James Swan

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Episode 185: Dakota Jackson

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Since founding his design practice in 1970, Dakota Jackson has been a singular figure in American furniture design and manufacturing. The company is dedicated to creating contemporary, sculptural, technically-disciplined furnishings for residential and commercial projects.


Jackson was born and grew up in New York, part of a family of professional magicians, and he studied magic as a boy – sometimes performing with his magician father. At the age of six, Jackson also began studying piano. He is an accomplished classically trained pianist. He grew up on stage and backstage, part of an exotic, theatrical world filled with escape artists, mind readers, and bullet catchers. The focused discipline of the professional performance artist was instilled in him at an early age. After graduating from Forest Hills High School he attended the City College of New York (CCNY) where he studied philosophy.


As a young man, he immersed himself in New York City’s minimalist dance and experiential art scenes burgeoning in abandoned Soho factory lofts during 1970s. This experimental and artistic world filled with illusion and spectacle has deeply informed his design sensibility.


After embarking on his professional career as a furniture craftsman and designer, Jackson focused on the development and advancement of the classic concert piano. A signature body of work grew out of this early collaboration. Steinway & Sons invited him to design the Tricentennial Piano (1988), a limited-edition of 300 commemorating the 300th anniversary of the instrument’s invention.


A particularly noteworthy design is the Dakota Jackson Library Chair™, developed for the San Francisco Main Public Library (1996), designed by architect James Ingo Freed (Pei Cobb Freed & Partners/New York) and Cathy Simon (Simon Martin-Vegue Winkelstein & Moris/San Francisco). The Library Chair is found in institutions worldwide, including the Minneapolis Central Library (designed by Cesar Pelli /Pelli Clarke Pelli), the Santa Monica Public Library, the West Hollywood Public Library, the Queens University Library, Belfast, Ireland, as well as Harvard University, New York University, and Stanford University.


In 2013, the limited-edition Arabesque piano was designed and manufactured to commemorate the 160th anniversary of the founding of Steinway and Sons. For 2016, the Grand Maroque Steinway piano was commissioned by Regent Seven Seas Cruise Cruises for the just launched Seven Seas Explorer cruise ship.


Dakota Jackson, Inc. is headquartered in New York, with the Dakota Jackson Design Studio in Long Island City and the flagship showroom in Manhattan. The company has worldwide distribution with specialized fabrication facilities in the United States and Asia. The company’s furniture has a rich and engaging legacy grounded in innovation and meticulous detail, furthered by a passionate focus on engineered excellence. Dakota Jackson furniture can be found in prominent private, public and museum collections including the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, The Brooklyn Museum, New York’s Museum of Art and Design, The London Design Museum and Germany’s Deutsches Architektur in Frankfurt am Main.


Explore Dakota’s Website here


Learn more about the Seven Seas Explorer here


Add Dakota’s book recommendation, Jean Santeuil by Proust here


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