Exclusive Interview: Andrew Thornton of Argington
Trends & Events
Yes! We’ve got another fun, modern kid’s furniture designer to bring to you today. Why do we focus on kid’s furniture so much? Well, as any modern parent would agree, nothing ruins a clean home aesthetic like brightly-colored and oddly shaped kid’s accessories. That’s why it’s so important we bring you furniture companies making gorgeous kid’s furniture for the enjoyment of kids and parents alike. Today’s company, Argington, excels at creating furniture that looks good, is safe to own, fun to use and is even good for the environment.
The only thing cuter than Argington’s lines of cribs, toddler beds, bassinets, storage, bunk beds and more is the couple behind the company. Jenny Argie and Andrew Thornton aren’t just young and attractive, they’ve got the skills and talents to run a successful kid’s furniture business and produce modern furniture products that anyone would love. Jenny, an artist, and Andrew, an architect and mathematician, combined their skill sets when their first child was born, and soon Argington the company was born. Caring about aesthetics and the environmental impact of their products, we love that this modern furniture is sleek and cool, but also warm, inviting, and family-friendly.
We got to interview Andrew about their company, where they get their inspiration, and what’s up with some of those furniture names:
Our podcast music is “Dropping out of School” by Brad Sucks, licensed for use under
Creative Commons license Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported
Just listened to this awesome interview and now must own some Argington for your kids (or yourself)? 2Modern sells Argington!
Would you prefer to read this interview? We understand completely. Transcript below!
2M: We’re here with Andrew Thornton, who with his creative and lovely wife Jenny owns Argington, a cool kid’s furniture company founded in 2003. Thanks for being here!
AT: Thank you Adrienne. I appreciate it.
2M: I really love that your furniture is modern, but not too modern. It looks like it could fit in any home. Why don’t we start with you describing your company’s style?
AT: You know it’s interesting; I try to point that out to people all the time. When we started the company back in 2003, we regarded ourselves as a modern furniture company, and I think of modern as fairly severe in terms of lines. But over time we’ve begun to incorporate many influences into our work, and that could be anything from sculpture, to art nouveau to Bauhaus to just a range of things that we wanted to soften up. There’s a degree of warmth in what we do so we don’t even think of ourselves as being modern anymore; we think of ourselves as a contemporary furniture company.
2M: Yeah I agree with you about the warmness of your pieces, not just in the darker wood pieces, but they all just feel very comfortable and very soft, and like you want them in your home.
AT: Very homey, yes. Thank you.
2M: I know the company started shortly after the birth of your first child, but where does the inspiration for each furniture piece come from?
AT: Well let me give you just a little bit of history. So, Jenny and I are a husband and wife team, I got my degree in architecture and mathematics and Jenny was a fine artist—a painter and a sculptor. Like several of our other counterparts, we first started the business when we found out we were going to have a baby in 2002. So we began designing for our unborn child, and not for the reason that we didn’t find that our aesthetic wants were out there in the market, but it’s just naturally inspiring when you have kids and you’re a designer to begin with, you want to do things for them.
Our very first line was called the wonders collection, and it was a collection based on the seven wonders of the world and that gave us a sort of great jumping off point, so we designed things like the Eiffel Book Case and the Zeus Highchair and other things that connected our furniture with these geographic locations around the world and gave a point of connection between parent and child. It was really fun to work with these educational monuments. But over time, our lines have now become more coherent, comprehensive and follow a more traditional model of how companies develop lines.
2M: Yeah I actually noticed the furniture names. I noticed some named after man-made structures but some after natural landmarks; do you find equal inspiration in kind of urban environments and natural environments?
AT: Yeah, I mean we do look to nature. As I mentioned a lot of our inspirations were things from sculpture like Noguchi, or Calder or beautiful architectural structures like even the Empire State Building—they all have relevance to us. But the natural world carries its own set of amazing design and beauty. Our tag line is “Designed by nature, natural by design.” So we really pull from everything around us to come up with new concepts and new ideas.
2M: What do you think are the biggest differences between your furniture and other kid’s manufacturer’s work? What makes you guys stand apart?
