Designer Andy Johnson, MBA ’11, is inspired by challenges. For example, he doesn’t have a lot of space for furniture. But he needed a coffee table, and he wanted something comfortable to put his feet on at the end of the day. So he created a piece to meet both needs, designing a coffee table with a soft felt wrap around its middle—a place where he could prop his feet or leave a drink—to give the table more function. “I thought about wrapping leather around the table,” he says, “but leather is expensive, and it’s difficult to control quality. Wool felt has a natural feel; it’s warm and inviting.” Turns out it’s practical, too. The dense felt wrap is durable and can be spot cleaned or removed and dry-cleaned.
Johnson, an engineer who spends about half his professional time as a product development consultant, is the founder of Ample, a Seattle-based furniture-making business. Primarily a self-taught woodworker, Johnson once took a few woodworking classes. He says the experience kept him from cutting his fingers off, but it also taught him that woodworking is a hard art to master. At first, Johnson made all his pieces, but he quickly realized he had to outsource for the business to be viable. He found a couple of local shops to handle the work so he could visit frequently. “I care too much about detail and quality to roll the dice,” he says.
Ample furniture is made with American black walnut, a plus for Johnson, who prefers using domestic materials. The wood is then rubbed with a plant-based oil finish. “The dark wood echoes the mid-century modern style, from the 1940s to 1960s, that inspires me,” says Johnson. “Simple lines, simple colors.”
Not all of Johnson’s designs are the result of his interests. He created a tripod table lamp because customers liked his floor lamp but wanted something smaller. In fact, the floor lamp, one of Ample’s original pieces, is Johnson’s favorite. “It’s the one I get most excited about,” he says. “It’s popular, and it feels good when people like something.”