Tuesday, November 3, 2009

the Museum of Jewish Heritage - A Living Memorial To The Holocaust

About 3 months ago I was contacted by exhibit designer, Dan Fouad, from C&G Partners, LLC , an internationally-acclaimed design firm located in Union Square. Dan was working on a project for a new exhibit at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Battery Park and needed a sustainable furniture designer/builder to collaborate with in order to deliver something truly worthy of the exhibit's message and the amazing views the exhibit space provided of the Hudson River, the Statue of Liberty, and Ellis Island.

Over a period of 2 months I worked with the C&G team comprised of exhibit designer, Dan Fouad, project manager, Laura Koo, partner-in-charge Jonathan Alger, and partner-in-charge/graphic design Emanuela Frigerio. Together, we arrived at an amazing, eco-friendly design utilizing Neopolitan Plyboo (bamboo plywood) and steel fabricated by the artisans at Metal Dimensions in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The design incorporated a 120 degree angle into each piece, which coordinates with the angle found at the end of the room where the glass walls look out onto the Hudson River.

Our eco-friendly materials were also finished in a very "green" way: The Plyboo was finished with a hand-applied, water-based formula so not only is the product earth-friendly, but it wasn't sprayed into the air so no airborne pollutants were created. The steel is 100% recyclable and was painted with a low VOC semi-gloss.

The 10 benches, 1 desk, and 1 kiosk will be in place for approximately 18 months with many thousands of visitors expected to use them so they need to be very durable. Fortunately, Plyboo is a very dense and reliable material that is more than capable of holding up to the repeated use much better than a typical veneered plywood and the steel base is made of 3/4" solid square tube, not hollow, so it too will last for many years to come.

Every project I undertake is important to me and I thoroughly enjoy every one of them. This project, like those before it, brought many challenges and many victories. What sets this project apart is that this exhibit is a living memorial to the Holocaust and the Museum it's housed in sits only steps away from Ground Zero. Being of Jewish heritage (on my father's side) and a New Yorker who not only lost friends on 9/11 but also worked recovery at Ground Zero this project hit very close to home for me. I can only hope each visitor to this exhibit feels the love and gratitude I put into each piece of furniture and takes a moment to reflect while sitting on one of my benches.

*Special thanks to everybody at C&G Partners who are an amazingly creative, brilliant, and organized team of professionals with whom I would eagerly work on any future project. Huge thanks to Alice Rubin at the Museum of Jewish Heritage whose attention to detail and kindness was ever-present and very much appreciated. Thanks to my friends at Soliemoves who did such an amazing job delivering all 12 of the pieces safely and quickly. Thanks to my friends Robyn Mierzwa and Kenon Perry who lent a big hand in the completion of these pieces. A big thanks to Avi Kendi at Metal Dimensions whose expertise and vision were an asset to this project. And thanks to my friends at Eco Supply Center who delivered the Plyboo for this project.

Please enjoy these pictures and let them inspire you to visit the museum and this amazing exhibit...

(photo credits: C&G Partners, LLC)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Artificial veneers = sustainably beautiful furniture!

Typically, when a project calls for an exotic veneer we woodworkers use a real wood veneer cut from a real tree. Real veneers are expensive, can be tricky to build with, and require that a tree be cut down in order to make them. About a year ago I discovered a company that makes artificial, non-toxic wood veneers made from recycled manufacturing byproduct ("waste") and the veneers are perfect. I mean, they look, feel, and act just like a real wood veneer, but come in 4'x8' paper-backed sheets that are much easier to work with than a real veneer.

When I was contacted by a prominent Upper East Side family about building a home office and some hallway bookcases in their 5th Avenue home using Ebony Macassar (a very exotic wood) I knew I had a great opportunity to create a green masterpiece using these new artificial veneers. Fortunately, this client was as eco-conscious as they were stylish and they were immediately on board with the artificial veneer concept. A few days of sketching, a few weeks of building, and a few hours of installation and the office was complete. A few weeks later the 104" tall bookcases were installed and the client, a lawyer, immediately asks if it's possible to build matching ladders for both bookcases using a "green" material. Coincidentally, I had just learned of a storm-fallen Wenge tree that was sitting in a gentleman's backyard for the past 50 years and had recently been sawn and kiln dried so I immediately ordered a quarter-sawn plank that measured 4" thick x 24" wide x 9' long. We had used Wenge for the spindle legs that support the bookcases and home office unit so it was the logical choice for the ladder. Another interesting detail in the ladders is that we recessed black leather into each step. The leather is domestic food byproduct and vegetable-dyed. It was a nice, unexpected detail that worked perfectly with the black strands in the Ebony Macassar veneer.

So without further ado...

The Office: A long work surface with 2 locking file cabinets, plenty of display and shelving space, recessed lighting, and a suspended overhead envelope sorter with custom solid brass spacers. The entire unit is supported on solid Wenge spindle legs in true midcentury modern style.

The Hallway: Matching bookcases at either end of the hallway provide tons of storage and display space and are easily accessible via solid Wenge library ladders. The bookcases, like the office built-in, sit atop solid Wenge spindle legs.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Sustainable Kitchen Banquette

I've said it before and I'll say it again... I have the coolest clients! I know, lots of designers say that, but I actually do have the best clients who truly get "it." What is "it," you ask? "It" can be described as an appreciation for the creative process coupled with the patience to adapt to the challenges of designing sustainably . In particular, this kitchen banquette project and its new owner.

This project started simply enough, with a phone call from a friend of a client of mine. She told me about a little nook in her kitchen she wanted to turn into a breakfast area. A simple little banquette with a solid slate counter top that would compliment her home's prewar styling.

We had 2 basic challenges with this project: 1) Make it look and fit right for the space, and 2) Be as "green" as possible. To that end, we replicated the existing floor molding (which took 3 separate pieces of molding, cut to proper dimension, and assembled identically to the existing). Very deliberate measurements for the height, depth, and width of the bench seats were checked and rechecked to ensure the maximum seating area while allowing proper leg room and comfortable movement in and out of the banquette. Forest Stewardship Council (http://www.fscus.org/ ) certified plywood and molding were purchased for this project. Eco-friendly glue was used in assembly and low VOC semi-gloss paint finished out the wood pieces. The slate countertop was reclaimed from a local deconstruction and we had it cut to size, honed, and sealed using eco-friendly sealer.

This project is not only beautiful and looks as if it's always been there, but was executed sustainably and will last for many, many, many years to come. I hope you enjoy the pictures as much as I enjoyed building this project.

*The client will soon be adding custom seat cushions and pillows.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sustainable Bedroom Suite

Between moving to a new apartment and working on so many new furniture projects I've neglected my blog. Poor blog. So I'm back to post a quick update on a project we're working on, which I've dubbed the "Sustainable Bedroom Suite." (*Editor's note, this project is now installed and being enjoyed by its gracious owners - we are scheduling a photo shoot the moment the custom window seat cushions arrive)

In collaboration with brilliant interior designer, Sarah Todd (stoddesign@gmail.com), we've designed a suite of bedroom furniture for an Upper East Side home that utilizes FSC certified plywood, bamboo plywood ("Plyboo"), Kirei plywood, and non-toxic finishes to create a modern bedroom oasis. The home owners needed lots of storage for their impressive book collection, closed storage for clothes hampers, and a desk for paperwork and internet surfing. The bookcases and hamper boxes/bench seats are made of FSC certified plywood and finished with a non-toxic precatalyzed white lacquer. The desk is made of solid Plyboo with a natural oil finish (the picture shows a combo of Plyboo and lacquer, the finished piece is 100% Plyboo). The dresser is made of Kirei and laminate.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Greene is Green...

