Consultant by trade, craftsman at heart

Courtesy photo: Craftsman and salesman Matt Johnson of MRJohnson Furnishings paints a custom cabinet piece that he made in his workshop based out of his Brookings home.

BROOKINGS – With years of experience in the furniture business, Matt Johnson aims to help his customers find the exact piece they’re looking for. 

And if it’s not already out on the market, he’ll make it himself.

Designer and craftsman Matt Johnson and his wife Jackie Van Balen-Johnson have owned and operated MRJohnson Furnishings for roughly one year.

Through their furniture design consulting company, Johnson will work with the customer to find the best piece of furniture available to suit their needs. Van Balen-Johnson is the vice president and CFO of the company.

Johnson is a self-taught furniture craftsman and has been since high school. 

“I’ve always enjoyed building furniture, and I always enjoyed doing sales when I was at Rude’s,” Johnson said, “so we just started our own little LLC.” 

Johnson worked at Rude’s Home Furnishings for 15 years.

Many of the old homes in Brookings offer a unique challenge that puts Johnson’s skills to work. One of his pieces was a custom-sized television stand made specifically for the customer’s sound bar. It houses an internal electric fireplace and has barn doors on either side for storage. 

A favorite piece of his was a buffet. It has a detachable end-piece that turns into a tiny island for the small kitchen it’s in. It also comes with a hidden charging station that rises up from out of the counter.

Johnson is a civil engineering graduate from South Dakota State University, and Van Balen-Johnson earned her business degree with a health administration emphasis, also from SDSU.

The Johnsons have had several different jobs over the years, ranging from sales at Rude’s, working with engineers and computer programming at Daktronics, working for the Department of Transportation and for Sanford.

Despite having worked in so many fields, the Johnsons wanted to run their own sales business in which Johnson would be able to continue his craftsmanship.

The inspiration sparked a few years ago, when Johnson was still working at Rude’s. A customer came in and wanted a certain type of hutch that Rude’s didn’t have. 

“I said, ‘Hey, I could make something for ya,’” Johnson said. “She loved it and even had me do another piece for her.”

Johnson also uses his expertise to act as a middleman between customers and furniture companies that don’t have online purchasing available beyond their storefronts or showrooms, said Van Balen-Johnson.

MRJohnson works with six different vendors: Ashley Furniture, Classic Flame, Best Home Furnishings, Intercon, Aspen Furniture, and Marshfield. They can get in pieces ranging from bedroom sets, to wood-crafted tables and chairs, to kitchen and office pieces and fireplaces.

Many major furniture companies don’t have direct online purchasing for customers, Johnson said. They require a design consultant to act as intermediary, so customers get exactly what they want. Johnson works in that same capacity; however, it is on a much smaller and more personable scale than a major retailer, he said. 

Johnson and his wife work from their home and garage in Brookings, and he works one-on-one with each customer in their home. Not having a storefront means minimal financial overhead, which directly lowers the price of the product for the customer.

When it comes to designing his own furniture, Johnson uses programs and phone apps that allow him to render a 3D model of the piece within an image of the room where it will be placed. This allows the homeowner to get a better understanding of what the piece will look like.

“People have an idea of what they want; they just don’t know where to go get it. We can definitely get this for you, or we can make it,” Van Balen-Johnson said.

For more information visit MRJohnson Furnishings on Facebook or give them a call at 605-321-7460.

Contact Matthew Rhodes at [email protected]

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