As small businesses struggle in the age of COVID-19, renowned interior designer Jonathan Rachman rallies his clients, friends and fans to support his JRD ohana.
Jonathan Rachman (far right) with the J.Rachman team
Jonathan Rachman Design sums up its aesthetic in two words: “thoughtful elegance.” It’s also an apt phrase when describing the firm’s principal and namesake. One of the Bay Area’s most celebrated interior designers, Jonathan Rachman has built a reputation not just for his impeccable eye but also for his generous spirit, both of which are on display as he navigates running his retail business as the city shelters in place.
Rachman, who was born in Indonesia and educated in Switzerland and the Bay Area, became a designer largely through serendipity. After a decade in corporate America, he opened a flower shop in San Francisco that bloomed into a career designing luxury homes for an A-list international clientele. Among Rachman’s most lauded recent projects was his dazzling design for the living room of the 2019 San Francisco Decorator Showcase, which was set at Le Petit Trianon: a nearly 18,000-square foot San Francisco and National Historic Landmark currently on the market for $21.8 million. (You can get the scoop behind the de Gournay-wallpapered room, as well as several of Rachman’s other projects, in a story by Editor-in-Chief Pati Navalta Poblete in an upcoming print edition of San Francisco.)
Meanwhile, Rachman has complemented his interior design business with J.Rachman, a 2,000 square-foot shop across the Rose Alley side of Zuni Cafe that's filled with antiques, artisan collaborations (including handsome Italian leather goods, glassware and textiles) and treasures from his travels. The Chronicle called it “an oasis of exquisite vintage” when it opened in 2015.
The designer is quick to share credit for all of his successes, saying, “I am always a strong believer that I wouldn't be here without so many people who have believed, supported and loved me.” That includes his employees, whom he calls his ohana, the Hawaiian term for family. “They say behind every successful man there is always a woman,” he says. “In my case, behind this island boy, there is a troop of JRD ohana who lift me, support me, surround me and grace me with their support, love and talents.”
So, when it became clear that they would have to close the store temporarily due to the city’s shelter-in-place orders, Rachman was worried. “Of course, in the back of my head, I was concerned for our business, but mostly for my ohana, on the retail side, as they will be out of job if this continues,” he says. Quickly, he reached out to his devoted clients and friends via a heartfelt email, gently reminding them that they could visit his website to shop or purchase gift certificates. He then went to Instagram, where he explained that all proceeds from those sales would go to his employees. With what was left over, he would continue to support neighbor Zuni Cafe’s employee fund, he added. (Rachman says proceeds from his Showcase sale on chairish.com will support his JRD employees, too.) And if you couldn’t purchase something? “Share your blessings with all your favorite small businesses,” he encouraged.
It’s easy to forget that behind the grandeur and luxury of Rachman’s designs is a small business. Fortunately, the design studio continues to flourish, and Rachman is hopeful that, through online sales, the generosity of his clients and a rent discount from J.Rachman’s landlord, the shop will survive and his ohana can reunite when the city reopens.
Together, he says, “we will prevail.”
Inside the J.Rachman store
Calf leather tote bags with soft gold hardware, lined with Napa leather and embellished with gold leaf.
Italian-made FirmaMenta virgin wool scarves/shawls
Set of vintage Fornasetti coasters. All items are available at jonathanrachman.com
Photography by: From top: Drew Altizer; Aubrie Pick; all others courtesy of Jonathan Rachman Design;