Green Thumbs, Great Design
at Sisters Plant Shop
and Bea Furnishings
Joanna Bea and Sisters Elizabeth Duran
and Christina Murphy Join Forces
By Tyler Hayden | Photos by Ingrid Bostrom
May 25, 2023
Read more of our Home & Garden 2023 stories here.
It was a chance meeting over glasses of wine that led to the union of Joanna Bea’s specialty upholstery store and Elizabeth Duran and Christina Murphy’s inventories of houseplants that were taking over their homes. Bea was looking for a partner tenant at her upper State Street workshop, and the sisters needed a brick-and-mortar location for their growing business. “The idea just kept gathering more and more momentum,” said Bea.
As of last fall, Bea Furnishings and Sisters Plant Shop are now one, with calatheas and philodendrons resting comfortably above a leather patchwork sofa and ficuses perched alongside a plush loveseat. “They live well together,” said Duran. “It’s a partnership that shows how the right furniture and plants can really make any home feel balanced and beautiful.”
Duran tries to carry varieties that are a little different than what you’d find at a regular nursery, she said, but nothing too tricky. They’re all “accessible,” she explained. “I want to get people excited about keeping a plant alive. I want to change people’s minds that they have a black thumb.” She sends customers home with care cards and is happy to give advice on the best way to deck out a space so that all the greenery remains happy and healthy. She and Murphy also do deliveries and pop-ups. They have one this Saturday, May 27, in Solvang.
Part artist, part craftsperson, part social media star — her latest TikTok video of bringing a flattened foam cushion back to life with a garment steamer got more than half a million views — Bea is among a rare breed of classically trained upholsterers still fighting the good fight against the IKEA particleboards and Wayfair throwaways. She rehabs and reimagines cherished family pieces for the next generation, usually with a considerable twist of creative flair, and works with interior decorators to outfit high-end properties, such as the Rosewood Miramar Beach resort.
Bea also fabricates custom beds, where she really shows off her design chops; she was recently commissioned to re-create Lenny Kravitz’s bed. Because for her, the more original and imaginative the project, the better. A few years ago she turned a MarBorg dumpster into a tufted-velvet sofa. She now has plans to convert an old refrigerator into a wing-backed chair. The day-to-day at the shop, Bea explained, “is a step toward the end goal of making art via furniture. My motivation is more followers and cooler and bigger jobs.”
Both Bea and Duran, who are both originally from the Santa Ynez valley, said they’re happy to be among Santa Barbara’s small but mighty directory of independent operators. They support and cross-promote other merchants in town and see collaboration as a way to navigate what can be a tricky business environment. They also work alongside a graphic designer and deejay who share adjacent office spaces. Both of whom, they proudly point out, are also women.
“We want people to just come by,” said Bea. “We have a lot to offer.”
See beafurnishings.com and sistersplantshop.com. Follow on Instagram at @beafurnishings and @sistersplantshop.
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