"I wanted something unpredictable. Something that, when it's sitting on a counter, makes people go, 'What is this?'" says Janene Bourgerie of California-based Jabou Design, talking about her new line of turned-wood pepper mills, aptly called Culinary Art.
These elegant sculptural forms are grooved, striped and checkered in combinations of maple, manzanita and wenge, their unvarnished surfaces sanded and buffed to a smooth finish. Apart from their beauty, the mills have a spiffy Danish grinding mechanism and, according to Bourgerie, a serious foodie, "work incredibly well. I made one for myself about four years ago, and it's still perfect."
Her partner, Sam Schnaible, a woodworker, crafts every piece in their big, equipment-crammed workshop in the San Francisco Bay Area. They use local reclaimed woods, acquired through a network of sources who alert them when
a tree or building goes down.
Bourgerie and Schnaible first met in the late 1980s, when he was doing construction on a commercial interior she'd designed. "Sam was one of the only contractors who didn't complain about how I wanted to detail something," she recalls fondly. "He was right in there with me." They went their separate ways, then met again a decade later, became a couple and started collaborating on products, eventually forming their own company. They make furniture as well as kitchenware (the Culinary Art collection includes basting brushes, bowls and platters), all in a sleek style that would look at home anywhere, from a Manhattan loft to a refined-rustic California beach house.
With their clean lines, warm materials and rich textures, Jabou products celebrate a classic modernist aesthetic. "My design objective has always been to keep it as simple, pure and direct as possible. I don't try to overwork it. My real challenge is to have restraint, which is not easy with all the stimulus around us," Bourgerie says. "Life can be chaotic. It's important to simplify and surround ourselves with peaceful, beautiful, uncluttered things." Her artful mills surely bring a little serenity to the daily grind.