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IMG_1429 HIGH ON MY LIST of things to accomplish this winter, somewhere between “Buy house” and “Update password list” (now 8 typewritten pages long), was “New clothing storage for bedroom.” I had already winnowed as much as I dared, but my four-drawer dresser and single not-so-big closet were not cutting it. If I bought so much as one new sweater, I’d be in wardrobe overflow.

The bedroom in my ground-floor brownstone apartment has a big ol’ hunk of orange wall 75″ across, where once a fireplace stood. Quite a few inches on either side of my midsize dresser were going to waste. There was also the possibility of going up the wall, with some kind of highboy or armoire.

I began my shopping online, considering mid-century ‘bachelor’s chests’ of the type included in bedroom suites of the 1950s and ’60s. They run $600-800, which is about what I planned to spend, but they were dark, stolid, and masculine-looking. I wanted something lighter. With my limited budget, I was looking for a piece of secondhand furniture, so I had no idea what, exactly, I was going to find (that’s the whole fun of it, actually).

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My Internet explorations led me to a company I hadn’t heard of, Furnish Green, whose website shows a wide-ranging mix of styles from rustic and cottage-y to industrial and Danish modern. Its site is well-organized and easy to search, but even better was visiting their midtown Manhattan showroom to view their offerings in three dimensions, which I did today. Furnish Green is a find, yet another of those hidden treasures New York offers up when you least expect it.

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And where you least expect it. Its showrooms are a few unconnected office spaces on the fifth floor of a garment-center building near Herald Square. One is shared with a ballroom dance studio; another is used for furniture refinishing and for the photography crucial to their online sales (Furnish Green has a big Craigslist presence). That’s Jeffrey, below, one of three employees, in the workroom. The owner, Nathan, is also the owner of the ballroom dance studio.

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The main showroom is a bright corner space tightly packed with moderately-priced pieces that are neither precious nor pedigreed, yet most have something quirky or interesting about them.

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Furnish Green gets 10-12 new pieces every day. “We do something to almost every one of them,” I was told — not necessarily full-on refinishing or re-upholstering, but steam-cleaning, oiling and polishing, and often, painting, to turn a dull brown piece of American borax (an old term for furnishings mass-manufactured in Grand Rapids, Mich.) into something more closely resembling Shabby Chic.

I came, I saw, I bought (see below). And yes, they deliver.

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THE SITUATION IS DIRE: 11 cartons and 8 plastic bins, holding a lifetime’s worth of family photos, children’s artwork, published and unpublished writing, already pared down to what I consider essentials. Sitting out on the floor of my bedroom in piles, they do not attractive decor make.

And on the other side of the room…

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Unless I get some kind of giant credenza, armoire, cabinet, or other closed storage piece -- and I have a 6-1/2-foot wide alcove just waiting to receive one — there’s no point even painting the walls (just as well, since I haven’t decided what color to paint them).

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Here’s where I’ve looked:

  • IKEA, where I tried to get my head around the ultra-sleek cabinet, above, ultimately deciding to honor my vow not to buy anything made of particle board
  • Find, a Gowanus warehouse documented in a previous post, where I considered and decided against several rustic pieces imported from India, mainly because nothing was quite the right size for the space
  • Hip and Humble on Atlantic Avenue, which had an armoire approximately the right size and shape, but with cutesy floral carving I couldn’t abide
  • A just-opened and potentially fabulous resource, Film Biz Recycling on President Street near 4th Avenue, a repository for film-set leftovers that just re-located this week from Queens — but I wasn’t parked legally so I just ran in long enough to ascertain there weren’t any armoires in stock

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Today, nearing my wit’s end, I checked out a place I’d read about somewhere: Trailer Park, on Sterling Place near 6th Avenue in Park Slope, above, which sells vintage furniture as well as custom pieces made of reclaimed barn wood. The place is so full of the very stuff I used to collect — ’50s lamps, vintage tablecloths, American art pottery — I couldn’t believe I’d never known about it. I brightly asked the fellow in the shop, “How long have you been here?” thinking surely he’d reply, “We just opened last month.” He said, “Oh, about thirteen years.” And I thought I knew Brooklyn!

