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