AT: That’s a great question. I think one of our key things is that…when we started out in 2003—and we started out very, very humbly, you know we handcrafted everything, we started off with a very small shop—and you know as time went on we were very fortunate to get a great response and kept getting more orders and were able to grow. Well now, we’re in this great position where we have a lot of resources and a lot of ability with our company. We feel like in terms of design we can bring people more for less, if you will. That was kind of an Eames mantra some time ago, and we’re kind of coming back around to that, with the scrutiny of people wanting more for their dollar and value. We think right now, what we do excellent, is we bring people really great quality products—great materials—that our competition has a hard time competing with. And that’s not to drown anyone out, it’s just an ability that we have right now. And that’s in terms of the manufacturing. In terms of design, we’ve been pretty steadfast in offering…we’ve had a green initiative since day one and we keep continuing to develop that program. All the pieces are convertible, so you know what when people buy our pieces, even for these great prices, they get to use them for 5 or 6 years or well beyond that. A lot of parents will commandeer their children’s furniture from stuff of ours to use in their rooms when they’re children are grown. So I think those are key strengths that separate us from our competition.
2M: I totally agree with the commandeering part; I absolutely want the Eiffel Book Case in my life and I don’t have any kids. Do you guys work from home, or do you guys have a separate office where you get creative?
AT: We have a separate office and studio here in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. We live and work all within Brooklyn. We’re like a regular couple; we drop the kids off at school and then go into the office. Some days we don’t even interact with each other that much because we have our own set of duties and things within the organization and some days we have the pleasure of getting to really develop marketing strategies and work on new designs and business strategies. It’s really helped us out. I think all small business owners at once time, you have to work what you’ve been given, but as time evolves, it’s great to have that support and platform beneath us to operate independently.
2M: That was actually going to be one of my questions, is, how is it being married and owning a business…who does what?
AT: Well it’s truly one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever experienced in my life. It could probably…it’s not for everybody. But when you have two people who are really passionate about what they do, and really ambitious and driven—we tend to work really well with each other in that respect. That doesn’t mean we don’t have, you know, different design opinions, but you know, that’s part of the process and it’s very beautiful. You know as time goes on, you give people space enough to clearly identify roles, and you try to maximize people’s strengths with what they should be doing. And I think we’ve been able to self-relegate or self-delegate that. So maybe in the first few years of the company we didn’t exactly know who should be doing what, but as time went on, there were sort of natural things that came to fruition, and so we recognized that and assigned that to that particular person.
2M: What challenges you face on a daily basis as a small business? Is it the manufacturing part? Or is it design issues?
AT: Manfacturing issues can be one thing, but as long as those are dealt with in advance and there’s forethought in the process, it’s very doable. You can put in redundancies. We’re not operating at this point that if something happens it’s the end of the world. We have checks and checks and balances and quality control set up. I think the hardest thing if just the day to day management of the business. As a business owner, as it starts to grow, you really start to focus on bigger issues, but there’s all sorts of micro issues that our swirling around you that you can’t be oblivious to. You have to be aware of those things as management. And you have to continue to develop stronger relationships with your existing retailers, constantly getting your name out there and trying to get people to understand what your brand is all about and the kind of things that you do—everyday we look for opportunities to do that and do that effectively. So we’ve certainly become more competitive trying to go from a smaller company to a mid-sized company.
2M: What are the goals for your business in the upcoming months?
AT: The goals for us always to…we’re always very excited about reaching new markets, about reaching a broader audience. I think in the beginning at first, certain modern furniture companies were sort of limited to a certain group, but you know. For example, something we have that we’re going to be launching soon is a part of our Bam line will be a bassinet that converts to a crib that converts to a toddler bed. It’s great because there are very few products on the market today that offer that kind of convertibility. Lots of parents would love to use bassinets with the newborn, but they rarely do because it’s such an ephemeral object that’s obsolete within three months, so it’s going to be on castors, and we’re gonna sell the whole set for about $450, so what that does, it gives us the ability to reach into far more homes, and to capture a larger audience for our products. So that’s tremendously exciting for us. So it’s really breaking beyond those boundaries of creating inclusive products and creating products that are more suitable for the masses, and just keeping design high and quality high and giving something to people on a larger scale that feels personal for them
2M: Well thank you so much for talking with us, I’ve really appreciated it.
AT: It’s been my pleasure, thank you.
2M: To learn more about Jenny Argie, Andrew Thornton and Argington, visit argington.com You’ve been listening to a 2modern designer interview. For more fun podcasts, inspiring design posts and design advice, check out the blog at 2modern.com.
Download an MP3 of this interview:
Andrew Thornton of Argington Interview