It seems the broader that John Strauss Furniture Design has evolved in the last three decades, the closer its founder has journeyed back to his roots.
Born into a family of furniture sellers and interior designers in Chicago, Strauss was educated as a sculptor at Brown University and City University of New York. His father owned a high-end furniture showroom in Chicago, Strauss' webpage notes, and his mother was a respected interior designer there as well. His great-aunt Mabel Schamberg—the namesake of Strauss' first line of designer furniture—perhaps was well-known in her creative field. She was the interior designer of the "House of Tomorrow" at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair.
"I grew up in a furniture world," said Strauss, whose showroom for his custom furniture and design business is at 236 Walnut Avenue NE in Canton. "But it took me a long time to get into furniture work."
Following his education, Strauss worked both as a sculptor and a carpenter in New York City.
"I ended up finding a position with a French furniture maker in New York, who was looking for an assistant," Strauss recalled. "At the end of six years, I realized what he was doing that whole time was passing along his knowledge."
When the French furniture maker retired, Strauss took the craftsmanship he had gained and applied it to his own designs.
"I felt I had been handed a huge gift. I had been entrusted with this man's knowledge, which was extraordinary. Now I had both the skills and the family background to immerse myself in the design world."
In order to get closer to his wife's family, Strauss moved to Canton in the mid-1990s.
"Within a year, I established a custom furniture business, working out of my garage," said Strauss, who shifted the business to a structure off Belden Avenue SE and finally to the Walnut Avenue NE location. "I started out with the idea of doing custom furniture and got some clients and saw it happening."
Then, because of the growth of online shopping and overseas manufacturing, the world of furniture design evolved. Strauss began selling in designer showrooms, "which are still in existence but much smaller," explained Strauss, who eventually switched to selling his designs directly to furniture companies through a twice-a-year furniture showcase market held in North Carolina in the spring and summer.
"I started going in 2009, and it's definitely helped. I've got a lot of clients all over the country. I'm represented in stores throughout the country, with sales representatives in a number of states."
In its current focus, John Strauss Furniture Design builds customized and designer-friendly furniture for middle- to high-end clients all over the United States. Strauss sells through stores and interior designers.
"My background in art design gives what we do a unique look," said Strauss, who, despite the nationwide scope of his business and the fact that much of the furniture he designs actually is made by Amish workers, said he enjoys operating a showroom in downtown Canton, where "people can come in and see what we do."
"That connection to the client is something we really value."
Strauss says "we" because he has, in recent years, collaborated with a West Coast woman who works professionally as an interior designer as Carisa Marie.
"She's helped push me in new creative directions," said Strauss, who noted that the two also are doing some "lighting things," and he is getting into designing "sculptural accessories."
So, it's "come full circle" back to his art training. And, Strauss' life has over the decades managed to mirror his family experience.
"I think my mother really likes and appreciates what I do," Strauss said, who added that his father, who passed in 1979, "probably is laughing" at his son's career in custom furniture design.
"He asked me when I was younger if I wanted to go into his business. I said not a chance. Now, while what I do is not truly what he did, it's close."
John Strauss Furniture Design | 236 Walnut Ave. NE, Canton | 330-456-0300 | straussfurniture.com
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