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I admired the 1970s German science posters ($150) and checked out the other offerings closely, but the pieces made of recycled barn lumber by Amish woodworkers, above, were too plain and stolid for me, and the large armoires more than I wanted to spend (about $1,600) — and they didn’t happen to have any vintage ones on hand.
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So on I went to Re-Pop on Washington Avenue near the Brooklyn Navy Yard, first perusing their website and zeroing in on a couple of mid-20th century credenzas — not a style I was tending toward, I’m pretty done with that — although in my present circumstances, the main thing is to get something that fits, dammit, so I can start unpacking these boxes before my lease is up.

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It was also my first-ever visit to Re-Pop, above, which has been in business about four years, and my first time in that area — Clinton Hill East? — in ages. So it was a revelation to see that the proximity of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway is no longer a deal-breaker when it comes to luxury apartments. 275 Park Avenue, right under the BQE, is a converted 19th century chocolate factory, a distinguished brick building that now houses an organic market, Fresh Fanatic, below, and a Mexican restaurant, Mojito, on the ground floor. I can’t tell you how incongruous I find the gentrification of these blocks in the shadow of the BQE. I once considered them irredeemable — but I was wrong about that, too, apparently.

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Re-Pop is stuffed with vintage modern furniture at good prices, chosen with a keen eye for mostly non-pedigreed but stylish designs. They have a load of kitschy ’50s lamps, all with original shades. I seriously considered two pieces, each under $600: a long, low credenza of good shape and size, but I didn’t love it as a piece of furniture, and an unusual blonde wood 9-drawer dresser, but I don’t need a 9-drawer dresser.

So I came away without that vital storage piece, but not empty-handed. See my new lamp, below. It works beautifully in the living room, and actually provides enough illumination for reading.

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lIN MY QUEST for a storage solution for the boxes of files and photos presently stacked in the bedroom of my new Brooklyn apartment, I found FIND, a sprawling home-furnishings warehouse hiding in plain sight across from the Lowe’s parking lot in Gowanus. (They’ve been open since ’09, but I was out of town for a year-and-a-half, so it’s new to me.)

The place has an eclectic, even schizophrenic quality, stuffed as it is with wares from every corner of the world. The bulk of it is similar to what you might find at Bloomingdale’s: traditional overstuffed sofas upholstered in beige linen, farmhouse tables, wood armoires. That’s not the part that interested me.

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I was drawn to a narrow strip of stuff they’re phasing out, apparently, leftovers from a big sale they had a couple of weekends ago: vintage glass-door cabinets with multi-tone paint jobs, surrounded by brass lamps, poufs, and mirrors straight out of a Moroccan bazaar.

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The cabinets look like they’ve been artfully distressed (perhaps even naturally distressed in some cases) and have a cottage-y look, very like rustic American painted furniture of the 1930s and earlier. Except they’re made of teak, mostly, and were imported, I’m told, from India.

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Some of them have fanciful moldings. One of the more massive cabinets — 42″ wide and 2 feet deep — is on chunky wooden wheels, inset into the frame.

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The smaller pieces — medicine-chest size — are priced around $150; humongous ones range from $400 to $900, with local delivery thrown in. Alas, nothing I saw was quite right, functionally. I have a 6-1/2-foot-wide alcove I hope to fill with one large storage piece, and the cabinets I liked at FIND tend to the tall and narrow. Or else they had glass panes, and the idea is to have hidden storage.

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Still, when this bargain-hunting veteran of the interior design/home furnishings scene sees something as unusual as these Indian imports, she takes notice.

FIND is at 59 9th Street, Brooklyn 11215; 718/369-2705.

