Joel Chen has been well-known in the art and design industry for his trendsetting aesthetic and impeccable eye for detail. His first showroom, JF Chen, was started forty years ago on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles and quickly became a favorite of design aficionados searching for that special vintage or one-of-a-kind find. But it’s Chen’s curatorial eye that has made him a legend in the design realm. From the icons of early modern design to emerging contemporary talents, each piece selected for the JF Chen showroom is a museum-quality work of art. (It’s no wonder that Chen is also frequently sought by Hollywood’s top directors and set designers to find exquisite furniture and accessories.) We spoke to Chen about how he developed his eye for design, along with his influences. Here’s what he had to say.
Viyet: How do you decide what to keep and what to sell?
Chen: I have kept very little. I don’t have a big house, and I have only really kept items that are historical, pieces bought from different countries, which remind me of when and how I may have acquired them in the different stages of my life. And they, of course, reflect my personal tastes.
Viyet: How would you describe your personal taste?
Chen: With antiques, the pieces are mostly Neoclassical objects that tend to have a funkiness about them — fantastic designs that don’t fade away with age. Furniture, besides being rare and beautiful to look at, should also be functional. In terms of materials/medium, I like bronzes and ceramics, which convey sturdiness and longevity.
Viyet: What makes a piece of furniture great in your opinion?
Chen: History, simplicity, precious materials, attention to details, comfort, and sustainability.
Viyet: What are your favorite pieces you are consigning with Viyet?
Chen: The Georgian furniture.
Viyet: What is your favorite room in your home and why?
Chen: My study, because I do most of my work and reading in there. A computer and television are also, of course, inevitable. But, I get to enjoy the Kaare Klint sofa and Pierre Guariche armchairs I sit on, and I write on an extra large Bodil Kjaer desk.
Viyet: Does your home look like the one you grew up in?
Chen: Not at all. My home now is a lot more substantial nowadays.
A look inside the massive JF Chen showroom.
Viyet: What is your advice for someone looking to buy an investment piece?
Chen: Take your time; be careful of the value trap. An investment piece doesn’t always happen. Mainly, just buy what you like.
Viyet: Have you ever had a change of heart about an object or a style?
Chen: Not for the last 15 years. I have matured a lot more after innumerable mistakes.
Here are just a few of our favorite JF Chen pieces on Viyet: