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The Retrophile Files: Junktiquing in New York City at Furnish Green

by DeDe Sullivan (10/31/11).

Furnish Green is a green-minded retail operation in New York City. Owner-operator Nathan Hescock, a self-confessed “estate sale” junkie and professional dance instructor, buys up used furniture and other bits of décor and resells them at surprisingly affordable prices. The shop is filled, chock-a-block, with everything you might and might not expect, including a retro clock and desk-top globe.

When self-confessed “estate sale” junkie and professional dance instructor Nathan Hescock decided to furnish his dance studio in New York City with vintage finds, his clients took notice. As a result, Hescock started selling pieces right off the dance floor. Eventually, his side business of rescuing and restoring second-hand furniture became a full time green-minded retail operation called Furnish Green.

It’s rough for any small shop, especially one located in New York City, to stand out. Nevertheless, Furnish Green manages to do so for two reasons. First, its showroom is brimming with apartment-friendly mid-century and shabby-chic furniture. Second, a majority of the inventory is surprisingly affordable. A prime example is a gently loved, blonde wood 1953 Haywood Wakefield dining set that was spotted on the store’s blog. The ensemble that included a table, four chairs, and a lovely hutch sold for $200. We spotted similar sets on eBay for $2,000.

With deals like these, we had to reach out to Nathan Hescok to learn more about Furnish Green’s retail mission:

DeDe Sullivan: Do you have an overall retail and pricing philosophy at Furnish Green?

Nathan Hescock: Our philosophy is to sell pieces for their functional value, not their aesthetic value. Even though we are selling antique and vintage items, we don’t want to get hung up on the “collectible” monetary worth a piece may have. Also, stocking furniture is expensive in Manhattan because it takes up a lot of real estate on the sales floor. We want pieces to find a new home as quickly as possible. That’s what it is all about.

DeDe: What can customers expect to find at Furnish Green—is there a particular look or style you adhere to when you are “picking” for inventory?

Nathan: The great thing about Furnish Green is that we don’t specialize. If we did, we would have to charge more for our furniture. You can generally find pieces in our shop from 1880-1960s. We tend to gravitate towards mid-century, Danish and industrial pieces with some painted shabby thrown in. But it’s really about what the universe gives us.

DeDe: Tell us about one of your best estate sale finds.

These trucks may sell as is, or Hescok may add some discarded legs and turn them into coffee tables. Either way, they’ll be priced right.

Nathan: I am always surprised about what I find. The best pickings are in attics, garages and basements. I can go to an estate sale that has been going on for days and find cool pieces in a basement. Our printmaker’s cabinet (currently listed online) was tucked away, covered in dust, in a 94-year-old woman’s basement. She had long forgotten that it was down there.

DeDe: Are there specific items that immediately sell when it hits the showroom floor?

Nathan: Right now our coffee table trunks are hot. We take smallish antique trunks and add legs from a discarded piece of furniture. I can’t make them fast enough.

DeDe: Do you sense any upcoming retail trends brewing; are customers starting to inquire about a certain style or item?

Nathan: Our success at Furnish Green is based on us listening intently to our customers. At one time, I was selling pieces that decorated my dance studio to my clients. I still have my dance studio, but now Furnish Green occupies a much larger space. Many people prefer to buy vintage over brand new but no one wants to pay crazy, New York City prices in order to do so. We give them opportunity to own vintage because we price our merchandise to move. I want people to say, “I am going to buy a dresser. I can buy one from Furnish Green or IKEA because the price is the same. I’ll go with the vintage dresser because it has more character, it is better made and it’s better for the environment to buy something that already exists.”

DeDe: Before we wrap this interview, drop a few words of wisdom on us!

Nathan: Lift from your legs and keep your back straight. Have your philosophy manifest itself in your body. OK, I need to go lift some furniture now.

 

Furnish Green is located at 1261 Broadway, Suite 512, between 31st and 32nd Street in New York City. Store hours are:  Mon-Fri 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Contact them at 917.583.9051, via e-mail at furnishgreen@gmail.com or visit its website at http://www.furnishgreen.com/. 

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DeDe Sullivan is a retrophile with a particular fondness for junktiques; discarded vintage treasures whose aesthetic worth far exceeds its monetary value. Her blog, VintageandFlea.com, documents her junking and antiquing adventures. This includes sharing her favorite places to score unique items, the history behind unusually finds, along with display and upcycling ideas. Have a question or story to tell? Shoot her an e-mail at dede@vintageandflea.com!

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