Joseph Berkowitz

Firing On All Senses

Upscale Living Magazine - - CONTENT - By Heléne Ra­mack­ers Pho­to­graphs cour­tesy of JAB In­te­ri­ors

Firing On All Senses

With a great eye for plan­ning and struc­ture, Joseph Berkowitz from JAB De­sign Group ad­mits that us­ing these key skills in his in­te­rior de­sign busi­ness ev­ery day has seen him reap the ben­e­fits of a ca­reer span­ning al­most thirty years.

YOU ARE AN IN­TE­RIOR DE­SIGNER. DID YOU HAVE AN IN­FLU­ENCE IN YOUR YOUTH THAT SHAPED YOUR CA­REER PATH?

My mother is an in­cred­i­bly tal­ented artist (pot­ter, pain­ter, bas­ket weaver) and pi­anist, so I have al­ways been sur­rounded by cre­ativ­ity. I had a grand­fa­ther who I am named af­ter that I never met but, he loved fine things and col­lected an­tiques. From a young age I was mak­ing ar­chi­tec­tural room mod­els and fill­ing them with fur­ni­ture made from clay.

WHEN AND WHY DID YOU DE­CIDE TO BE­COME AN IN­TE­RIOR DE­SIGNER?

As a young child, I de­signed houses with pa­per and pen­cil. I thought I wanted to be an ar­chi­tect and went to col­lege for Ar­chi­tec­ture ini­tially, but quickly re­al­ized I was more in­ter­ested in the in­te­ri­ors than the ex­te­rior. I do have a great eye for space plan­ning and struc­ture. These are skills that I use daily in my in­te­rior de­sign busi­ness.

YOU STARTED YOUR DE­SIGN FIRM JAB DE­SIGN GROUP AL­MOST THREE DECADES AGO. WHAT AND WHO IN­SPIRES YOU?

Yes, I have been in this in­dus­try for a long time. Enough to see the color green and gold me­tals go away and come back. Of course, there are many well-known icons of de­sign I could men­tion that have in­flu­enced me over the years but truth­fully, life in­spires me. I see ev­ery de­tail of what is hap­pen­ing around me all the time, be it na­ture, fash­ion, ar­chi­tec­ture or travel. I am most in­spired by my senses that are al­ways firing on full.

WHAT ARE / HAVE BEEN YOUR BIG­GEST CHAL­LENGES IN YOUR CA­REER?

I al­ways say I am in the busi­ness of de­sign, not the de­sign busi­ness. What I mean is I am a busi­ness­man first and be­cause of that, run­ning a suc­cess­ful de­sign firm and man­ag­ing my em­ploy­ees is the great­est chal­lenge. The cre­ative part comes nat­u­rally and sim­ply flows, but it must be sup­ported by a good busi­ness ma­chine. I am re­spon­si­ble not only for my clients’ homes and how beau­ti­ful they are but for the money they en­trust me with as well. I take that very se­ri­ously!

IM­POR­TANT LESSONS ALONG THE WAY?

Be truth­ful and hon­est with your­self and the peo­ple you en­counter. I am very open with my clients about ev­ery­thing that goes on. It is a team ef­fort. There will be prob­lems and bumps in the road. I never get de­railed. I just solve prob­lems and move for­ward. Know what you are ca­pa­ble of and push your­self to go be­yond that. De­sign is about ex­plo­ration. Like all things worth­while in life, you must step out of your com­fort zone to make sig­nif­i­cant ac­com­plish­ments hap­pen.

THE FA­VORITE PART OF YOUR JOB?

See­ing a sat­is­fied client. The de­sign process lead­ing up to that is fabulous, but mak­ing my clients happy is my great­est fo­cus.

WHAT IS THE BEST THING ABOUT BE­ING AN IN­TE­RIOR DE­SIGNER?

I love be­ing in a busi­ness that is about de­sign, fash­ion, and style. I have al­ways been in­ter­ested in beau­ti­ful things and now I make a liv­ing shop­ping, ar­rang­ing, and de­sign­ing just that.

AND THE WORST?

The worst thing, like in all busi­nesses, you will en­counter peo­ple that are by na­ture un­happy or dif­fi­cult. I like to work with good peo­ple. I en­joy laugh­ter, col­lab­o­ra­tion, and kind­ness. I try to choose my clients care­fully as it makes the ex­pe­ri­ence so much more pleas­ing.

WHERE IS HOME TO YOU?

Penn Val­ley Penn­syl­va­nia. The “main line” of Philadel­phia as it is known. A very old and beau­ti­ful area with var­ied ar­chi­tec­ture and lush green­ery.

WHAT IS YOUR PER­SONAL DEC­O­RAT­ING STYLE AND DO YOU HAVE A FA­VORITE ROOM(S) IN YOUR HOUSE?

My per­sonal de­sign style is eclec­tic and a bit ex­otic. I like both mod­ern and tra­di­tional aes­thet­ics. My fa­vorite room is a small den that houses many per­sonal items. It is an­chored by a huge carved teak ar­moire filled with my col­lec­tion of new and vin­tage bar­ware. On the wall are two beau­ti­ful Asian in­spired masks from a trip to Bali. The seat­ing is very cozy and conversati­onal with a co­ral vel­vet sec­tional by Kravet and two nat­u­ral wo­ven club chairs with camel turquoise and co­ral win­dow­pane check wool up­hol­stery. Great spot for a mar­tini.

WHAT KEY PIECES IN YOUR HOME CAN YOU NOT LIVE WITH­OUT?

My pi­ano, the foyer foun­tain, and an an­tique porce­lain and bronze carved vase given to me by my father, from his father (the an­tique col­lec­tor).

TALK US THROUGH A TIME­LESS IN­TE­RIOR DE­SIGN STYLE.