Over the years I've been involved in several "green" design projects and with rare exception have any of my projects over the past few years not been mostly or entirely eco-friendly. Projects that involve using reclaimed & leftover materials, applying eco-safe finishes, and building with modern sustainable materials (Plyboo and FSC Certified lumber). Each completed project has fueled an even larger internal fire pushing me toward a 100% green way of doing business and refining my design aesthetic and sensibility. As it turns out, you can still have exceptionally perfect design while leaving little/no footprint on the environment. Who knew?!

So I'm elated to formally declare that Greene Furniture & Design is henceforth entirely "green." What that means for my clients is that I'll be creating the same high-end designs as before, but I'll be exclusively using FSC Certified hardwoods, sustainable plywood (Plyboo, Kirei, Durapalm, Dakota burl, Wheatboard, etc.), and formaldehyde-free plywood in my designs. I'll be using non-toxic paints whenever paint is called for (in a room or on a piece of furniture) and I'll be using hand-applied, non-toxic oil and wax finishes on my beautiful wood furniture. This eliminates the airborne pollutants and off-gassing associated with certain commercial finishing processes.

I'm also pleased to announce that through several exclusive partnerships I will be using regionally-grown and harvested lumber whenever possible. These are storm-fallen timbers and trees removed for development purposes throughout the tri-state area (which would normally be turned into mulch or chopped into firewood - what a shame!). This not only keeps jobs and money local, but exponentially reduces the pollutants created by delivery vehicles bringing those materials to my shop from parts unknown. Rather than coming from across the country or from overseas, my materials are coming from our neighbors just up the road.

In furtherance of Greene Furniture & Design's green business practice I will be partnering with both FSC and LEED certified vendors, designers, architects, decorators, and eco-conscious entrepreneurs who share our passion and stewardship of all things green. The greener my network, the greener my business, right?

So, without further ado, my new slogan:

"Greene is Green"

Yours in green design,
Dan Greene

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Studio 5in1 - Eco-friendly Lightcase Display

When Norman Rabinovich contacted me to discuss a display case concept for his storefront I knew it was going to be something very unique. Norman is the proprietor of Studio 5in1 a design collective that provides cutting-edge office and retail space to its in-house designers and entrepreneurs. Located on North 6th Street in Williamsburg Brooklyn, I knew this project had to be bold in design and function. Norman had several leftover pieces of reclaimed Douglas Fir joists that had been purchased at Build it Green in Astoria Queens and were used to build his floor and to cover an entire wall. Norman and I share in our appreciation of ecologically-conscious design and business practices so finding another use for these reclaimed boards was a must. We spoke briefly on the phone and later that afternoon I was picking up the lumber from Studio 5in1 with a basic plan... build a display case that uses as much of the leftover wood as possible.

Because we wanted to keep the patina of the 100+ year old lumber I was faced with the difficult task of constructing a solid, functional structure from irregular materials that could not be milled into perfect boards. It took a few days, many sketches, many mockups, a few splinters, and a lot of measuring, but I finally sorted out the final design, which would feature vertical planks with an internal structure that allowed an acrylic top to be lit from beneath while at the same time providing ample storage and access from behind.

It took 4 men to deliver this piece, but when it was finally in place all people involved in moving it agreed unanimously that it was worth every ounce of effort. The piece looked at home in the retail space and provided the much needed anchor the storefront needed.

Soho Brownstone - from old to BOLD!

I took this tired old living room in a gorgeous Soho brownstone and punched it up...

*I actually took this picture just after finishing the fireplace so it wasn't a true "before" picture. On the fireplace I applied white caulk between the bricks using my finger to smooth it out. I then painted the entire fireplace with Benjamin Moore "Decorator's White" in a flat finish. The result is the same look BDDW has received much attention for in its Soho showroom and people are always trying to replicate. I did a writeup on the technique on ApartmentTherapy.com (scroll down to the bottom for the comment by "Dan G"). It's a very simple and inexpensive way to modernize a brick surface and seal it. Mounted just above the mantle is the "Captain's Mirror" by BDDW. George Nelson saucer bubble lamp provides ample light.

