Jed Johnson (designer)

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Jed Johnson
Born(1948-12-30)December 30, 1948
DiedJuly 17, 1996(1996-07-17) (aged 47)
Occupation(s)Film director, designer
Partner(s)Andy Warhol (1968–1980)
Alan Wanzenberg (1980–1996)
RelativesJay Johnson (brother)

Jed Johnson (December 30, 1948 – July 17, 1996) was an American interior designer and film director. The New York Times hailed Johnson as "one of the most celebrated interior designers of our time."[1]

Initially hired as a custodian at artist Andy Warhol's Factory, Johnson moved in with Warhol after he was shot to help him recuperate, and they subsequently had a romantic relationship for 12 years.[2] Johnson rose through the ranks at The Factory from assisting director Paul Morrissey to directing a film on his own. He edited several films, including Trash (1970), Heat (1972), and Blood for Dracula (1974), and he directed the film Bad (1977) before starting a decorating business. Johnson was a member of the Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board following Warhol's death.

Johnson was known for his signature American Empire style when decorating. His clients included Mick Jagger, Pierre Bergé, Yves Saint Laurent, and Barbra Streisand. Johnson had become one of the most acclaimed interior designers when he was killed in a plane crash aboard TWA Flight 800 in 1996.[3] He was posthumously inducted into the Interior Design Hall of Fame and Architectural Digest named him as one of "The World's 20 Greatest Designers of All Time."[4] In 2005, Rizzoli published the book Jed Johnson: Opulent Restraint, a monograph and remembrance by his twin brother Jay Johnson.

Life and career[edit]

Early life[edit]

Jed Johnson was born in Alexandria, Minnesota on December 30, 1948. He was the fourth of six children, born 15 minutes after his fraternal twin brother Jay Johnson.[5] When he was ten, Johnson's family moved to Scottsdale, Arizona before settling in Fair Oaks, California.[6] His father was a physician and an amateur pilot with his own airport.[6] Johnson dated journalist Joan Lunden in high school and they remained lifelong friends.[7][8][9] Johnson graduated from Bella Vista High School in 1967.[5][10]

Johnson briefly attended American River College in Sacramento, California before hitchhiking to New York City with his brother Jay in 1967.[6][11] They found an apartment in Manhattan's East Village through a heroin addict, got mugged, and lost their last $200.[12] They were offered a job at Western Union when they went to collect money their mother had sent them.[13]

Warhol years[edit]

In 1968, Johnson delivered a telegram to the Decker building where artist Andy Warhol had recently relocated The Factory.[14] Johnson accepted an on-the-spot job offer by director Paul Morrissey to help get the new Factory into shape, which included stripping wood and sweeping floors.[15][16][14] Shortly after, Warhol loaned Johnson money for a deposit to move into an apartment in a safer neighborhood on East 17th Street and Irving Place.[6][13]

Johnson was installing fluorescent lights at The Factory when Warhol was shot by Valerie Solanas on June 3, 1968.[17] He had returned to the Factory from the hardware store when Warhol arrived and they entered the building with Solanas.[16] Johnson hid from the gunshots in Warhol's office; Solanas tried to enter the room but he held the door shut.[16] As Warhol was taken to Columbus Hospital, Johnson and Warhol's manager Fred Hughes were held for questioning at the 13th Precinct police station.[18][19][16] Johnson visited Warhol regularly during his hospitalization and they developed a deep relationship.[20][6] Subsequently, Johnson moved into Warhol's townhouse at 1342 Lexington Avenue in Carnegie Hill to become his caregiver and to look after his mother Julia Warhola.[20] During Warhol's recovery, a romantic relationship ensued and Johnson came to "fill the traditional role of a devoted young spouse."[21] Johnson became an integral part of Warhol's inner circle, traveling with the artist, and assisting him and Morrissey with their films.[14]

Johnson assisted Morrisey on the film Flesh (1968), and he taught himself how to edit film on The Factory's Moviola.[22] He edited the films Trash (1970), Heat (1972), L'Amour (1972), Flesh for Frankenstein (1973), and Andy Warhol's Dracula (1974).[23][24] Johnson made his directorial debut with Bad (1977) starring Carroll Baker.[25] Although it was a commercial failure, Johnson maintained that it was a good film, as did Morrissey, but he felt in over his head.[26][27] As a result, Johnson abandoned filmmaking and began buying and selling antiques.[28]

