Behind the Design: Andy Johnson of Ample

Furniture & Lighting

Behind the Design is a new interview series on the 2Modern blog. The goal is to tell the story of the person behind the handcrafted pieces on the 2Modern site. Today we sit down with Andy Johnson of Ample, a talented maker out of Seattle, Washington. Ample products are made with a strong preference for local materials and a deep conviction that furniture can and should be built to last a lifetime.

andy johnson ample

How did you get into design of furniture?  How did you go about learning the skills?
My formal education is in engineering, and I learned something about design working with really talented industrial designers at various product design firms. As a woodworker/maker, I’m more or less self-taught. My interest in furniture goes back to childhood, so I guess I was developing my tastes and perspective for a while before I started Ample.

Tell us about your design process.  How long does it typically take?  How often do you experiment with new designs?
Most of my designs begin with a functional problem I’m trying to solve. For example, with the Sfelt Table, I wanted a coffee table that was inviting to all the things that actually end up on your coffee table – drinks, laptops, feet. With the Hip Pocket table, the issue was magazines cluttering up my living room.

The search for solutions begins with hand sketches and usually progress quickly to Sketchup, a CAD program. After I have a design I like, I go to the shop and make a rough prototype. Most often, the first prototype has all kinds of problems – too big, too small, bad proportions, construction issues, etc. But it’s a starting point, and from there I rarely go back to CAD or sketches; I simply start modifying or rebuilding until I have what I want. In the case of the Sfelt Table, I prototyped three very different designs before arriving at the final incarnation. That was over the course of four months.

The part that’s maddening, but probably most important to my success, is nailing the last little details. It took me over a year to find a particular screw I wanted. The design process isn’t really complete until every last detail is resolved.

What piece of work are you most proud of and why?
The Solstice Floor Lamp, because so many people love it. There’s a certain amount of vanity in design, and I’m guilty.

What piece of advice would you give to a budding designer?
Don’t give up. Or, if you’re not going yet, get started.

What does your life look like outside of the shop/studio?
The lines are blurred because my studio/office (though not my shop) is at home, and because when you’re doing something you love it’s harder to “turn off.” We spend much of our free time cooking and eating good food, with friends whenever possible. Once in a while I remember that I live in a beautiful place and go fishing or mountain biking.

What are some of your favorite blogs or design resources?
I don’t consume that much media. In print, I read Dwell and Gray Magazine, and I get a smattering of design news through Flipboard on my iPhone. I do see a lot of interesting stuff on Pinterest. One of my favorite sites for a design-related laugh is Coffee with an Architect on Houzz.

Are you digital?  If so, where can we find you?
Twitter | Pinterest | Facebook

Check out the incredible work of Andy Johnson on the 2Modern site.

Hip Pocket Table by Ample

The Sfelt Coffee Table by Ample

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1 Comment

  1. Danny

    Aug 18, 2014 at 12:26 am

    “A deep conviction that furniture can and should be built to last a lifetime.” Touché!

    Great interview!

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