A rising star design studio creates modern, sustainable and eye-catching furniture.
For Jonathon Quinn, every piece of furniture should tell a story. “It’s not just about designing and building a piece of furniture,” says Quinn, founder and designer (and ‘creator and builder of things since I can remember’) of the Atlanta-based South of Urban. “It’s the story of where things come from that fascinates me. “I have an inherent passion for knowing how things are made and detailed,” adds Quinn, who initially set out to become an architect but changed course when he began designing furniture for his first home.
This, he says, translates into a company philosophy of “transparency,” which not only applies to the flow of information, but also to how a design can tell a story. “The best ideas are the ones that emphasize a story and give insight to the designer’s thought process without explanation,” he says. Using domestic (black walnut, oak, maple and cherry) and reclaimed woods salvaged from historic buildings, Quinn repurposes the wood into contemporary furniture with a Mid-Century, or “Mad Men-esque” aesthetic.
Quinn says the goal at South of Urban is to use as much salvaged/reclaimed/recycled material as possible, and obtained as much as possible from old buildings, downed trees and scrap. When that can’t be the case, Quinn seeks materials that are harvested in a responsible way, and in close proximity to Atlanta. “All of these steps are taken with the hope of minimizing our carbon footprint, and promoting a responsible consumer transaction,” says Quinn. “We’re giving old material new life,” he continues, “and in the process creating heirloom pieces.”
Quinn practices what he preaches away from the job as well. He chooses to live and work in Atlanta because it doesn’t require the use of a car – at least not too often. “I sold mine a few years back, and choose to commute via bike as much as possible,” he says. Along those same eco-friendly lines, the company strives to use local resources as well as local business partners as often it can to offer sustainable solutions for its building practices. “Our credo is modern sustainable furniture built by designers,” says Quinn.
South of Urban not only does custom work for clients across the country – “We’re helping tell the story of the customer” – but Quinn is now moving the company into yet another new venture, this time mass production of some of its best-sellers such as its Z Lounger and Platform Sofa. Unlike many manufacturers, however, Quinn will continue to use both quality woods and traditional craftsmanship, just enhanced by computer-aided “smart manufacturing.”
“This will be solid wood furniture, with limited veneer, at a reasonable cost,” says Quinn. Clients will be able to order what they see on the website, or ask for a one-of-kind Quinn-designed piece. With unfettered lines that don’t distract from the view, South of Urban’s chairs, sofas, media consoles, credenzas and more fit in beautifully with a home by the ocean, says Quinn, whose family has lived in Florida for six generations.
Also a musician, Quinn sees furniture-making as an extension of his musicality, and tries to incorporate the rhythm of the ocean into his woodworking as much as he can. “In the end,” says Quinn, “I’m drawn to the ocean myself.” southofurban.com