Continuing from the work completed on the fireplace, I installed drywall in front of the crumbling brick wall and painted it a soft grey color. A custom backing plate was attached to the brick wall prior to installing the drywall so that the Plasma TV would have a solid foundation from which to be hung. Speaker and cable wires were rerouted to be hidden from view. "Lake Cabinet" from BDDW acts as entertainment center. Reproduction Barcelona chairs and bench in a cream color with antique sofa complete the room.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

1958 Paul McCobb lounge chairs - Restoration by Greene Furniture

I recently completed the restoration of these rare lounge chairs by Paul McCobb, which included ebonizing the natural walnut. The chairs are owned by interior designer, Robert Fodor, and are currently on display at Highland Park, a SOHO design store located at 175 West Broadway. *Special thanks to Sol Ovidia at Prestige Furniture & Design in Woodside Queens for the upholstery on these chairs.
C. 1958
Paul McCobb Predictor Linear lounge chairs manufactured in 1958 for the O'Hearn Furniture Company of Gardner, MA. Made of walnut wood and ebonized (not lacquered). The chairs have been reupholstered with two sets of cushions. One set in new Maharam Melange Tweed "Inca" upholstery fabric; and one set in original vintage 1955 Alexander Girard "Jacob's Coat" stripe upholstery fabric. Both sets are included."

1200 Fifth Avenue - part 3

This year-long decorating and design project at an amazing pre-war "Classic 10" on Fifth Avenue overlooking Central Park was a major accomplishment only achievable through collaboration with brilliant interior designer, Robert Fodor, and exceptionally dedicated electrician, Allan Jones. Working with these consummate professionals enabled the successful completion of this project and I'm honored to count them among my friends and colleagues in design. Without further ado, the pictures...


This picture shows one of our custom Rosewood and Travertine PTAC units. The Rosewood panels are completely removable, which exposes the PTAC system inside allowing for complete servicing and removal if needed. This exclusive Greene Furniture design requires custom metalwork to build the frame upon which the Travertine top sits and the Rosewood panels are attached. Prior to our design and installation, a plywood box was built around the PTAC unit which prevented removal and servicing of the system unless the entire box was broken apart and removed. This was quite inconvenient, as you can imagine.

The cream-colored Travertine top compliments the deep reds and blacks found in the solid Rosewood. A natural, hand-applied oil finish further accentuates the Rosewood's inherent beauty. A custom, solid Brass vent cover inlayed in the Travertine top and Brass screening behind the lower air intakes adds brilliance to the organic feel of the installation.

*Special thanks to SMC Stone in Greenpoint, Brooklyn for their great work fabricating and installing the Travertine tops on all of the PTAC units.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

1200 Fifth Avenue - part 2

Master Bedroom:

Furniture and Decor - Freeform mid-century vanity and stools completely rebuilt and restored by Greene Furniture, Chillewich shades from the Shade Store, and custom hanging drum light.

Built-ins (background) - I designed and built the window boxes that run from wall to wall to hide the PTAC (Packaged Thermal Air Conditioner) unit. It was important that the PTAC window boxes not only complimented Robert Fodor's design vision for the space, but enabled unobstructed access to the PTAC unit for service & repair. I engineered the units so that the solid Rosewood facade panels are completely removable, leaving only the Travertine top and solid Brass vent inlay sitting atop the internal metal framework, which allows technicians unrestricted access to the PTAC unit.

We installed these custom PTAC window boxes in 6 of the apartment's 10 rooms. In the Master Bedroom the rosewood panels have 2 cubby boxes with recessed lighting and are used to display sculptures. The lighting runs on its own dimmer switch.

