It started with a postgrad class: “Introduction to Interior Design.” In the early Nineties, Jay Jeffers, unhappy with his advertising career track, decided to make a change. “I was just flipping through a course schedule for an extension program through [the University of California] Berkeley,” says Jeffers. “I was going to take a painting class, but [Interior Design] was available and starting the next week, so I took it. I was like, ‘This is cool.’”
Two decades later, that introductory course led Jeffers to his own independent design firm, Jeffers Design Group; a stand-alone home-goods store, Cavalier, and now, a coffee-table book, “Collected Cool,” out this month from Rizzoli. “I’ve photographed these projects, I’ve put them online, I have a portfolio, but I had never really looked at it all together,” says Jeffers of the book, his first. “I never really looked at it that way. One day we had it all spread out over a table, and the writer, Alisa Carroll, looked at me and was like, “Holy s–t. You’ve done a lot of work.”
This story first appeared in the April 21, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The 251-page image-heavy book, which includes a foreword by fellow interior designer Jamie Drake, categorizes Jeffers’ work into thematic chapters, such as “Unabashed Glamour” and “Bold Bespoke.” The title itself, “Collected Cool,” refers to the underlying theme of all of the designs. “It’s things that have been collected over time,” he explains. “I feel that’s what gives soul to a house. I’m not one for minimalism. I want something that feels lived in. I don’t want a chair that you can’t sit in or that’s made out of uncomfortable plastic. I’m more about living in your house and enjoying your house — it’s a living, breathing entity.”
Alongside the envy-inducing interior design shots are quirky quips that give the reader an insight into Jeffers’ quick-witted mind. “Though it looks petite, this curved settee easily accommodates two — perfect for cozying up to your neighbor at a sexy dinner party,” he writes of a lounge chair. Elsewhere, he describes a hand-hammered aluminum bar cart as “utterly 007-worthy (the Roger Moore Bond, naturally).”
The Jeffers Design Group will be celebrating its 15th anniversary in July, but Jeffers still recalls his first independent project — a 4,000-square-foot home in San Francisco. “I was terrified and excited,” he says. “I was so focused on every detail. Sometimes I was on the job site at 7 a.m., because I’d wake up in the middle of the night, like, ‘Oh my god, did I measure that thing right?’”
Now equipped with a full staff, Jeffers finds himself taking the backseat on more and more projects. “You definitely have to let some things go because the projects are bigger,” he explains. “I’m not a micromanager. I’m more, ‘Figure it out, show me and don’t be upset if I edit.’ But it was a learning experience for me to let go.”
Jeffers has also had to learn to let go when it comes to the ultimate collaborator — the client. “I’m very much from the school of ‘It’s a project,’” he says. “When I’m done, I walk away from it and my clients have to live there. So, I want it to reflect who they are and who they are as people. The only real struggle is when there are family heirlooms that really don’t go with what’s going on. So then, its like, ‘OK, those can go in the guest room.’”