September 23, 2009

interview with arms & barnes designer

Posted in designer, furniture, interview tagged , , at 3:38 pm by Brit

Show2Arms and Barnes is made up of the combined talents of sister designers, Andrea Porter and Ameri Spurgin. The duo handcrafts fabulous furniture from salvaged farm and factory wastes. I love the unique rustic/industrial look the furniture pieces bring to a room.

Show1They take old gears, blades, iron gates, breath a little life into them and turn them into luxury designs.


Andrea took the time to chat with me about her eco-friendly furniture.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

Inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere.  My mom has been one of my main inspirations.  She has always been a creative force and has always made a lot out of very little in life.  I think my company’s path has paralleled my mother’s life.  My mother grew up on a Mennonite farm in Lancaster PA and was the eldest of 9 siblings.  She would wake up early every morning, before her farm chores, and study for her GED.  She went on to get her masters degree from NYU, here in the city.  Many of my pieces follow a similar route.  I find many of the objects in rural areas near where she grew up.  I turn these pieces into furniture that fits within an urban environment.

Do you go out looking with a particular type of item to find or does the furniture design idea come after finding a great piece to work with?

I have a general idea of what types of things to look for.  If there is a particularly great table that I previously made, I might keep my eyes open for something similar.  But I usually just keep my eyes open and look for things that are interesting.  Sometimes an item does not immediately seem like they would make a good table and it takes a little more creativity.

What made you look to old farm items and such to use in your furniture designs?

I made the 1st table for my own apt.  I had been looking for a coffee table and could not find anything interesting within a moderate price range.  Months before, I had picked up an old gear from a flea market and it had been sitting around my apt.  Since I couldn’t find a coffee table that I liked, I started to think that the gear would make a really unique table.  I took the gear to a local welder and attached legs to the gear and that became my coffee table.

How do you know where to look for old farm and factory items?

My mother came from Lancaster County, PA and there are still many farms in the area.  A large portion of my 1st pieces were from that area.  I visit antique shops and architectural salvage companies that I happen upon or find in various directories.  Sometimes I also go to farm auctions and flea market.  Otherwise, I just generally keep my eyes open everywhere I go.

What is your most interesting story upon acquiring a piece for a design?

One time I went to a farm auction.  Most of the bidders at the auction were working farmers.  Almost all of them were middle age to older men.  The few women that were around were farmer’s wives and were there to bid on the household items that were going up for auction separately.  As a female and an obvious urbanite, I received a lot of stares and questioning looks, when I started to bid on farm equipment.

What piece was the most difficult to create and why?

The creative aspects are not difficult, but sometimes there are other obstacles in creating my furniture.  I made a table out of a 62” diameter pulley wheel that was several hundred pounds.  It was very large and heavy, which made it awkward to work with and transport. Many of the pieces are made of cast iron or other heavy materials, but this one was particularly difficult.

How did you come up with the name “Arms and Barnes”?

They are childhood nicknames for my sister and me.  I wish I had a logical explanation for those names, but the reasoning of a child is not easy to decipher.

You get to travel the world, which must be amazing, what has been the most amazing place you’ve visited?

Cinque Terre, on the coast of northern Italy, is one of my favorite places.  I haven’t picked up any pieces there yet, but it is just a wonderful place to visit.

What are your goals for “Arms and Barnes”?

My immediate goal is to make more beautiful tables and get my pieces into the hands of people who love them as much as I do. I have some other ideas for the future, but right now I am focusing on tables.

Thanks Andrea! Be sure to check out their YouTube channel where they give you behind the scenes look in creating their masterpieces.



  1. camila said,

    Great interview! I love getting a heads up on new talent and these two sissys are ones to watch! Thanks!!!

  2. Nancy Gelerter Janosi said,

    great blog. I find it pretty inspiring.

  3. Brit said,

    You guys are so sweet! Thanks! 🙂

  4. Andrea said,

    I just wanted to drop a line and say, “Thank you” and get on your list.
    I love your blog site. You have a wonderful sense of style.

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