Friday Five with Shant Madjarian of Juniper

We quickly became enamored with Brooklyn-based lighting design studio Juniper after watching how their Pascale Girardin designed Love Me Not (À La Folie) pendant came to fruition. After that, we knew we had to invite the brand’s founder, Shant Madjarian, into the Friday Five fold. Madjarian launched Juniper in 2011 after taking a major leap by leaving his finance career behind. With business skills under his belt, he was able to bring his creative side to the mix and develop an innovative brand that focused on good design that could change how people live. Juniper continues to thrive with Madjarian bringing in and working with designers that have an eye for minimalist, modern products that stay true to the brand’s ethos. See below for a look at what keeps the entrepreneur fueled and happy.

Photo by Shant Madjarian

1. Wines from Piemonte
I thought this might be an easy exercise; throw together five things you love accompanied with good stock photography pleasing to the eye. But it turned out to be a very personal, fulfilling, and, at times, difficult journey for me. With little time these days to re-experience my favorite things, it was nice to revisit, at least in memory, some of the simpler pleasures that have most marked me throughout my life.

With that, nothing comes to mind more readily than wine. Those who know me, know that my favorite beverage is red wine, followed by white wine, followed again by red wine. And those who know me well, know that Nebbiolo is my favored variety.
Piemonte is a sanctuary for the palate and the mind. The hills, the smell of land, the vast great space is spotted with content towns bursting with local flavors and culture. They say that more than any other kind of wine, Nebbioli (such as Barolos and Barbarescos) needs to be enjoyed with good food, family and friends. The character of these wines evolves rapidly and complexly within minutes of being poured. Floral, earthy and very dry, these Piemontese greats have been highly crafted and engineered over centuries, but they never come off that way. That’s my kind of wine.

Photo by Shant Madjarian

2. Paris
Paris means many things to many people. For me, it is home to my second language and some of my dearest friends. It is also the first European city I travelled to when I was nineteen, and no city in all my travels has left a more profound impression since. Paris inspires deeply, which keeps the love affair alive no matter how many times I visit. It inspires me in the same degree that New York excites me. For me, Paris engenders a nostalgic and emotional reaction compared to the more primal motivation I get when out and about in my own city of New York.

Despite its countless monuments and historic sites, Paris feels remarkably civilian, and despite its many people, it is remarkably quiet. I love nature, but having lived in big cities my whole life, I also appreciate Paris’ culturally dense environment that offers me mental sanctuary while also engaging and inspiring. With its relentless enthusiasm for the arts, theater, design and culinary perfection, Paris has had a deep and unique influence on my life and my work.

3. Hagop Hagopian – and contemporary art
It was in the most unlikely of places that I discovered modern art. It was at Armenian Saturday school growing up in Montreal. I am not sure why art and art history was never a meaningful part of western education, but it was a big part of our little Saturday curriculum, and there I discovered the magic of contemporary expression. Painters such as Hagop Hagopian, Carzou, Minas and Martiros Saryan delighted me, and they acted as a spring board to a broader world of art that continues to dazzle and influence me in many ways from Mark Rothko to Thomas Demand.

I was fortunate to meet Hagop Hagpian in Armenia in 1997 at his studio. Recently deceased, Hagopian’s work remains largely unknown to the world despite local fame, and like many treasures in this little country, it is not because of lack of greatness. His muted colors and exact lines contradict the quirky and chaotic themes in his work. I am not sure if it was my personality that drew me to this juxtaposition, or whether it was his work that influenced me over time, but today I see that very same interplay develop in the collection of products we develop at Juniper. In Hagopian’s work, almost proverbially, precision instills order on what otherwise would result in chaos, but just beneath his visible discipline is unbounded creative movement.

4. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Is it just me, or does life, left unchallenged, veer towards the cynical? And if you are cynical (as many of us often become) it is hard to believe that a book as short and as simple as The Little Prince could be so profound and lasting across one’s own life as well as across generations, ages, cultures and languages.

“People where you live,” the little prince said, “grow five thousand roses in one garden… yet they don’t find what they’re looking for…”
“They don’t find it,” I answered.
“And yet what they’re looking for could be found in a single rose, or a little water…”
“Of course,” I answered.
And the little prince added, “But eyes are blind. You have to look with the heart.”
– Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The search for what is real and genuine seems futile in a world that often seems to reward the superficial; but unlike eternal youth, it is not impossible to find authenticity. This is maybe the single most important reason why I chose to leave a career in banking for the design world. It is not so much because bankers are not genuine, but because they are not in constant search of what is. I believe that for designers, that very pursuit is at the core of what they do, and those who find it deep within themselves risk becoming great.

Photo courtesy of Eater NY, August 2015

5. Lamb Burger at the Breslin
Let’s get this straight. I love to eat. To date, the only food that I cannot bear to swallow is pickled herring. Smoked herring, however, I can indulge in all day long. But this is not about fish. This is about one of the simplest pleasures on earth: the lamb burger at the Breslin in NYC. It is hands-down the best in any class. The crust on the bun has almost a baguette level of crispiness, but not enough to interfere with the bite. The burger is rich, as lamb is rich, but not too gamey or fatty as many lamb burgers can be, and it is NOT overly spiced (that’s because it need not be). It is served on a wooden block with a side of delectable thick-cut fries and tangy cumin mayonnaise.

As much as I love it, sometimes I’ll forget it exists. And then when looking for a place to eat, it suddenly pops into my mind followed immediately with a rush of excitement as if bumping into a long-lost friend. Add a bottle of Grenache and good company, maybe booth seating if you’re lucky, and it is blissful living.

Caroline Williamson is Editor-in-Chief of Design Milk. She has a BFA in photography from SCAD and can usually be found searching for vintage wares, doing New York Times crossword puzzles in pen, or reworking playlists on Spotify.