American architects Louis Kahn and Stanford White, and Austrian architect Otto Wagner.

 

Why Lighting Design?

Prior to 2003, Jonathan was SVP of Design at Starwood Hotels and Resorts. During his time developing brands there, he at one point purchased 1,000 scones for 1,000 bathrooms for a hotel in NYC. And he realized there was a gap in the lighting design world. There were good options for wallcoverings and furniture,
but not as many for lighting.  So, he followed his love of lighting and launched his studio.

 
Lighting the Path Forward with Form & Function.

“Lighting is sublimely beautiful. Nothing is more beautiful when it is done at its best.”

He never starts with function. As shared by Jonathan, “It’s all about beauty, how do I make something new that is shockingly beautiful, undeniably gorgeous? Is it the metal?
The crystal plus metal? It comes from needing it to be spectacularly beautiful.”
 

Of course, it also must be usable and useful. Lighting must be the right color and provide the right amount of light. All lighting should be dimmable.

To meet Jonathan’s exacting standards, lighting pieces must also be of the highest quality. In casting bronze pieces, the studio uses the investment cast process. Every piece begins as a carving in wood, from which molds and waxes are produced for casting. This lost wax method ensures that every fixture retains the highest level of detail possible.
The final step in production for all products, polishing, is done completely by hand.
The result? “You can see the quality across the room,” as per Jonathan.

Jonathan offers that, “The way I look at everything is sculptural. It is no different
than creating a sculpture. We never use premade lighting parts.
We buy sockets and wire. That’s it.” As much as he looks to the past for inspiration, he is looking to the future with the studio’s own new factory, expected to be up and running in 2024.

 
What’s the Big Takeaway?
It All Comes Down to Taste.

Jonathan Browning has the taste, without a doubt. He has the confidence to take the spark of an idea and turn it into something beautiful and aesthetically lasting—perfectly modern while linked to a gilded past.

"It’s all about beauty, how do I make something new that is shockingly beautiful, undeniably gorgeous?"

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