Art or Furniture? You Decide

IN A PRE-WAR TENEMENT BUILDING in Harlem, Paul Johnson of SoHo’s Johnson Trading Gallery renovated an apartment from scratch. Take a look here into his private collection of boundary-pushing works.


It started for the 34-year-old Johnson, a Toronto native, on a weekend trip to New York in 1999, when he visited the now-vanished 26th Street flea market. His first big find was a four-piece Raymond Loewy plastic bedroom set, which he scored for $1,000 and sold for $17,000.

Dropping out of grad school, he lived out of his van for two years, traveling the country in search of material. At first he  sold privately, then opened Phurniture in NoHo, which he shuttered in 2007 in favor of the new Johnson Trading Gallery on Greenwich Street.


Above: Tobia Scarpa sofa and chairs and Willy Rizzo coffee table, 1970s Italian

In Johnson’s cutting-edge gallery, there are pieces by leading lights like George Nakashima, Wendell Castle, and Paul Evans, which act as akind of historical springboard for limited editions by emerging artists like New York-based architects Benjamin Aranda and Chris Lasch, whose work is informed by crystalline structures found in the natural and digital worlds and Max Lamb, a young British artist who works in pewter, stone, and foam.

Below: Paul Evans cabinet



Right: Rare Isamu Noguchi galvanized chair, 1938

Below, top to bottom: Mario Bellini floor lamp, 1970s

Paul Johnson on Shlomo Harush aluminum chair, 2007

Mario Ceroli plywood chairs, 1970s

Kitchen with custom stainless cabinets, laundry sink



About cara

I blog (for fun) here at casaCARA, and write (for money) about architecture, interiors, gardens and travel for many national magazines and websites.
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2 Responses to Art or Furniture? You Decide

  1. astor C. says:

    art or furniture? Who cares? He has integrated it all seamlessly. I’ve always thought the Paul Evans stuff was a little bit awkward and ahead of its time. But here it fits perfectly.

  2. Jennifer says:

    It’s both art and furniture! Truly, it’s all in the eye of the beholder. Once upon a time I nearly threw out a painting that wound up being sold at auction for $11,000. We inherited it from my mother-in-law. It looked like one of those “Autumn in New England” paint-by-numbers. Even when I knew it was worth something, it still looked like something from The Magic of Oil Painting. Who knew? I guess that’s why we have people like Paul. They’ve got a great eye for both a bargain and beautiful design.

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