Meet the New York “Couch Doctor” Who Wants to Saw Apart Your Priceless Furniture

published Apr 15, 2020
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illustration of the couch doctor putting a couch together like a puzzle

Couches don’t care who you are. Narrow hallways won’t widen because you’ve won an NBA championship. Tight corners aren’t going to vanish at the sight of your Tony. And rigid pieces of furniture won’t magically become pliable simply because your savings account ends in a few extra zeros. 

But the doctor can help. 

Sal Giangrande, who goes by the New York Couch Doctor and whose thick accent and magnetic bravado immediately give away his Long Island roots, has been doing furniture surgery for nearly 25 years. He’s sawed, hauled, and expertly reconstructed everything from Restoration Hardware couches to custom-designed bars, and his Rolodex reads like a who’s who of Hollywood, sports, and business. He’s not afraid to rattle off a few names. 

“You get people like Uma [Thurman] and Ethan [Hawke] who are very, very nice,” Giangrande tells Apartment Therapy. “I did work for Gerard Butler, who’s also nice. Phil Collins, I worked for, was nice. Walt Frazier from the Knicks was also very nice, a quiet man.” 

Credit: Courtesy of New York Couch Doctor

Giangrande got his start working for a furniture company called Castro Convertibles that had a distribution center in New Hyde Park, where he grew up on Long Island. Sometimes, trucks would go out to deliver furniture, only to come back with pieces that were considered “no fits” for one reason or another.  

That’s where Giangrande came in. He and his colleagues would take the furniture apart, deliver it to the appropriate client, and then put it back together. After a while, Giangrande realized how in demand his specialty really was.

“A friend at the time, he introduced me to the business, and we went out and we started doing it together with other friends,” Giangrande says. “Little by little, I started to see that there was a need for it, and there was room for other people to do it. Once I had my first child, my daughter, I said, ‘The time to do it is now. More than anything, I need to make more money now.’ So that’s what I did and I’ve never looked back.” 

After a few years learning the trade, Giangrande drew up his own logo and launched his company, New York Couch Doctor, in 2000. Now a married father of three, he works with 10 to 12 other people—and a lot of reciprocating saws—to solve the thorniest problems facing movers around the country. Each job is different, but the Couch Doctor typically dispatches a pair of experts to each case, where they assess the shape, make, and upholstery type of the fiasco-inducing furniture. Then, they’ll walk the path the piece needs to take to reach its final destination before deciding how to cut it apart. Once the amputated furniture makes it inside its new home, the team uses half-inch thick steel mending plates and wooden screws to mend the pieces of wood back together. It’s like slapping a magic invisible bandaid on a French armoire.

Credit: Courtesy of New York Couch Doctor
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Giangrande built a reputation on his ability to solve any problem, including handling incredibly intricate and expensive furniture. His stories are fantastically extravagant—there was the young woman who needed a bar brought into the Plaza Hotel; the German man moving downtown whose couch was made of intertwining pieces of foam; and the Jacksonville Jaguars owner who flew Giangrande to his 15,000-square-foot, waterfront penthouse in Naples, Florida, for the sake of a custom-made designer couch. And, of course, the stakes for all of them were high. 

“I can do it in my sleep now, but yeah, you do get nervous when you’re first starting because you don’t want to mess up, and you can’t mess up. You have to be accurate, because you’re taking somebody’s piece of furniture,” Giangrande says. 

While there have only been two instances that’ve tripped him up—meaning he couldn’t figure out how to take something apart without destroying it—Giangrande emphasizes he won’t cut something unless he’s sure he can put it back together.

“It’s the same as a doctor in the hospital, right? When they’re doing surgery on you, they can’t screw up, you know what I mean?” he asks. (You definitely know what he means.)

When Giangrande isn’t sawing apart priceless furniture, he spends time on his small boat, traveling, and playing paddle tennis. Despite insisting that he can easily turn off his work-brain to enjoy time at home with his family, he is clearly passionate about his job. He speaks animatedly about all the places he’s worked, from Telluride, Colorado, to Woodstock, New York, and is sure that he could be an irreplaceable tool for every designer and mover if they knew about him. And for those who don’t hear about the Doctor until their boxes are unpacked and their duct tape is a distant memory, Giangrande said that the response to his work is practically universal.  

“I get everything from armoires to wall units, entertainment centers, Murphy beds, pool tables, upholstered headboards, wooden headboards. I mean there’s just endless amounts of furniture out there that people buy and it can’t fit,” Giangrande said. “When I tell people what I do for a living, almost every single person I tell will say, ‘Oh my god, I didn’t know there was such a service. I could have used you so long ago.’”