Luxury furniture designer John Black dies

John Black

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Furniture designer John E. Black died Dec. 17 at his home here after a long battle with a rogue form of prostate cancer. He was 71.

“A man in full, Black loved art and design, motorcycles, golf, Cubs baseball, the Beatles, big ideas, small groups, travel, black tees and fresh Sharpies,” his family said in the death notice. “At work and at play, Black shared the art of life with his wife of 48 years, Joyce Lortz Black.”

He attended Kendall College of Art and Design in the early 70s, and then honed his talent, apprenticing with leading furniture design firms in Montreal, Washington, D.C, and Chicago. Ultimately, Black attracted the attention of Baker Furniture, Grand Rapids, where he served as vice president of design from 1991-2000, guiding the development of collections from Barbara Barry, Michael Vanderbyl and Milling Road, among others.

He went on to form J Black Design in 2000, a partnership with his wife, and designed iconic furniture collections for leading luxury brands, including Baker, Century, Councill, Ethan Allen, Hancock & Moore, Hickory Chair, Kravet and Vanguard. Black retired in 2018, turning his design and mechanical prowess to restoring (and riding) vintage motorcycles, practicing tai chi and travelling extensively.

He was born in Morganton, N. C., June 1, 1950 to Fred V. Black and Martha Nell Black, who preceded him in death. In addition to his wife Joyce, Black is survived by son Christopher Witherspoon (Tanya) and grandchildren Carson and Allie all of Morganton and other family members. The family will scatter his ashes far off the coast of North Carolina to travel the world with the Gulf Stream.

A celebration of Black’s life and career will be held on Wednesday, March 30, 2022 at the Bienenstock Furniture Library (High Point) for family, friends and colleagues. Further details will follow. 

Joyce Black, together with family and friends, have established a design scholarship in John Black’s name, in partnership with the Bienenstock Furniture Library, supporting the Library’s Future Designers Summit, fall 2022. In lieu of flowers, contributions are welcome and fully tax deductible. Please make checks payable to the Bienenstock Furniture Library (with “John Black” noted in the memo line) and mail to the Library at 1009 N. Main Street, High Point, N.C., 27262

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