Used-Furniture Trove in Midtown Manhattan

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).


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.


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.


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.


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.


Sweet Philly Trinity 199K

picture-uh=6f9961d9e72730238d491ff03fa946e7-ps=ed47be784f5bcee5fc282b192f8c1d-214REAR-Monroe-St-Philadelphia-PA-19147YOU’VE HEARD OF THE TINY HOUSE MOVEMENT? They invented that in Philadelphia a couple of centuries ago. The compact ‘trinity houses’ of the late 18th and 19th centuries are now much-coveted for their coziness, charm, and economy. And a dollhouse can be quite livable for 1 or 2, once you get used to the stairs.

This c.1830 trinity, set off the street behind a larger row house, is new to market and very well-priced. It’s in Queen Village, one of the city’s quietest and most attractive neighborhoods. I happen to own a building just around the corner from this one, so I know the area well.


There are actually four floors of usable space: kitchen/dining on the basement level; a living room with fireplace on the ground level; a hall, ‘dressing room,’ and full bath (with fireplace!) on the 2nd floor; and a large open bedroom with a sloping ceiling at the top of the house, for a grand total of about 600 square feet.






The taxes are $1,300/year. For the official listing, go here. To learn more about Philadelphia trinities, click here and here.

Pool Out, Zen Garden In

IMG_1407THE OTHER NIGHT I WENT TO A TALK by Sharon Salzberg, a meditation teacher who has just published a book called Real Happiness, at a yoga center near my Brooklyn apartment. One of her suggestions — you’ve heard this one before — is to keep a gratitude journal, to write down three things each day that you’re grateful for. The idea: to keep the focus on the positive and not on the griping.

As I sailed eastward on the Long Island Expressway yesterday morning at 6AM, I already had three things for the day, despite the early hour. One was a decent night’s rest so I woke refreshed and ready for the 2-1/2 hour drive. The other was that I’d see the sunrise for the first time in God knows how long. And the third, that I was on my way to Springs (East Hampton, N.Y.), to spend the day — sunny and not too cold — at the property I’m in the extended process of buying. I’d be spending many more hours there than I’d ever spent before.


Through the day, my gratitude list grew. Most important, and a great relief: I still love the place, even though it’s not quite mine yet. Another good thing: the job I was there to make sure was accomplished — the filling in of a derelict swimming pool, above, per the Town’s requirements for an updated Certificate of Occupancy — went fine. Added to my list: bulldozers, dump trucks, and the men who deploy them.


I’m feeling more proprietary about the house, even though I have yet to close, because this is the first big job I’ve done there. I’m paying for it; the seller is not obligated to cover upgrades to conform to C of O requirement under the terms of our contract of sale. So — another $4,000 invested. I don’t care! I’m glad to do it. Even if I decide to put in a pool in years to come, it would not likely be the exact same shape or in the exact same spot.


Pool no more, above

From 8:30AM until late afternoon, I really communed with the house and the land around it. After installing three smoke detectors and a carbon monoxide detector, per the Town’s guidelines, I hung out (fully coated, gloved, scarved — there’s no heat — and with occasional forays to the car to warm up). I opened doors to experience the extra bit of sunlight they admit, walked every corner of the .52 acres trying to determine where I might be able to plant a vegetable garden, and noticed that the property is not as pancake-flat as I thought, but gently undulates. I met the lovely next-door neighbor, who wandered over, quite naturally, to find out what that bulldozer was doing.


I spent time at the southwest corner of the house, above, where there’s an unfinished second bathroom. The window will be replaced with a door, and a deck built for an outdoor shower, similar to the one I have at my original house in Springs (now rented to a couple who signed their latest email “Your elated renters at Zen Gardens”).


I took stock of the oak tree population. Almost all the large trees are oaks. Some will stay, many will have to go. How many? A lot. More than a dozen. They are all over the place. There are few evergreens — scraggly cedars. They will be supplemented by other conifers. Above, southeast corner of the property.


Northwest corner, above (I know, it looks a lot like the southeast corner). Perhaps that’s the place for veggies? Depends how much sun it gets after trees are removed.


Above, a view back toward the house from the northwest corner. Neighbors on this side are rather close, but behind a 6′ stockade fence that completely encircles the property. That fence will also exclude those other neighbors, the cloven-hoofed kind.


Most exciting of all, speaking of Zen gardens, is my great epiphany about the landscaping. An abundance of moss, above, a great stand of existing rhododendrons, the sense of enclosure provided by the fencing, and the fact that the house is simple architecturally and the lot will never be entirely sunny no matter how many trees I take down, all suddenly pointed to one obvious thing: the landscaping will be inspired by Japanese garden tradition.

