Carpet design

How an Iconic Japanese-American Carpenter Inspired This Highland Park Design Project


Ohen interior design enthusiast David Lagnese and his wife, Cristy, first visited Woodworkers by George Nakashima in New Hope, Pennsylvania in the late 1980s, the couple were blown away by the pristine furniture they discovered there.

Nakashima 一 the iconic Japanese-American designer who opened the nature-centered wooden home and studio in 1945 after his release from a World War II internment camp in Idaho 一 inspired Lagnese to redesign the third floor of his century-old home in Highland Park.


Lagnese says he enjoys researching Nakashima, who traveled the world before his internment, and other modernist Japanese designers.

“If I see a designer that I like, I’m going to go back and research that designer and all the influences that person had,” says Lagnese. “Because then you learn, ‘What made them work? What was the essence of their design genius? I just think it’s an interesting way to do it.

Lagnese began the ongoing design project for his master bedroom in 2017. He has since commissioned Japanese-inspired details such as a soji screen, mirror, bed, and bedside tables from a local carpenter. Tadao Arimotowho studied industrial design at the International Design Institute in Kyoto, Japan, before moving to Pittsburgh more than 40 years ago.

The room also includes an orange womb chair, one of the most recognizable Knoll pieces created by the Finnish designer Eero Saarinen, as well as various Japanese artwork and woodblock prints. Lagnese hopes to complete the project in August.

David office

He adds that his favorite pieces of furniture are the elegant conoid desk and armchair he commissioned from George Nakashima Woodworkers.

After a former employee of Frank Lloyd Wright, Antonin Raymond secured the release of Nakashima, his wife, Marion, and daughter, Mira, in 1943. The family followed Raymond to New Hope, where Nakashima purchased land and began to build a house and a carpentry workshop. according to Architectural Digest magazine. Today, the estate is run by Mira Nakashima, who oversees the production of her father’s creations.

“I have always been fascinated by [Nakashima’s] drawings and his work, but could never afford it,” he says. “He’s been long dead, but his daughter is still doing the carpentry and so you can go to New Hope’s studio and order parts and they’ll build them for you. It takes time, but it’s worth it. ‘expect. “

Lagnese adds that one of the most exciting parts of the project was working closely with Arimoto, who have a studio on the north side.

“We have worked with Tadao for three years now, and as a Japanese carpenter he knows Nakashima. He’s one of his heroes,” says Lagnese. “To work with him and benefit from his input and creativity, I learned so much working with him. He put a lot of thought and care into the pieces he designed for us.

david bed

Along with awaiting some final project elements, including bespoke rugs, window treatments, and throw pillows, Lagnese writes a story that details his thought process and research for the project. Although he does not plan to publish it, he wants to pass it on to his children so that they can discover his fascination for design.

“When COVID started, and I was sitting alone at home, I just started writing,” he says. “I figured that at some point, my children 一 who are adults now 一 would inherit all of this furniture. I want them to understand the complex thought process and story behind all of these beautiful pieces.


Conoid desk and armchair: George and Mira Nakashima

Bed and bedside tables: Tadao Arimoto

Mirror: Tadao Arimoto

Soji Screen: Tadao Arimoto

Uterine chair: Eero Saarinen

Lighting: Castore: Michele de Lucchi and Huub Ubbens, LED array: Michele de Lucchi and Alberton Mason, Calipso: Neil Poulton Meteorite: Pio and Tito Toso, Akari: Isamu Noguchi

Japanese woodblock print: Shinsui

Carpet : George Nakashima