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From East to West

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Indonesian-born interior designer Jonathan Rachman, founder of San Francisco-based Jonathan Rachman Design, has crafted a beautiful path in life. He overcame childhood struggles to become a success on his own terms. Named one of America’s Top Designers, he speaks openly about his childhood, his mission to inspire compassion, humility, and love, and his breathtaking work that combines design elements from all corners of the globe.

Love Prevails

Rachman was born in the small town of Tanjung Karang in the province of Lampung on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. He had a difficult childhood, experiencing bullying and abuse. Fortunately, his late adopted sister Wewe’s love and support gave him the strength to heal. He decided to share his journey of growth and forgiveness through his first-ever memoir, The Garlic Peanut Story

“Initially, I was planning to write a letter to my late sister’s children in loving memory of their mother from my perspective. However, I realized that this story is more than [just about] my family and me, so I decided to write a memoir instead, ” Rachman recalled. He hopes to inspire and help others who have gone through similar experiences, including children from remote parts of the world. 

“I remembered when I told my very religious parents about my sexuality and my relationship with my then-boyfriend, now husband. They simply told us: love prevails. Faith, hope, and love will always win.”

Professional and Cultural Influences

Rachman originally studied fashion and hospitality management in Switzerland. Interior design was not the career he planned for, but as he says, opportunities landed in his lap and he chose to follow them. 

“Sometimes [you have to] expect the unexpected. I never expected to meet Marc Jacobs, but one thing led to another. Marc Jacobs and his company deserve credit for allowing me to break through into interior designing.” 

Rachman’s inspirations come from people he admires, including Jacobs, but also from the artwork of the many places he has lived and visited. In Sumatra he was exposed to sculptures, textiles, carvings, stonework, architecture, paintings and cultural ceremonies. European architecture and design also inform his work, particularly that of France and Switzerland. 

These various aspects of Rachman’s past come through in two of his product lines, the Sisters and the Brothers Collections.

The Sisters Collection

Designed for Ellis Dunn. With both Eastern and Western design influences, these fabric patterns are inspired by women. “Throughout my life, a woman not only gave birth to me, but women helped raise, sustain, and lift me.” This collection is an homage to the women in Rachman’s life. They are feminine and soft, yet powerful and strong.

The Brothers Collection

This line takes a progressive approach regarding what it means to be male. It is a tribute to all the male figures in Rachman’s life. They are kind-hearted males with softer masculinity. The ideology translates into the textiles by using subdued colors that create a perfect balance.

Professional Recognition and Personal Happiness

Jonathan’s most recent accolades include his much-lauded design installation for the living room of the 2019 San Francisco Decorator’s Showcase, inspired by Houghton Hall and Lady Rose. His work has been published in ELLE Decor, Vogue, The English Home, Travel + Leisure,  Harper’s Bazaar, Dolce, House Beautiful, and Luxe, among others. Jonathan is also included in Maria Spassov’s book, Celebrity Designers: 50 Interviews on Design, Architecture, Life and the Louis Vuitton City Guide. 

He is working with a renowned light fixture company to design a lighting collection and developing his own fragrance and candle line. He is also creating a coffee table book with Dean Rhys Morgan that will be published in 2021 by Flammarion. 

Having lived in San Francisco for more than 35 years, Jonathan is grateful to be happily married for close to 28 years now and to be blessed with an astonishing 15 godchildren.  

As he puts it, “My thirst has been quenched—both personally and professionally.”

TrooRa Magazine | August 2021
Written by Nizie Lokman, FCIM
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