Never mind that I’ve not been to Japan; I’ve gotten a stack of library books on the subject and am planning an intensive course of self-study. I’ll be able to use many of the same plants I’ve been using all along, including ferns, pines, ilex, bush clover, dogwoods, bamboo (the non-invasive kind), pachysandra, irises, and all things Japanese. That incorporates some of our most popular local gardening material: Japanese maples! Japanese anemones! Japanese painted ferns! Azaleas! Cherry trees! And lovely non-deer-resistant things like lilies and hostas and Solomon’s seal that I had to avoid at my previous, un-fenced place. I’m not even thinking about koi ponds, bridges or lanterns. I see gravel, but I don’t see boulders; they’d have to be imported (maybe I’ll substitute driftwood). I’m trying to internalize the principles on a more subtle level, and take it from there.

The gratitude list is long, my friends. I drove back to Brooklyn dreaming of rounded mounds of boxwood and artfully sculpted pine trees, right into the sunset.

Mid-19th c. Greenport Cottage 430K


HERE’S A NEW YEAR’S GOODIE. Yep, with the turn of the calendar, it’s time to start thinking about…summer houses! The listing says this sweet and unpretentious 3BR, 2 bath  (bigger than it looks at from the outside) dates from 1847, and that seems about right. The symmetry, porch columns, pilasters on either side of the front door and six-over-six windows, all say Greek Revival to me. At the same time, the front porch and picket fence say farmhouse (they’re not mutually exclusive). It’s in the village of Greenport,on Long Island’s North Fork, where nearly all the houses are of similar vintage (see more of Greenport’s architectural charms here).


The price has just been reduced by 30K. The still-upwards-of-400K ask reflects the tip-top condition of the house, the optimism of the sellers, and the market being pretty strong.


Except for the dated kitchen, the house appears immaculate — renovated perhaps to a fault (recessed lights in old houses are a particular peeve of mine).


Check out the listing, with lots more photos, here.


Anyone local have insight to share about the Main Street location?

New Year’s in New York


AS THE OLD YEAR CAME TO A CLOSE, I said goodbye to my beloved East Hampton cottage — at least for a year, perhaps forever. Yet as I drove away on December 15, leaving it to my new renters — a sweet young couple who are over the moon about the place — it was with only a smidgen of regret. My grand plan is unfolding; I’m inching toward closing on another house in the same area. Meanwhile, it’s back to my Brooklyn apartment for the duration (when you have only one residence, I’m afraid it can no longer be called a pied-a-terre).


My East Hampton tenants kept some of my furniture — the sofa, the bed, and a few other major pieces. All my rugs, books, dishes, artwork, etc. had to be packed up and stored in the basement, above, in the space of about five days. My houseplant collection, below, came with me back to Brooklyn, and miraculously I’ve managed to place them all in front of my two windows.


I chafed at the confinement of urban living at first, but I’ve adjusted. There are trade-offs. What you give up in fresh air and bay views and the silence of the woods, you gain in quirky discoveries that can only happen in a great city…like the row of Victorian carriage houses in Prospect Park, below, that I had somehow never noticed before. They’re now used as garages by park maintenance, but wouldn’t they make a charming residential mews?


Or the sight of a vintage subway train pulling into West Fourth Street, bedecked with Christmas ribbons and wreaths…


….a fire escape festooned with lights in Williamsburg…


….or a gingerbread rendering of the new Barclay’s arena, seen at the Joyce Bakeshop in Prospect Heights: all things you wouldn’t see in East Hampton.


Christmas week was a little quiet because, well, I don’t celebrate Christmas. I did some cat-sitting and a whole lot of writing, including an article about Palm Springs’ mid-century architecture for a travel magazine, and two time-consuming pieces for HouseLogic, a website owned by the National Association of Realtors, which led to my one New Year’s resolution for 2013: don’t say yes to any writing assignment that comes down the pike. Life’s too short for hackery.


My sister and I indulged in some year-end furniture and rug shopping, though in my case it was merely speculative. We went to FIND in Gowanus, where I was moved to take a picture of the chairs above. They are crafted out of rubber tires and they are unbelievably comfortable. I’ve never seen anything like them. They were asking $100 for the pair of these oddities. I can’t decide whether I like the look of them or not. Do you?


I am mulling the purchase of a high storage chest like the one above, seen at Re-Pop in Williamsburg, since I’m desperate for additional clothing storage in my bedroom. It’s $850, so I postponed the decision. Whereupon we went next door to the Roebling Tea Room and had cocktails at the bar in an old, high-ceilinged industrial space (I suppose they have tea, too).


Another day, we checked out the kilims at Jacques Carcanagues in SoHo. I can’t get the one above out of my mind. It is 13′ long, 6’6″ wide, and was bought in Afghanistan before the Soviet invasion, we were told. The colors are only four — purple, navy, cream, and white — and so unusual. For $900, it seems a great deal. But without a house, I don’t need a rug.


New York being New York, every time I venture out, there’s a new bar, restaurant or bakery. Above, the new Grandaisy Bakery on the corner of West Broadway and Beach Street. It definitely wasn’t there the last time I looked.

So onward to 2013 with fresh eyes, ears, mind. It’s a new year, so let’s make it new: new adventures, new activities, new people, new prospects, new music, new ideas, new knowledge, new dreams.