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Midtown Scavengers Sell Antique Furniture Gems at Big Box Prices

By Amy Hughes | May 13, 2013 9:20am
 A hidden treasure in Midtown has unique finds, without the sticker shock.
Furnish Green
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MIDTOWN — Tempted by a sleek 1960s sofa spotted on krrb.com, I ventured to the fifth floor of a nondescript office building in Herald Square.

It was the last place I expected to find living room furniture, or anything other than photocopiers and fax machines.

Up the elevator and down a fluorescent-lit hallway, I discovered the sofa in a showroom occupied by the thrift shop Furnish Green.

The piece had just been sold, but never mind that. I’d stumbled upon a trove of other vintage gems. In one corner was a mid-century, walnut-veneer dresser; an Arts and Crafts-style leather recliner was in another; and a Danish Modern dining table took pride of place in the center of the room.

What surprised me most, though, were the prices.

Even furniture and accessories from name designers and craftsmen were a fraction of what I’d seen in other Manhattan and Brooklyn antiques shops. Typically ranging from $25 to $600, most cost the same or less than the equivalent mass-produced versions at Ikea or CB2.

Furnish Green was founded in 2005 by Nathan Hescock, a ballroom dance instructor and self-described “dirtbag, Dumpster-diver type guy,” who began selling the scavenged antiques that he used to decorate his dance studio via Craigslist.

“Initially, I was just hoping to utilize the space more efficiently, and make it homey so my students could feel more relaxed,” Hescock said.

But as his sales grew, the furniture business started eating up too much square footage, and Hescock had to rent additional space.

He now has almost 4,000 square feet divided into two showrooms. There's a workshop, where furniture is cleaned, repaired and painted, if necessary, and photographed for Furnish Green’s website, plus the original ballroom dance studio.

Hescock plans to expand the business, potentially opening to a street-level shop to encourage more foot traffic. Most of his customers now find Furnish Green via word-of-mouth and referrals from social media.

But Hescock has misgivings about a move to a trendier neighborhood. Part of what makes Furnish Green successful is the relatively low overhead costs associated with its location.

“Selling affordable furniture in Manhattan is a real challenge,” he said. “And, in some ways, we’ve figured out the formula. I don’t want the business to become so cool or expensive that we alienate the people who have been with us since the beginning.”

Still, Hescock yearns for a bigger workshop and a freight elevator that he controls, rather than a building management company.

“The dance studio gave birth to the furniture,” he said. “Now maybe it’s time for the furniture to take the dance studio someplace new.”

For the sake of all his fellow dirtbag Dumpster-divers, who now count on Furnish Green for its thrifty and well-curated offerings, I hope Hescock stays true.

I, for one, am not cool or flush enough for Chelsea or the Village. Harlem, though? That could be good.

Furnish Green is at 1261 Broadway, between 32nd and 33rd streets, Suite 512, in Midtown Manhattan.