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Pulling up to James + James Furniture in Springdale, Arkansas, you’ll likely see James Smith’s car parked outside — a replica of the Jeep Wrangler from Jurassic Park. Logo, colors, and all. “We like to have fun here,” James tells me. He’s a self-described nerd, a bike trail enthusiast, and the owner of one of the fastest-growing furniture companies in the country. It is a company whose story is as wild and raw as the wood it relies on.

Rewind to 2011 when James was between jobs and trying to pay rent. Pinterest was new at the time, and James’ background in digital marketing pushed him to explore the app. He saw droves of people “pinning” photos of furniture. But not Wayfair furniture. Sturdy, solid, hardwood furniture with a handmade look and a glossy finish. James could scroll Pinterest to his heart’s content, but he could not figure out where to actually buy furniture like this in the United States.

James + James Furniture dining set in Ozarks, Arkansas

The story (and photos) of James + James Furniture will have you booking a trip to the Ozarks to re-outfit your entire home.

Where was the real, affordable, quality furniture? “I can do this,” he thought. He bought some wood, stain, and a $40 skill saw and built a coffee table in his garage. During the few weeks it took to sell table #1 on Craigslist, messages started rolling in from curious buyers asking if James could make them a dining table in a specific size, a bench stained a certain way, or nightstands to match their bed.

James and James Furniture's garage beginnings

James Smith quickly partnered with his college friend James Eldridge to help meet the growing demand, and James + James was born. James Eldridge has since sold his share of the company, so James Smith is the sole James today.

James turned to Google and YouTube to learn everything he could about building furniture. The team of a few friends soon outgrew James’ garage. With so many orders coming in, they eventually began hiring craftsmen who could teach the novice founders new and more complicated designs. “We now have people who know way more about furniture and carpentry than I do,” James tells me.

James Smith sits on wood in his garage

A young James Smith hadn’t a clue that this new “hobby” would end up changing his life.

Since James + James catapulted into the scene about a decade ago, their pieces have made it to all 50 states (plus six countries), and the company employs more than 130 local team members. That’s up from 30 employees just six months ago.

A round table with chairs and an urchin light fixture

Every piece of James + James furniture is branded with a mark. And you buy knowing you are supporting local craftsmen and small businesses.

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Handmade takes on its true meaning at James + James. A huge chunk of raw hardwood lumber comes in from the mill through one door, and the finished heirloom-worthy piece ships to the customer out of the other. Many furniture makers say they’re “handmade” in the United States, but they’re still made on giant pieces of machinery and from cheap and lightweight materials — some of which aren’t even real wood.

Most retailers also have to bake into their prices the ever-growing costs of expensive rent, commission for salespeople, the manufacturers’ and distributors’ cuts, cost of fuel to move the pieces around, and more. With James + James, the process is simply simpler and better for the planet and every person involved.

James+James Furniture on display in a home with vaulted ceilings.

James feels grateful that sustainability — and understanding how and where things are made — is becoming a more important criterion for the average furniture shopper.

“Our pieces are not going to end up in a landfill in a few years,” James says. “And thankfully, more and more people don’t want to buy furniture made in a factory overseas by people in poor work conditions unable to make a living wage. Our wood is not contributing to deforesting the Amazon.”

A massive Dining Room Table and Chairs from James+James Furniture in Arkansas.

James prides his pieces on being truly “bench built.”

James + James craftsmen do not use pine, pressed wood, or wood-adjacent finishes; they use sustainably and responsibly harvested chunks of dense, natural, American-grown wood. Because of this, James + James has not been affected by supply chain issues plaguing consumer furniture. American lumber is an essential service.

The exterior of the James+James Furniture workshop in Ozarks Arkansas

“All we have is growing pains!” James says. They went from 30 employees to 130 employees in just six months.

In Springdale, Arkansas, they have two addresses a few miles apart. Customers fly in from around the country to shop and see the carpenters working behind a giant window. “We also have a display that shows what they are currently making and who they are making it for,” James says. This is also where salespeople log each custom order request.

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At the giant woodshop, you’ll find a team of carpenters covered in sawdust. Once a piece is constructed, they hand it over to the artists who apply finishes and a protective, livable polyurethane surface. Then the piece heads to quality control and packaging before it’s shipped directly to the customer.

The interior of the James+James Furniture shop

Most furniture stores “go to market” in High Point, NC, find the pieces they want to sell, and then order a ton of them. But James + James pieces are fully customizable. A dedicated sales team speaks directly with customers to create custom orders that fit perfectly wherever you want them.

For those unfamiliar with Northwest Arkansas, it’s a magical place right in the middle of the Ozarks. “There are truly such good and kind people here. Everyone who visits says that.” James says. “It’s filled with hardworking women and men who love to work with their hands. And we are centrally located in the United States, so we can easily ship coast to coast.”

A bedroom set with a handmade bed frame.

Dining tables have long been the company’s bread and butter, but they are currently expanding into bedroom and living room pieces.

The joyful James + James experience starkly contrasts the frustration and long wait times many attach to furniture buying. Most customers find it easy to shop online or by phone, but you are always welcome to visit Springdale and witness the carpenters at work. And if you see the Jurassic Park mobile, give James a honk and a “hey!”

Thank you, James, for this fabulous look into your company. All photos courtesy of James + James. Find out more about their furniture at CarpenterJames.com and watch this fabulous video.

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