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ABC Artisan Jim Denney Leads a Discussion on Integrative Design

What is integrative design? A quick Google search of the term garners explanations like “synergistic,” “green,” “holistic,” and “disruptive,” with Parsons The New School of Design noting the concept is rooted in an “understanding of design as a driver of social change.” On Monday, May 19th, some of the brightest stars in the movement, many of which are local artisans and creators, gathered at ABC Home to discuss.

As way of introduction, Paulette Cole, ABC Home’s CEO and Creative Director, offered up her own opinion on integrative design. She remarked that it’s “informed by legacy, lineage, vision, preservation of indigenous design DNA and intelligence,” but is nonetheless thoroughly modern. It’s a forward-thinking way of creation, “the economic opportunity of the 21st century,” where renewable resources and state-of-the art technologies are heartily embraced.

Paulette Cole; Photo: Joshua Young

After Paulette’s introduction, a panel which included Jim Denney, artist and designer; Shanan Campanaro, founder of Eskayel; Jason Horvath and Bill Hilgendorf, founders of Uhuru; Aboubakar Fofana, indigo artist and social entrepreneur; and Cisco Pinedo, founder of Cisco Brothers (the ABC Home & Planet Pure Collection) discussed the concept at length. Albeit diverse in background, each is distinguished by their commitment to sustainability, artisanship, innovation, and eco-consciousness. And, of course, their integrative approaches: from materials to creation processes.

Jim Denney, Aboubakar Fofana, Cisco Pinedo, Shanan Campanaro, Jason Horvath and Bill Hilgendorf; Photo: Joshua Young

Aside from illuminating the evening’s subject matter, the talk offered wonderful and personal anecdotes. From Uhuru’s discovery that Coney Island’s boardwalk was created from gorgeous, multi-hued South American Wood to Aboubakar Fofana’s discussion of the traditional methods of indigo dyeing, it provided an intimate look at they way these makers and artists operate.

Aboubakar Fofana, Cisco Pinedo, Shanan Campanaro; Photo: Joshua Young

One such anecdote was from Jim Denney, who served as an able moderator. A dear friend to ours, his designs for ABC were born from love: for our planet and romantic love. He explained that although traditionally a painter, he had always been quite handy. Well, when you’re in love and know your way around furniture-making, it’s only natural you give your sweetheart — who happened to be ABC’s own Amy Ilias — a table. Her response to this thoughtful gift: We could sell these.

Jim Denney; Photo: Joshua Young

Although the comment drew laughter from the audience, Amy wasn’t kidding. His designs, crafted from salvaged wood and recycled steel, are now staples at ABC, as well as featured throughout ABC Kitchen. An Oregon native and former forest firefighter, they reflect Jim’s fascination with forest life. His work focuses on showcasing the tree’s unlikely gorgeous narrative of knots, burls, rotting, mold (basically, all the stuff that would seem unsightly) in truly spectacular form.

By designing with an eye to the environment, a reverence for nature, and a true forward-thinking vision, Jim’s work is many things. Integrative, we’ve learned, is just one of them.

Shop his designs, below.


jim denney bleached maple dining table; $15,995 | jim denney white locust cocktail table; $4,995 | jim denney blackened maple dining table; $9,995 | jim denney long white cedar table; $16,995


jim denney maple & steel entertainment unit; $7,295 | jim denney white cedar dining table; $8,595 | jim denney white cedar café table; $2,295