If you’ve ever looked —through—a piece of plastic furniture, you have one person to thank for. Charles Hollis Jones, American artist and furniture designer. Jones has worked with a lot of high profile clients including Stallone, Arthur Elrod, Kardashians, Frank Sinatra, Diana Ross, architect John Lautner, Tennessee Williams Paul László and Lucille Ball. She was an ardant fan of Charles Hollis Jones furniture and ordered several items including many pieces for her dressing room at Desilu Studios where the sitcom was filmed. He created over 1,000 designs over his 50-year career, and brought to life a esthetic thats part modernism over the top opulence, and Midwest Apple Pie.
Charles Hollis Jones
Charles Hollis Jones was born in Bloomington, Indiana in 1945. Mother was a quilt maker and Father was in the lumber business and sold house designs a ranch, a split level and a two story. Apparently watching his father remove and replace the roofs and walls while restoring covered bridges gave Jones the idea to design the lampshade. “I saw many bridges exposed to the bones Jones recalls. It gave him understanding of underlying structural and an appreciation of stark beauty and strength revealed in a bridge’s complex, uncovered forms.
What came after is history. He moved to Los Angeles at 16 after previously meeting Roide, on a vacation there. At that time, plastic and acrylic were not materials for upscale furniture, but Hollis Jones change all that. He saw potential in plastic. After several years of a job as driver and delivery boy for Hudson-Rissman, he began creating pieces, and designing furniture and domestic goods for Roide Enterprises, a Los Angeles business that retailed its designs at high-end department stores s as well as some of the world’s showrooms. In the mid 1970s he opened his CHJ Designs on Melrose in Los Angeles’ fashionable district.
Admiring the optical qualities of glass but the material was too fragile, he developed a signature style recognized for its elemental and elegant geometric shapes—circles, squares, and rectangles in precise and refined combinations. Years of research experimentation and innovation resulted in manufacturing processes in which he mastered the art of bending, stretching twisting joining and casting acrylic into illusionistic furniture shapes and accessories. By exploiting the optical properties of clear acrylic and by outlining the contours of his transparent constructions in reflective polished nickel, chrome, of brass frames he created furniture accessories that were both domestic and public spaces at home.
Notable art critics, he was well received, and Hollywood began to notice. He had a revolutionary conceptual approach to designing furniture: to never think of the accepted word for a piece. If one did not have in mind what had already been built, then mind was free to come up with an innovative solution. One that may include four legs.
Lucite Rocker, 1970
Playwright Tennessee Williams was not only a loyal client of Hollis Jones, he also provided him with inspiration and a bit of Hollywood insider gossip. Jones tells the story about getting inspiration for his Wisteria chair from the author. Williams told him “Charles, take a look at my play to get inspired!” referring to The Glass Menagerie”. In it, a character is obsessed with the type of glass swizzle stick one uses to stir drinks. Jones translated that obsession to a Lucite chair with edges which were dyed green, and then polished. The Wisteria chair was born. In another concept, the Harlow chair, the sometimes-used metal frame was eliminated, making the chair entirely see-through: in a room setting its physical structure seems to dissolve and become points of light.
Wisteria Chairs (1968), commissioned by Tennessee Williams, upon which the author purportedly spent much time
Hollis Jones observing the manufacture of one of his pieces of furniture
Using original Thomas Edison light bulbs, Jones created a lamp of steel and Lucite® to show the inner
workings of Edison’s original technology. It won him the California Design 11 Competition
The Los Angeles Times has referred to Hollis Jones as pioneer in acrylic design”. He has been recognized by the Smithsonian Institution, and his work was in museums. In 2005 the MOCAD presented the Distinguished Designer Award to Mr. Jones who is renowned for his innovative Lucite furniture and accessories. Work was exhibited in several of the California Design exhibitions held at the Pasadena Museum of Modern Art (now the Norton Simon Museum) in the 1970s and the Palm Springs Desert Museum in 2003 and numerous galleries across the country, in 2004 he received the Pacific Design Center’s “star of Design Award.
In film “The Graduate,” a college grad is given a word of advice by one of his father’s colleagues, a word meant to launch him on the road to riches: “Plastics.”
Jones resides in the Burbank and continues to design furniture and accessories.