Pierce Chandelier. Photography by Sean Davidson.
Object by Coil + Drift and 13 Bonaparte. Photography by Sean Davidson.

Catching Up With Coil + Drift

Known for designing thoughtful furniture with warm, intimate touches, Coil + Drift founder John Sorensen-Jolink launches Assemblage, a collection of deeply personal lighting fixtures that bring us close to home.

Known for designing thoughtful furniture with warm, intimate touches, Coil + Drift founder John Sorensen-Jolink launches Assemblage, a collection of deeply personal lighting fixtures that bring us close to home.

John Sorensen-Jolink is mindful of how objects shape our perception. At last year’s Collective Design, the Coil + Drift founder and professional dancer earned a standing ovation with Unconscious Forms, a sensual in-booth performance in which two dancers gracefully swayed among his brand’s lighting, furniture, and accessories. Inflected with poetic and choreographic elements, the display revealed how we innately interact with our treasured possessions within the privacy of home.

Since then, those ideas have become especially resonant. Coil + Drift’s rising popularity has launched his career in exciting new directions, but themes of comfort, warmth, and intimacy continue to underscore his perennially calming body of work. With fellow Brooklyn studio Cold Picnic, he furnished a light-filled Brooklyn brownstone by Hatchet Design Build and brought his design sensibilities to a suite at Greg Hennes’s secluded Jennings Hotel in his home state of Oregon. These new experiences, it turns out, were the forerunners to his most personal challenge yet: purchasing a Brooklyn pre-war apartment, which entailed an adventurous gut renovation with his husband.

A craftsman at heart, Sorensen-Jolink set out to make the space their own. He ended up creating custom lighting that felt deeply intimate yet true to Coil + Drift’s ethos, so he expanded them into a full collection. Thus birthed Assemblage, a three-piece line that may easily be his most personal work yet. Spanning a clean-lined series of table lamps, sconces, and chandeliers, Assemblage imparts moods of peaceful happiness yet signals an intrepid leap forward for Coil + Drift’s design language. Each piece is on view in a temporary Bowery storefront that he designed to evoke the area’s erstwhile lighting emporiums. We catch up with Sorensen-Jolink at the launch party.

Passage Mirror, Pierce Chandelier, and Yama Table Lamp. Photography by Sean Davidson.

We caught up briefly at The Future Perfect’s “Chair” exhibition, but otherwise I haven’t seen you in some time! Looking toward this new collection launch, how are you?

I’m great! It’s been a year of change and growth for me personally and for Coil + Drift. My husband and I moved into our first apartment in Brooklyn and adopted a beautiful puppy, so we’ve been leaning hard into domestic life and I love it. We moved homes while Coil + Drift’s studio moved to Sunset Park, Brooklyn, to the first space that’s entirely ours. We’ve always shared with other makers, which I loved when we were smaller, but I enjoy being able to spread out and really inhabit the space in a way that feels new and great for Coil + Drift’s development and identity.

I’m loving the connection to Bowery’s erstwhile lighting stores. As a citizen of New York, what was your impression of them in their heyday?

I’ve lived in New York City for 15 years so I know about the Bowery. The neighborhood has been known for its lighting stores since the 1920s, but my impression is that the heyday was the late 1970s, early 1980s. For a few packed blocks around Grand Street, every store sold lighting of all shapes and sizes. The offerings, known for their variety, were usually priced lower than stores uptown. It was where you went when you needed something specific and when you had no idea what you needed and just wanted to get lost.

How does Assemblage play off of that legacy?

I considered the Bowery’s history when scouting a showroom location, so when it became an option, I jumped on it. I love the idea of a singular neighborhood when you’re looking for something. These areas have almost disappeared in New York, so this space honors them.

Pierce Chandelier. Photography by Sean Davidson.
Passage Mirror and Pierce Pendant. Photography by Sean Davidson.

Assemblage is mostly lighting. What do you love about working in that medium?

People tend to appreciate lighting more than furniture. It’s easier to step back and look at lighting the same way you’d look at sculpture. At the same time, it illuminates space and is essential for every interior. It’s a great juxtaposition of utility and luxury.

How does Assemblage play off of your previous work?

As my collection grows, I keep returning to the relationship between multiple finishes and the balance of the overall form. I want my designs to emanate active and soothing energy. I also want people to easily visualize my work in their spaces. Assemblage achieves both while being my cleanest and most edited collection yet.

You recently purchased and renovated your first home.

Buying in New York takes so long! I already knew this and was still shocked. It’s exhausting yet exhilarating. The renovation was a major creative eye-opener, and it has totally influenced my design practice. We gutted our kitchen and bathroom while living in the apartment, and while I didn’t love the dust permeating everything we own, I loved seeing firsthand what goes into every step of a renovation.  

That’s an important rite of passage. What did you learn about space making?

Many of our clients are participating in renovations, and furniture and lighting are such integral parts of the process. Assemblage began as a series of custom pieces for my home and I was making them while the space was being renovated. It was a dream process and I imagine most interior designers must either select furniture and lighting to fit a space or shape the space around a special object. I lived in the middle—making spatial and object design decisions simultaneously—and that felt really special.

Toam Pendant. Photography by Sean Davidson.
Object by Coil + Drift and 13 Bonaparte. Photography by Sean Davidson.

You also worked with 13 Bonaparte on a custom object. 

I’ve known David Sarfati, founder of 13 Bonaparte, since I walked into his shop in Paris ten years ago. I was curious about the incredible scented candles he carries so we struck up a conversation and have since become good friends. And it turns out my temporary showroom is directly across the street from their new store! It was only natural that I design something to hold their candle, which has since become a classic. I decided to work with one-way mirror—I love how it plays on reflection and transparency.  

Had you ever worked with a fashion brand before? What did this experience teach you?

This glimpse into the fashion world has been fascinating and humbling—they work so hard! If I had to produce multiple collections every year, I’d go insane. David and his business partner, Maxwell Anderson, are so elegant and composed. I hope it’s the first of many collaborations.  

Once NYCxDesign wraps, what do you have planned?

We’re launching our first collection of home accessories in the fall! We have a collection of hammered-brass cabinet pulls, along with a tray, bookends, and larger vessels. I’m playing with slip-cast ceramics, leather, more one-way mirror, and tarnished metals. We’re also redesigning our Hover Shelving Unit in tarnished nickel and stained hard maple. It maintains the original layout but with customizable engineering and very elevated materials. 

Assemblage will be on view at 2 Rivington Street in New York until Sunday, May 19.

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