Monday, March 16, 2009

1200 Fifth Avenue - part 1


Furniture and Decor - Modernica Free Form sofa, Womb chair by Eero Saarinen, Ox chair by Hans Wegner, glass pieces & lamp by Blenko, Chillewich shades by the Shade Store, Danish modern drum coffee table with glass top, George Nelson cigar bubble lamps, Walnut wall-mounted bar cabinet by Johnson Furniture (1956) attributed to designer Renzo Rutili, Mosaic wall sconce with colored glass inserts by Hubbardton Forge, Lightolier arc task light, and hanging lamp (1958) attributed to Harry Bertoia. 

Built-ins (background) - Designed and built exclusively by Greene Furniture, the window boxes that run from wall to wall hide the PTAC (Packaged Thermal Air Conditioner) unit and feature 1" Travertine top with custom solid Brass vent inlay and solid 1" thick oiled Rosewood facade panels that are removable for easy access to the PTAC unit.  We installed built-in Rosewood and Travertine PTAC covers in 6 of the home's 10 rooms.  In this room, the Rosewood panels have 2 cubby boxes with recessed lighting and are used to display sculpture.  The lighting runs on its own dimmer switch.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Handcut Dovetails...

*Those are not jigged dovetails...
There is no finer measure of a woodworker's skill than his ability to cut dovetails by hand.  There are few on the planet who can cut dovetails this precisely and I'm fortunate to count the man who cut these among the members of my team.  My guys are the best!

Radiator covers by Greene Furniture

Radiator covers don't have to be ugly!  When this client contacted me the first thing she asked was, "Can you make my radiators look modern and sleek, like something at a spa?"  The pictures tell the tale...  We definitely accomplished our mission.  

Torsion box floating shelf

An executive at one of my commercial clients, an advertising agency in Chelsea, contacted me and asked, "Dan, can you build me a floating shelf for my pictures?"  Having built his entire office out of Baltic Birch multi-ply he wanted his floating shelf to match the rest of the furniture.  It took a couple days of building and a day of finishing to complete this shelf and I couldn't be happier with the result.  It has an intricate internal gridwork that provides an amazing amount of strength and rigidity while allowing the shelf to support a lot of weight.  The front lip prevents framed artwork from sliding off and the entire shelf can easily be removed from its hidden mount if/when he ever decides to do so.  Another great project and a fun exploration of the torsion box floating shelf design.

Did I mention that we didn't use a single nail or screw in the entire piece?  The beauty of the torsion box design is that it's internal gridwork, when properly built, is strong enough for a grown man to stand on and doesn't require any mechanical reinforcement in assembly, just glue.  

Midcentury Plyboo Nightstand concept

Solid bamboo, dovetail joinery, soft-close drawer glides, bamboo spindle legs, hand-applied oil finish...  Does it get any better?!
This piece, like many of my pieces, was inspired by my favorite midcentury designers.  In this case, George Nelson and Paul McCobb.  Using bamboo plywood ("plyboo") I designed and built this nightstand concept as an exploration of combining mid-century design with modern, eco-friendly materials.  Even the brass drawer pulls are custom.  I love this piece and am refining it for production.  It will be available in natural, dark, and neopolitan plyboo.  It can also be made from any hardwood or plywood.  I hope you like it!

"Domino Benches" by Greene Furniture

No hardware, just joinery... I designed these benches to use no screws, just really solid joinery, dowel, and glue. They will last a lifetime, perhaps several, and look absolutely gorgeous for a long time to come.
Both of these matching benches were made of solid reclaimed Cherry and finished with precat. lacquer in a dull finish. I would have preferred to finish them with hand-applied oil, but the client requested lacquer.

I'm currently planning to build an identical bench out of reclaimed Black or Claro Walnut with an inset black leather cushion. The bench will likely be 48"-60" long and finished with hand-applied oil and wax. Joinery will be identical to those above. Stay tuned...

First Post

Welcome to my new blog. I plan to use this space to post my thoughts, news about projects, and general ramblings about all things designish. Feel free to post your comments and check back regularly for updates.

Yours in design,
Dan Greene