Zachary Zorn’s alliterative name has the zing of two Zs, but his designs get an “A” for architectural achievement. The Colorado native’s artful furnishings, lighting and sculptures mix warm woods and cool metals, materials old and new, the natural and the industrial, the decorative and the functional.
Zorn works primarily with a quirky and inventive combination of reclaimed walnut wood with live edges, epoxy, Edison-style light bulbs and repurposed vintage airplane or piano parts.
“I always pick things that aren’t supposed to go together and make them go to together, which I enjoy. I love a challenge,” Zorn says. “Through years of playing with materials that don’t typically go together, I’ve been able to create something new and functional and different from its original purpose.”
Zorn’s designs are clean and simple, simultaneously rustic yet refined. Some pieces smack of stripped-down Steampunk. For example, an Edison-style light bulb nestles inside an animal skull. Antique airplane flaps form curiously appealing shelving that, though made of cool metal, appears warmer due to wear. A wall treatment displays overlapping wheels of wood cut from walnut tree trunks.
The unexpected is Zorn’s bailiwick. As a boy, he once attempted to make a helicopter out of a weed-whacker.
“I was always tinkering, always had big ideas,” he says. “Thinking back, I was always trying to make something whether a fort in the attic above the garage or in the dog house.”
Zorn received formal training as a photographer. He and his wife, Jody Zorn, met as photography students at the Art Institute of Colorado. He’s a native of Northglenn who has lived in Colorado his entire life except for a year in Brooklyn, NY. His wife grew up in Fort Collins. The couple has two young sons, a dog named Warhol and a photography business: Jody Zorn Photography founded in 2006.
“About seven or eight years ago, I branched off and started playing with metal,” he says. “I started out wanting to be a metal sculpture artist because I like the way it smells when you weld it—that smell of melting metal. I like that you can cut it and bend it and form metal.”
Yet Zorn realized his designs required more materials.
“I found I liked stuff to have function. I went more into furniture and lighting: things you can set out or turn on and off as opposed to just stare at,” he says. “The very first lamp I ever made was from a piece of wood found in Colorado. I was inspired by this piece of driftwood that was used as a fire poker when we lived in a renovated synagogue in the Highlands.”
Zorn’s current focus involves wood and metal, his wife says. “He is now beginning work on a line that combines airplane parts and live edge walnut together,” Jody says. “His Vesna line is named after the famed flight attendant Vensa Vulovic, who survived a crash from 33,330 feet in the early ‘70s.”
A work in progress features an airplane propeller crumbled from a crash.
“When the plane crashed, the propeller got bent up, and I’m making a side console table from it,” he says.
Jody Zorn says, “Nothing is done in a literal, expected way.”
As for wood in his works, the artist uses foraged trees downed due to disease or development. He finishes his wooden works with an eco-friendly, durable natural wax designed for wood flooring. He applies eco-friendly, zero-VOC products that reflect his environmental concerns.
Though he’s an emerging artist, Zorn’s designs bring a pretty penny. His handsome wood, metal and epoxy tables sell for between $8,000 and $15,000. His commissioned works grace the lobby of the Tava Water complex, The Cairn restaurant, and The Platform near Union Station.
Zachary Zorn Designs are the antithesis of mass-produced furnishings. In the digital age in which almost everything can be deconstructed to binary digit combinations of zeros and ones, Zorn’s art anchors humanity in work that is hand-wrought and heartfelt.
For more about Zorn’s furnishings, sculptures and lights, visit zacharyzorndesigns.com.
Based in Denver, CO
Studio by appointment only
Colleen Smith is a Denver-based award-winning writer who has published hundreds of art, design and architecture features in many magazines, newspapers and online.
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