Independence Day Porch Makeover

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THE 4th OF JULY found me on Shelter Island, chillin’ in 100 degree heat at my friend Debre’s extraordinary Carpenter Gothic farmhouse.

Somewhere between the Jamesport Vineyards sauvignon blanc and the Wolffer Estate rose (we like to support our local wineries), we decided to re-arrange furniture. We were sitting on the wraparound screened porch, which Debre added, along with new bathrooms and many other upgrades, since buying the house about three years ago.

There was no shortage of furniture to re-arrange. Debre is an avid yard-saler, and the porch — a U shape, 8-10′ wide around three sides of the house — is well stocked with vintage wicker sofas and chairs, a sectional rattan set, and various occasional tables. Our re-decorating frenzy began because there was a carved wood 19th century mantelpiece, originally out of a house in Harlem, behind one of the wicker sofas. Only I never knew that, since it had been hidden under a dusty plastic drop cloth since my first visit to the house over a year ago.

We pulled the plastic off so that I could see the mantelpiece, and discussed various possible placements for it. We decided there really isn’t any place for it in the house, style- or space-wise (the mantel is for sale, therefore; e-mail caramia447[at]gmail[dot]com for more pics and details.)

Then we started moving stuff around for the hell of it, switching out some of the wicker, top, for more modern rattan, below, in one corner of the porch, then styling it up with fronds cut from a stand of bamboo in the yard.

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It’s not really a matter of ‘before’ and ‘after’ — just different. We both have interior design backgrounds, and this sort of thing is our idea of fun. Debre’s three cats seem to like the results, too.

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To see still more pictures of Debre’s house (in addition to the link at the top of this post), go here.

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