A time­less de­sign is about a style that is not dated by to­day’s hot color or cur­rent trends. I al­ways try to achieve a look that will live on and feel fresh many years af­ter it is cre­ated. That is where some sense of eclec­ti­cism is valu­able. The slight­est mix of new and old will al­ways cre­ate a so­phis­ti­cated style that in­stills that sense of time­less­ness.

YOU HAVE DONE SOME EX­QUIS­ITE IN­TE­RI­ORS. COULD YOU HIGH­LIGHT SPE­CIAL AS­PECTS OF THE IN­TE­RI­ORS YOU COM­PLETED FOR:

BLUE BELL: The Blue Bell ren­o­va­tion was an enor­mous two-story ad­di­tion to my client’s home. It en­com­passed a large struc­ture on the back of the home as well as an ex­ten­sion to the garage, new pool, and pool house, new kitchen space, mudroom, ad­di­tional bed­rooms and patios. I had the op-por­tu­nity to de­sign all of the in­te­ri­ors in a tran­si­tional style as well, so it was a great project to be in­volved in.

RUS­TIC MAIN­LINE MANSE: This project was for a young cou­ple that did not want a stuffy home. We agreed to de­sign their newly con­structed house in a neu­tral palette and with an in­dus­trial edge. I chose to blacken all the win­dow mul­lions to be­gin the look. We used dis­tressed ma­te­ri­als as much as pos­si­ble to give the home a slightly rus­tic patina.

VA­CA­TION HOME THE BEACH BLOCK MOD­ERN:

An ex­tremely sat­is­fy­ing project to de­sign - my clients were so much fun to work with and to­tally en­trusted me to do my thing. That means they let me be cre­ative and were very much be­hind my vi­sion for their mod­ern beach house.

Ideas like the ce­ment tile on the steps and the painting I did di­rectly on their din­ing room wall were re­ceived with en­thu­si­asm. The mas­ter bed­rooms ten-foot cus­tom con­sole/desk was one of my fa­vorite pieces.

RIT­TEN­HOUSE CONDO: I had be­come great friends with these clients from a pre­vi­ous project, so it was a thrill to de­sign their new apart­ment when they moved from the sub­urbs into the city. We cre­ated a very chic space that was based on good sub­stan­tial pieces with very lit­tle fluff and ac­ces­sories. The palette was warm, earth tones and neu­trals with a splash of color here and there. The mas­ter be­d­room fea­tures an enor­mous cus­tom mir­ror that had to be brought in and con­structed on site as it would not fit through any doors or el­e­va­tors. I do love those types of chal­lenges.

THE MARGATE BEACH HOUSE: I was hired from the be­gin­ning for this ground up project and had the op­por­tu­nity to style the house in­side and out as well as de­sign all the in­te­ri­ors. I do not like ‘cute’ beach house de­sign so there are no shells or ‘this way to the beach’ signs. I cre­ated a very liv­able yet ca­sual home that worked well in a beach town en­vi­ron­ment, but had plenty of tex­ture and style. The liv­ing room drap­ery is one of my fa­vorite pops of color as is the cre­ation of a cock­tail ta­ble from four smaller ta­bles in the same space. The mas­ter be­d­room is truly a neu­tral sanc­tu­ary.

WHAT ETHOS DO YOU HAVE BE­HIND YOUR DE­SIGNS?

To de­sign spa­ces that can be stim­u­lat­ing and ex­otic, but still feel real and liv­able, as op­posed to dis­played ar­eas.

HAVE THERE BEEN PROJECTS THAT YOU HAVE DE­CLINED? IF YES, WHY?

Yes, but more so as I be­came a sea­soned de­signer and busi­ness­man. I de­cline projects where the client ap­pears to be dif­fi­cult and not what I call a de­signer per­son. Some peo­ple want to live in a place that has been pro­fes­sion­ally de­signed but are not will­ing to al­low a de­signer to have the cor­rect amount of con­trol and trust nec­es­sary to do the job.

DE­SCRIBE YOUR­SELF IN THREE WORDS.

Cre­ative, Driven, Fun.

YOU TRAVEL FOR BUSI­NESS, AND HOPE­FULLY PLEA­SURE TOO. WHICH HAVE BEEN YOUR FA­VORITE PLACES TO TRAVEL TO THAT HAVE LEFT A LAST­ING IM­PRES­SION?

Bali and Venice have been my fa­vorite places. Both have an in­cred­i­bly ex­otic edge to them. Bali was lush, green, and for­eign to my eye in many ways. As a de­signer, I also ap­pre­ci­ated the plethora of fur­ni­ture and dec­o­ra­tive prod­ucts that are made lo­cally. Venice is a stun­ning city both ar­chi­tec­turally and sen­sory. I loved strolling throught the dimly lit al­leys and over the bridges that con­nect the canals at night. There was some­thing new around ev­ery bend. It was very in­trigu­ing and sexy.

WHAT DO YOU DO FOR FUN?

I love to ex­er­cise (which I do ev­ery day) and I love to sing. I have been in bands through­out my life. Cur­rently, I am try­ing to get back to play­ing the pi­ano more of­ten.

IF YOU HADN’T BE­COME AN IN­TE­RIOR DE­SIGNER, WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE BE­COME?

Some other form of en­tre­pre­neur for sure. I am one of four boys. My father in­stilled a busi­ness acu­men and es­pe­cially own­ing your own into all of us from a very young age.

ANY EX­CIT­ING PLANS ON THE HORI­ZON?

In busi­ness, I al­ways have cur­rent projects that are ex­cit­ing. One on the ta­bles right now is a gor­geous flow-through apart­ment in Mi­ami that has our full at­ten­tion. In my per­sonal life I con­tinue to strive to en­joy life and be happy ev­ery day. I live each day know­ing that life is short …

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