Adam Manjiro Lesser found his way to design by following a love of music. "The thing that led me to design was guitars," says the furniture maker. "I thought I was going to be a luthier." After growing up in a house of musicians in Newton, Massachusetts, he began handcrafting his own guitars in high school and eventually enrolled in industrial design at the Rhode Island School of Design with the intention of polishing his craft.
Upon plunging into the broader creative world of design, however, he says, "furniture took over." He moved to Brooklyn and found work as a cabinetmaker to make ends meet, while gradually building a portfolio of exquisitely detailed tables, stools, and benches, including some with shapely radiused edges and slick brass details.
Designers took note and began commissioning custom pieces that allowed him to stop making cupboards. "I can build one hell of a kitchen," or stringed instrument, says Lesser, "but that just isn’t where my passion is."
Learn why Lesser would like to redesign the humble key in the Q&A below.
Hometown: Newton, MA
Describe what you make in 140 characters. I handcraft solid wood furniture from repurposed materials for residential and commercial spaces.
What’s the last thing you designed? A custom walnut desk made from various scraps collected over several years.
Do you have a daily creative ritual? I usually peruse the Free section on Craigslist for materials.
How do you procrastinate? I continue to peruse the Free section of Craigslist.
What everyday object would you like to redesign? Why? Keys, because they could be designed with more beauty and spatial efficiency.
Who are your heroes (in design, in life, in both)? Isamu Noguchi.
What skill would you most like to learn? Breakdancing.
What is your most treasured possession? A 1969 Chevy El Camino.
What’s your earliest memory of an encounter with design? I remember riding bullet trains in Japan as a child.
What contemporary design trend do you despise? Dripped resin-covered, one-off objects.
Finish this statement: All design should... cater towards its purpose.
What’s in your dream house? A 100-foot lap pool.
Did you pick up any new hobbies or learn a new skill while in quarantine? Yes; running.
How do you think the pandemic will affect residential design in the future? What about workplace or commercial design? I think there will be more interest in creative/unique home furnishings, due to more time at home.
How can the design world be more inclusive? There should be a greater focus on exposing a broader range of people to design earlier in life. The industry should also give due credit to Black, brown, and female-identifying designers.
What do you wish non-designers understood about the design industry? Everything takes time.
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