Toronto’s JDH Projects Puts a New Spin on Modern Minimalism

Toronto-based furniture designer and woodworker Jeremy Joo didn’t get his start designing new pieces — he got it reviving centuries-old ones. Beginning in 2014, Joo spent a handful of years apprenticing under a master antique restorer from Milan. “But as I was doing that, I definitely felt the itch to make my own stuff,” he says. That itch eventually turned into JDH Projects, a Toronto-based furniture brand, officially founded in 2018, with an affinity for right angles, low seats, and (of course) wood.

“I think wood was the most accessible thing, because I was working on, you know, giant harvest tables from the 17th and 18th centuries. Those are all wood, and there aren’t screws or anything like that. So it was very much just seeing how wood joined with wood, which is similar to what I do now,” says Joo, whose entire process from sketch to construction is analog. “And wood has lived a life long before I come into contact with it. You can see the rings, the layers, the densities, the deformations, and the knots. Wood is such an honest material, and I want to convey that honesty through the work.”

While Joo’s taste for right angles and spare lines may seem like an aesthetic nod to the work of minimalist sculptor Donald Judd, his designs aren’t devoid of sentimentality or personal expression. Instead, they’re richly layered with his own experiences and cultural references (to Asia and Africa, in particular). “Scale is so different in different cultures,” says Joo. “In European [history], everything’s very high and upright. The backs are very formal. But a lot of my stuff is very low, and that has everything to do with Asia and Africa. There’s a different philosophy and sensibility to what design and everyday life looks like. Just embedding a Korean nature and Korean sensibilities into the design practice was really huge for me — that was the foundational jumping off point for JDH.”