In 1977, Johnson and Warhol's relationship began to deteriorate, spurred on by Warhol's partying and his friendship with Victor Hugo.[29] Johnson, who was not comfortable with the Studio 54 crowd, recalled: "When Studio 54 opened things changed with Andy. That was New York when it was at the height of its most decadent period, and I didn't take part. … I was always really shy and had a really hard time socially anyway, and I didn't like the people. Andy was just wasting his time, and it was really upsetting. … He just spent his time with the most ridiculous people."[28][30]

Johnson also suffered from depression which was exacerbated by Warhol being emotionally distant.[31] "I knew Andy for twelve years ... He never talked about anything personal to me ever," said Johnson.[28] Johnson attempted suicide twice during their relationship, in 1970 and 1978.[32][33] Johnson had aspirations to become a pilot and had paid for flying lessons but due to his suicide attempt, he was unable to obtain his license.[32] In 1980, while still residing with Warhol, Johnson purchased a duplex apartment to use as an office for his decorating business at 15 West 67th Street.[6] He moved out of Warhol's townhouse and into the apartment in December 1980.[34][35] They shared custody of their two dachshunds, Archie and Amos, following their split.[36][37]

In 1982, Warhol amended his will to exclude Johnson.[38] His manager Fred Hughes remained the executor and Vincent Fremont, The Factory manager, replaced Johnson as the backup executor.[38] In 1995, Johnson became a member of the Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board, which was a private corporation that certified the authenticity of works by Warhol.[39]

During his relationship with Warhol, Johnson amassed several of his paintings.[40] His collection included Silver Elvis, Front and Back Dollar Bills, Mao, Flowers, and other assorted signed Warhol silkscreens which his twin brother Jay Johnson inherited after his death.[41][42][43] Warhol also created portraits of Johnson and their dachshunds.[44]

Design career[edit]

From 1974 to 1980, Johnson lived with Andy Warhol at 57 E 66th St in the Lenox Hill neighborhood of Manhattan. In 1998, the townhouse was designated a cultural landmark.[45]

In 1974, Johnson found a townhouse for Warhol at 57 East 66th Street in Lenox Hill.[46] Johnson had enjoyed organizing and decorating Warhol's Lexington Avenue townhouse so when they moved to a larger residence he was put in charge of designing its interiors.[47][48] Johnson drew inspiration from his travels with Warhol over the years and was "greatly influenced by the quality of furniture and collections he saw and by the style with which they were displayed."[49][26] Johnson expanded Warhol's growing collections and experimented with three different styles: Neoclassical, Art Deco, and Victorian.[5] In contrast to The Factory which had an open-door policy, Warhol allowed few people into his home.[5] Art collector Stuart Pivar, a friend of Johnson and Warhol's, said, "Jed built period rooms of such refinement and perfection. The level of quality in that house had no equal."[50] "Jed influenced Andy to appreciate fine old things. It probably influenced Andy towards the classical theme of art," he added.[50]

In 1977, Johnson started a decorating business with Judith Hollander, which he ran from home.[51][52] His connection with Warhol helped him build a network of celebrity clients.[6] Johnson became close friends with art collectors Sandra Brant and Peter Brant.[1] In 1978, Johnson and Hollander decorated Peter Brant and Joe Allen's office building in Greenwich, Connecticut.[52] Johnson purchased a house with the Brants in Colorado in the late 1970s.[53] Johnson also decorated their White Birch Farm in Greenwich after its completion in 1983.[54]

One of Johnson's early commissions was decorating French businessman Pierre Bergé's apartment at The Pierre hotel in New York City.[6][55] He collaborated with architect Peter Marino on this project.[56] Johnson's business with Hollander quickly became successful. They designed Yves Saint Laurent's New York headquarters with architect Michael Hollander in 1979.[57]

While Johnson's relationship with Warhol was disintegrating, he grew closer to architect Alan Wanzenberg in 1980.[58][59] Wanzenberg worked at I.M. Pei in New York.[60] They were introduced by a mutual friend, art dealer Thomas Ammann, and became collaborators which developed into a romantic relationship.[61] Eventually, Wanzenberg moved into Johnson's apartment on Manhattan's West Side.[34][6] In 1982, they co-founded a design company, which they ran jointly until they created their separate entities—Jed Johnson & Associates and Alan Wanzenberg Architect.[12][41] However, they continued to collaborate on projects together such as creating the Interview magazine offices.[23][60] In 1991, they participated in Metropolitan Home magazine's ShowHouse benefit for the Design Industries Foundation for AIDS (DIFFA).[62][63]

