Nicholas Bijan Pourfard is not very good at sitting still. In his home in Escondido, at the southernmost tip of California, the luthier and furniture maker is just putting the finishing touches to a bookcase he built for the space, which he moved into a little over a year ago. And it’s not just any space: designed by architect and industrial designer Walter S. White, the building is considered a love letter to Modernist architecture, pinned to mood boards the world over. It’s lucky, then, to have found a new inhabitant in Pourfard.
His sensitivity to restoring the home’s special details is mirrored in the intuitive way he has designed its interior, populating it with chairs by designers he admires, antique rugs from his father’s Persian rug store, and the odd custom piece built in his workshop, too. The open plan layout is all warm white walls, honeyed light, and organic materials—Nicholas will choose forms and textures based on what he sees, and what’s missing. But underpinning his slow, steady approach is a rigorously honed eye—one attuned by years of creating instruments from reclaimed skateboard decks, and process-driven experiments with furniture making.
None of which would have started at all, Pourfard explains, if it hadn’t been for an ill-timed accident that kept the student from his skateboard for six months. Then, as now, he was happy to find that wood could keep him busy.
This interview is part of “Inside with…” a series of home stories and studio visits produced in collaboration with the Scandinavian design brand Muuto. Through dialogue with different creatives, the series explores the ever-evolving concept of personal space.
What’s it like living in San Diego?
Los Angeles is the hip place. Everyone’s stylish and knows what’s cool. In San Diego, we don’t really have that. I live in Escondido, more of a rural farm area. It gets hot here, up to 90, 100, in the summers. It’s almost a desert, but it’s really easy to farm here. I can grow just about anything in this climate: mangos, figs, cactus fruits, dragon fruits, peaches, guava, everything. The plants evoke a lot of passion for me.
My weekend getaways are to Palm Springs, Los Angeles, and Mexico—I can get to Mexico in 20 minutes. San Diego’s community crossover is probably the thing that makes it the most unique. I have friends that live in Mexico and come to work here, or who I hang out with there on the weekends. We have our own design community here, and it’s truly international. I used to live in San Francisco and New York, and that kind of energy is addictive and contagious. So I do miss that a little bit. But being in my bubble here and having so much space to create and focus, I can free myself.
Tell me about your home.
I live in an architecturally significant house. It was designed by Walter S. White, who designed the Wave House in Palm Springs, which is essentially a museum home. I’ve been pouring hours of work into the interior because the bones of it are great. There are super cool little details that are part of how the house itself was made, but it wasn’t kept very well. So I’m doing all that detailed work, bringing it back.
“I can grow just about anything in this climate. I’ve got mangos, figs, cactus fruits, dragon fruits, peaches, guava, everything. I’m planting all these fruit trees and rare African plants that I just love. The plants evoke a lot of passion for me.”
What is your favorite thing about having a garden? How does this outside area complement your home’s interior?
I really think being in the garden has become the greatest way of spending time in my life. I have always been attracted to farm culture and my father has a four-acre orchard of every fruit you can imagine. I always loved seeing how every part of the yard can grow into itself and with my encouragement become something truly amazing.
I am in the beginning stages of my yard, but I feel like every day more of a master plan is developing. I specifically think that the outside of a home carries a great influence on how you perceive the inside of one.
How did you first start working with wood and where did you go from there?
When I was 18 I hurt my ankle skating, and it was a super long recovery—six months. While I was recovering I took all my old skateboards, and the jigsaw that I had, and I started cutting them and gluing them and doing all these crazy experiments. I ended up with a cool sculpture, and then I got hooked on making stuff—salt shakers, spoons.
I did play guitar at the time, and I thought, how cool would it be if I could make a guitar? I was just gonna go buy wood. But I was 18. I didn’t have very much money. I thought, what if I made it out of skateboards, somehow? I was about halfway done when I realized, this was gonna work! So I started making two more. I kept making them. At the same time, I worked for free as a cabinet-maker, to learn more woodworking, then I worked for free painting guitars.
Then the craziest thing happened. A guy at college was in a video film class and filmed me making guitars and we put it on YouTube. I thought, ‘wow, five thousand people watched this!’ Then I went to bed and woke up and someone had picked it up, and it got something like 30 million views. It went insane after that, and I started selling guitars all over the world through Prisma Guitars.
Is there anything you collect?
I have a pretty bad chair collection habit. I have a lot of chairs. Some people’s work really resonates with me, and I love to have part of their ideas in my space. If everything was something I made, it would be really flat, you know?
What’s your favorite time of day in the house?
Right when I wake up and I see the sun hit everything, I really see the magic of it all. Those are probably the most productive moments of my day. I’m not emailing, but my brain feels active. That’s the moment when my brain thinks of the next idea.
Nicholas Bijan Pourfard is a luthier and furniture maker based in southern California. He first began working with wood while recovering from an injury that kept him from skating—designing and constructing guitars from reclaimed skateboard decks, and moving onto furniture some years later. He lives in Escondido, in a home designed by Modernist architect and industrial designer Walter S. White, where he is sensitively restoring some of the building’s original features.
Text: Maisie Skidmore
Photography: Joyce Kim