In Conversation with the Creative Force Behind Mary Justice Designs

Designer Mary Justice Thomasson

LM: The Renaissance technique you employ sounds fascinating; could you tell us a bit more about it?
MJT: My history and obsession with painted furniture goes back to my Grandmother’s collection of Louis XIV and gilding on frames and mirrors. We wanted our creations to last for generations to come as heirloom pieces and in order to do that we had to use the Renaissance technique of applying gesso to wood. Gesso is composed of plaster of Paris, chalk and gypsum and is applied to wood panels to provide the ground for tempera and oil painting for gilding and painting on carved furniture.

It’s the only way to ensure that the painting will work on wood and stand the test of time. Many said it was impossible and far too time-consuming. They were right as it is both, but we persevered anyway and are very proud of our collections and our “fine art as furniture.”

LM: Where are your home décor items made? Do you source the raw materials locally?
MJT: Our studio is based in Bali, Indonesia and all our pieces and processes are made here. The mahogany and teak woods in the collections are sourced from sustainable, certified farm plantations in Indonesia (FSC-Certified). The wood we pick for our collections is kiln-dried offering protection against degradation ensuring durability and sustainability.

We use only sustainable construction methods and tongue and groove (dovetailing) methods to stand the test of time. We also ship all items from our studio base. All our collections are delivered in exceptionally elegant, and eco-friendly handmade padded wooden boxes that can be repurposed as storage chests.

In-house artist Sulis experimenting with watercolours for design

LM: Which artist or designer are you inspired by or look up to and why?
MJT: David Linley is one of the world’s most incredible furniture makers of today. I am totally inspired by his marquetry, wood choices and colours. I’m also a huge fan of Hermes and have been a collector of their scarves which are made in limited edition by various artists on different themes each year. As you would know Chin, often Hermes only goes up in value due to its limited editions, and so we expect the same with Mary Justice Designs.

LM: Tell us the role sustainability plays in your business.
MJT: Sustainability is a design priority for us in every aspect of our process. Sustainability is also luxury as it’s much more expensive to use sustainable materials, but we are a luxury brand, and as we are all about “Enhancing our World” which is our company motto, we wouldn’t dream of not being sustainable.

We are focused on creating multifunctional works-of-art that stand the test of time and preserve the resources and techniques of ancient craftsmanship. From our painting technique to the FSC-certified wood we choose and our packaging materials, our conscious efforts in the use of eco-friendly and durable materials are key to our mission of creating heirloom pieces that stand the test of time.

Our wood is sourced from sustainable, certified farm plantations in Indonesia (*FSC-Certified) and the mahogany and teak woods found in our collections are the foundation for our motto of fine art furniture for life. Our Italian Renaissance technique of painting on “gesso” is also sustainable as this technique ensures our art pieces last in perpetuity. Our pieces are imagined, designed and crafted to be passed down for generations to come.

Our engagement with indigenous artists of Indonesia keeps their art and culture alive as we bring the tales of the natural world into people’s lives, and we are creating a sustainable business.

The members of the Mary Justice Designs team

LM: What are your future plans for Mary Justice Designs? Are there any projects you can share with us?
MJT: We have some hotel projects in the works, but nothing has been finalised at this time due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We are making a collection of home accessories as well that go with our range and are in theme with our range.

Mary Justice Designs – Where and how?

The inaugural collection of Mary Justice Designs is now available at the Aman Resorts – Amanjiwo in Borobudur and Amandari in Ubud and on They will also be available on starting in October 2020.

Read more exclusive interviews in our dedicated section here.

In Conversation with the Creative Force Behind Mary Justice Designs 2


Ong Chin Huat

Luxurious Magazine Reporter

Having been the social editor of the Hong Kong edition of Tatler and as well as writing a twice-weekly column in Hong Kong’s leading English-language newspaper, the South China Morning Post, Chin has met and interviewed a variety of people including business tycoons, supermodels, movie stars, royalty and world-class athletes. He also considers himself privileged to have attended some of the most talked about events and parties around the world. Chin counts art, fashion, food, interior design, literature, painting and travel among his passions.

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