White on White: Mid Century Modern Designs for Less

White on White: Mid Century Modern Designs for Less

Maxwell Ryan
Apr 22, 2004

Who knew that the Danes had so much furniture? I like wood. I like well designed, and I like cheap. Until a few years ago, when you went looking for great wood furniture, you had to go out to Brooklyn and scour through old, heavy American vintage. If you were really lucky you found a stray piece of California Eames or George Nelson. Karazona Cinar of White on White Furniture changed all that. If you want the full story about how Karazona came from Turkey to build a small empire in low price antique and new furniture in the midst of a recession, read Oliver's article at Ryanbros.com. The short of it is that he manufactures his own versions of classic pieces by Mies van der Rohe, Eero Saarinen, and Isamu Noguchi, and has also amassed one of the more impressive collections of vintage Danish Modern pieces in the five boroughs.

His two New York stores, Broadway and White street, feature basement warehouses with row upon row of imported furniture, which move weekly. You have to look, but great vintage tables, desks, and chairs can be had for $100s and not $1,000s. The problem? The new pieces are a bit cheaply made; there is virtually no customer service (which I like); and there is a wide range of quality in the vintage stuff. Real hunting over a number of days is recommended, but they serve espresso in the store, so the shopping is not unpleasant. MGR

White is the creation of Karazona Cinar -- the downtown Robin Hood of vintage furniture -- and his merry band of hip misfits who have collectively managed to build a thriving low-cost manufacturer of high end furniture in New York's recessionary service economy.

"There's nobody in this business doing what Karazona is doing," says Bert Oullette a furniture bounty-hunter who arrived on Friday with a truck-full of chairs and credenzas by famed designer Florence Knoll which he had salvaged from an office building in Canada.

Cinar, who has also had success as an East Village restauranteur, recognized the growing appetite for modern designs when a friend offered to buy his dining room table in 1997 – a table he had acquired at the Salvation Army. Shortly thereafter, he launched a small used furniture store called Lollipop out of his home on Essex Street.

In 1999, he moved the business to White Street just east of Broadway, hired designers, and began manufacturing his own versions of classic pieces by the likes of

From the beginning, he was able to undercut the market -- which was dominated by furniture boutiques selling original pieces or higher cost Italian imitations – and still make money.

"The industry was kidnapped by art galleries and museums," says the 37-year-old Kurdish immigrant from Turkey's troubled Tunceli province. "They think this is only for a furniture elite….We want to bring this design to the public at the lowest price possible."

White now has 70 employees and 80% of its business is wholesale. It manufactures pieces in factories all over the world, including one that it owns and operates in Turkey and which Cinar's 73-year old father manages.

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