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Interiors: The naked truth

Inspired by authenticity, designer Aaron Poritz lets the wood in his creations speak for itself. And speak it does — through furniture held together by clever joints and not a single screw

The greatness of art is not to find what is common but what is unique. ~Isaac Bashevis Singer

Using wood in design is nothing new. But keeping it natural — without a stain or a single stroke of paint — feels refreshingly new nowadays. Putting the natural aesthetics of bare hardwood centre stage to great effect is what New York-based furniture designer Aaron Poritz does.

Well versed in classic wood joinery mortise-and-tenon, Poritz tilts toward nonconformity, with unexpected forms and sturdy angles. His high-end handcrafted wood pieces maintain a sense of purity, substance and authenticity. From an elegant credenza and an artistic toolbox to a geometric bed made using classic wood joinery, each object’s simplicity is recognisably distinct.

“I combine hyper rationalism, client constraints and creative impulse in forming the basis of each piece of furniture.” 

The greatness of art is not to find what is common but what is unique. ~Isaac Bashevis Singer

Many of his pieces seem to grow out of the walls, appearing as much architectural as decorative. At the core is his reverence for the hand-worked wood, perhaps because he’s been around design and art forever — his father was a sculptor and builder. 

“I was always building things with rocks and trees and gravitated towards making objects to play with instead of using store-bought toys. In junior high school, I took ceramic class and immediately became obsessed with it. Making and building things came naturally to me.”

Inspiration struck while visiting friends in Nicaragua in 2012 when he chanced upon a supply of beautiful old growth wood uprooted by Hurricane Felix; he launched his first collection soon after. Orders came rolling in, and earned him recognition — he made the Forbes 30 Under 30 list for 2014. His furniture collection fixed together with ingeniously devised joints, without screws, was a hit.

But his venture in Nicaragua wasn’t meant to last. In 2015, he moved his operation to the Brooklyn Navy Yard to have “more control” over the quality of the products, he says. “The wood we use is largely from the US, but some of the speciality veneers are from a small mountain range in Russia, where highly figured walnut grows.

“I enjoy using walnut as well as oak and maple for their colour and workability.” 

His latest collection, called Tambour, combines classic furniture techniques with innovative fabrication. That method, Poritz says, takes more than two years to perfect. “Each piece is entirely made by hand with no automated components. In a single piece of furniture, we often use solid wood, veneer, bronze, leather and Baltic birch plywood. A lot of engineering is used to make it look so simple,” he adds.

Finding a balance of form and function is important, Poritz says. “The pieces need to function as a piece of furniture that could be used every day, while also being visually compelling for someone to invest in it and keep it for many years.” 

Poritz & Studio is a full-service design and fabrication studio. The team works in wood, metal, leather and stone, producing custom one-off furniture as well as large-scale architectural millwork packages.

It’s about longevity as well as the craft; he believes in creating furniture responsibly. “Sustainability is about how we design, understand and treat the materials we use. It is also a measure of how long something will last.

“My furniture should last for more than 100 years.” 

Just as in woodwork, his ethos is reassuringly traditional in ceramics as well, keeping things au naturel with minimal processing. Poritz uses alternative and ancient techniques that do not involve glazing. 

“The pots are put in a hole in the ground and fired with sticks and other organic material. As a result the pieces pick up carbon in a random, natural and beautiful way,” he says. 

I have a deep reverence for wood and natural materials. For me, it’s always about expressing its natural beauty and perfection. ~Aaron Poritz

In just over four years, Poritz has ascended transformed himself from architect into trendsetting furniture designer. He was commissioned by the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation to design stools for the main gallery space, and now he’s collaborating with architect Morris Adjmi on a new furniture collection. “I am also working on a contemporary residential addition to a 200-year-old home in Canada, and new development projects in Mexico City,” he says. 

“I will be launching a new line of furniture soon, exploring exciting, new materials.”

Poritz’s mission is to “create meaningful and well-made” objects and architecture. “How big my business is, is of less importance to me. I am driven by exciting projects to design and create.”

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