Jonah Takagi

Interior Innovator. Object Originator. Feline Fascinator. Skip breakfast with Atelier Takagi designer Jonah Takagi.

The day is just starting here in D.C., but it’s practically done in Oslo. Jonah opens his eyes just long enough to find his phone, then burrows back in bed checking his email, “We only have two hours of overlap,” he explains. His first task of the day is figuring out what the designer he’s collaborating with in Norway has been working on for the past six hours.  

That’s the kind of thing that makes you hit the ground running, but there’s something very important Takagi needs to do first. Burrs, the 18-year-old cat of the house, is ready for breakfast. And she’s kind of a food snob. So we head downstairs to the kitchen.

Takagi’s just gotten back from Salone del Mobile Milano, a design conference in Italy—he made sure to pick up organic Italian cat food. The souvenir he always takes home to Burrs, wherever his world travel takes him. “She’s super spoiled,” Takagi says. He makes coffee in a Chemex and prepares an involved meal for Burrs, while we’re admiring a half-finished series of Shaker-inspired storage containers on his dining room table.

“The scale of furniture is probably the most interesting to me. It’s in between tabletop and architecture. I can relate to it more.”

Takagi and his partner Mary Timony, a touring musician, have been fixing up her childhood home, which now has a zone for all of their interests: there’s a basement recording studio, plenty of living space, and Takagi’s design studio takes over the attic. But sometimes his work spills into the dining room.

“The scale of furniture is probably the most interesting to me. It’s in between tabletop and architecture. I can relate to it more. I remember being a kid and crawling under tables,” he says. Burr’s eating now, so we expect Takagi to cook himself a gourmet meal next. But he doesn’t eat breakfast. “It’s a little bit of a recent development. I would probably have a banana,” he says, sticking with coffee this morning.

He switches on NPR’s Morning Edition, volume blaring. “Sometimes I play drums in the morning,” he says, “I wouldn’t say it’s part of my morning routine just because the neighbors are around.” Noted: blasting NPR first thing is acceptable in D.C., morning drum practice is not.

When Takagi isn’t designing for his studio, he’s always working on something; building an audio compressor, building a bike. “I have a little bit of an addictive personality. I’ll get really into something and get obsessed with figuring out how things work,” he says.

Now that Burrs is happy and the coffee is made, time to make the quick commute to Atelier Takagi. When Takagi told us the steps to the attic are treacherous, he wasn’t kidding.

“Knock on wood I haven’t fallen down,” he says as he heads up the incredibly steep stairs, which are painted a pristine iceberg shade of white. His studio is just as bright. It feels like a treehouse: we’re on the same level as the electrical wires.

“You’re always sort of waiting for the next idea to happen, so you’re always sort of on edge..”

This is where Takagi shoots photos for Field, the online shop of design objects he runs with a friend in Chicago. It’s a busy day: there’s the project in Oslo, he’s working on designing packaging, and samples of the shaving brush he is designing for Harry’s are scheduled to be delivered. The brush prototype he made is sitting on a table. It’s inspired by those old-school Weeble toys, you can knock it over and it pops back up.

“You’re always sort of waiting for the next idea to happen so you’re always sort of on edge,” Takagi says of his creative process. As we carefully navigate back down the studio steps, we’re thinking that this seems like an excellent place for lightning to strike.