Jan Pappelbaum was born in 1966 in Dresden. After finishing school, he was first trained as a bricklayer and then studied architecture in Weimar. His work in theatre began as stage director and director of the student theatre at Weimar; during his studies he worked at the Weimar Art Festival as assistant stage designer to Dieter Klaß.
Since 1995, he has been designing stages for Thomas Ostermeier, Tom Kühnel, Robert Schuster, Andrea Moses and other directors.
Currently he is in-house stage designer and head of the stage design department at the Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz in Berlin.