First, let’s recall what the front of my property looked like six short months ago, in November ’09…aaaarrrggghhhh!!

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I HAD BEEN CALLING IT AN ARBOR. But when people asked what I was going to plant on it — grapes? clematis? roses? — the answer was ‘nothing.’ I realized it wasn’t an arbor at all that I wanted, but a gateway. An arch, even though it’s not rounded at the top.

It was decided that my wasband, who recently discovered a talent for building rustic structures out of salvaged cedar logs, would build me a structure that would sit between my gravel parking court and the path to my house — an entryway, as it were, a statement of arrival. Nothing too grand, of course; you wouldn’t want a major gateway to an 800-square-foot cottage.

He and I designed something together, sending sketches through the mail. My original idea was that it would have a moon gate (I love moon gates) that would hide the view of parked car(s) and give me a sense of privacy and enclosure.

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Last Wednesday, Jeff arrived with all the parts and pieces, per specs, cut and pegged and ready to be put into place. We dug holes for the first two vertical poles, seven feet high and six feet apart, and laid the first horizontal cross piece above it, above. I immediately loved the way it defined the space, as well as the look of it — very Japanese, but not too Japanese. Simple, Zen. I would almost have left it just as it was. However, two poles and a cross-piece wouldn’t withstand heavy winds (such as uprooted mature trees in this area two weeks ago). So in went the second set of verticals, three feet from the first, with a second cross piece on top, below. Still good; it still looked right to my eye.

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It needed bracing, so we inserted two short rails between the poles on either side, one at a natural arm height, the other a bit lower, below. So far, everything according to plan.

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With the four vertical poles in place, the top cross pieces, and railings on either side, it seemed pretty stable (and we hadn’t even cemented it in yet). The original concept called for 4 additional pieces on top, perpendicular to the two horizontals. We tried four, then three, then two, below. But even two looked…busy. We decided they weren’t strictly necessary. So goodbye to them.

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And the moon gate, when we placed it temporarily inside the arch, below, made no sense. With open space all around, a gate looks silly. Its smoothness took away from the rustic quality of the arch and blocked the view of the plantings I’ve worked so hard on this past month. So goodbye to the moon gate, too. Maybe I’ll use it somewhere else on the property (I have a couple of thoughts).

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I am thrilled with my arch that isn’t really an arch. I love driving up to the house and having it there to greet me. It seems to bestow new status on my humble home. I feel a sense of house-pride just looking at it, from either side. The proportions are perfect.

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I’m glad we left off those extra bits. Less is more, as Le Corbusier famously said. The truth of that over-used statement has never been so apparent to me.

IMG_2445FOR FIVE MONTHS, I’ve been scouring local yard sales and thrift shops for something that would serve as a pantry/additional storage in my Springs, Long Island, cottage kitchen.

I was thinking maybe I’d find a 1920s Hoosier cabinet, or something more modern that I could paint. I knew I wanted closed storage on top and bottom, with an open area in the middle that would be a handy ‘staging area’ for keys, mail, radio, etc., and could be used as a bar or buffet for entertaining.

But nothing had turned up in all this time…until last Saturday. As usual, I bought the East Hampton Star, and one of the yard sale classifieds advertised a “rustic, handmade hutch.” I made a beeline for that sale, and was there before 9 in the morning.

The hutch, located in the basement woodshop of Leo Snyder, a longtime local resident, is a beaut. It even comes with a legend: it’s made of old wood from an 18th century barn in East Hampton that was demolished in the 1970s. At that time, Leo took some of the old pine, which certainly looks like it could be 300 years old, richly colored and gnarly, and made this seven-foot-tall cabinet with leather hinges and handles. He and his wife used it for over 30 years, and now, even though he said it was like “parting with a family member,” they were ready to say goodbye to it.

I paid $500 for it, gladly. Leo and his son-in-law delivered it yesterday, and it absolutely makes my kitchen — elevates the whole house, as a matter of fact.

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