Johnson's firm attracted high-profile clients, including Mick Jagger, Jerry Hall, Barbra Streisand, Richard Gere, Carl Icahn, and the Sperone Westwater gallery for which he created a new exhibition space.[48][64] Johnson was noted for his generosity and he would also send furniture to friends who could not afford his services.[48]

Despite not having a design background or any formal training, Johnson had a natural eye for detail.[64] Architecture critic Paul Goldberger wrote for Architectural Digest:

Johnson … had the eye of a connoisseur and the compositional gift of an artist. His rooms were assemblages of splendid pieces, set in sensual wholes. He was as interested in fabric and texture as in mass and shape, which is why he could hang a Cy Twombly painting on eighteenth-century Chinese wallpaper or a Venetian-glass chandelier next to a huge nineteenth-century Irish scagliola urn. It was not the cleverness of the combination that intrigued Johnson; it was the way the shapes and the textures played off each other.[65]

For several years, Johnson was not aware of other designers' work, but by the mid-1980s he was paying attention to other people's work.[26] Specifically, he admired the work of Renzo Mongiardino, Jacques Grange, Patrick Naggar, Peter Marino, Stephen Sill, and Philippe Starck.[26]

After Johnson's death, the name of his company was changed from Jed Johnson & Associates to Jed Johnson Associates in 1997. His protégé Arthur Dunnam was appointed to lead the studio as design director.[41] In 2016, the company's name was changed to Arthur Dunnam for Jed Johnson Studio.[41]


On July 17, 1996, Johnson was traveling to Paris on a shopping trip to find antiques for a client's home.[5] He was killed at age 47 along with 229 other passengers and crew members aboard TWA Flight 800 when the plane exploded off the coast of Long Island, New York during a flight departing from John F. Kennedy International Airport.[66] As a passenger in first class, Johnson was killed instantly.[5] His body was one of the first recovered a mile from the crash scene in the Atlantic Ocean.[5]

Johnsons' longtime friend Joan Lunden, former co-host of Good Morning America, eulogized him on air.[67] She spoke of their friendship and shared a photo of Johnson with Alan Wanzenberg, and expressed her condolences.[67] She referred to Wanzenberg as his domestic partner, which drew praise from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation because Wanzenberg was referred to as Johnson's business partner in initial reports.[67]

Johnson's family and friends such as writer Fran Lebowitz, and art collector Stuart Pivar released statements following his death.[5][50][1] Interview magazine's editor-in-chief Ingrid Sischy remembered the life of her friend in the Winter 1996 issue.[23]

A 4-year investigation revealed that an explosive mixture of fuel vapor and air in a fuel tank caused a short circuit, which was the likely cause of the accident.[68] As a result, new prerequisites were created to prevent future gas tank blasts in airplanes.[68]


In 1996, Johnson was inducted into the Interior Design Hall of Fame.[69] House & Garden magazine dedicated an issue to him and Architectural Digest ran a five-page photo layout of his work.[5]

In 2005, Rizzoli published the book Jed Johnson: Opulent Restraint, a monograph documenting his career. Organized by his brother Jay Johnson, the book has contributions by architecture critic Paul Goldberger, former Interview editor Bob Colacello, Yves Saint Laurent co-founder Pierre Berge, and former Interview co-owner Sandra Brant. A celebratory re-edition of the book was released in 2023.[54]

In 2006, Johnson's brother Jay Johnson created Jed Johnson Home, which provides luxury textiles for interior use to designers and architects.[33]

In 2010, Johnson was named by Architectural Digest as one of "The World's 20 Greatest Designers of All Time."[4]

In 2022, Johnson's relationship with Warhol was explored in the Netflix docuseries The Andy Warhol Diaries.[33]



Associate Producer


  • Women in Revolt (1971)
  • L'Amour (1972)



  • Gopnik, Blake (2020). Warhol. New York: Ecco. ISBN 9780062298393.
  • Johnson, Jay (2005). Jed Johnson: Opulent Restraint, Interiors. New York: Rizzoli. ISBN 9780847827145.
  • Warhol, Andy; Hackett, Pat (1989). The Andy Warhol Diaries. New York: Warner Books. ISBN 9780446514262.


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