‘Challenge us, dare us’
Building furniture from a global society’s throwaways
By Rusty Tagliareni
These days we walk past piles of pallets and see nothing but an eyesore, if we notice them at all. But if you happen to drive down Greenkill Avenue in Kingston, there’s no way to miss Marco Anthony’s shop. The storefront’s entire street level is covered with handcrafted wooden furniture and artwork, half of the pieces illuminated, all of them beckoning curious passersby to venture inside.
Inside, you’ll likely encounter Anthony himself. That is, unless he’s downtown in his new off-site workshop, helping his crew disassemble countless wood pallets, the air thick with wood dust and classic rock radio.
Anthony, 44, owns and operates The Green Palette, a studio that for five years has been creating custom furniture and fixtures from used pallets. His entrepreneurial flame was lit by a desire to offer goods that were genuinely friendly to the environment, as opposed to what is currently labeled “renewable lumber” on the mass market.
The renewable label “means that for each tree cut down another is planted,” he explained, “but with the changing climate there’s no guarantee that the planted trees will all grow.”
So Anthony looked around for a readily available material that was not only plentiful but also waste-reducing, and found his answer in the shipping pallet.
“I tell customers that I employ artists,” said Anthony. He instructs his four or five crewmembers “to work as long as they want. There’s no quota.”
In this kind of work environment, said Anthony, pride in the finished piece is what drives the artist. If a set number of pieces and a deadline were enforced, the quality of the work would suffer. “Ask us to make something,” says the caption above a minimalist inlaid coffee table on the company’s Facebook page. “Challenge us, dare us, just be prepared we only do it with salvaged, recycled materials.”
The company started out in Anthony’s New Paltz garage. Looking to upsize, he was drawn to Kingston, which was gaining a reputation as a happening place for makers. “Kingston has the factory feel,” Anthony said. Originally from Bushwick, Anthony felt right at home. “I felt like I was in Brooklyn, but upstate.” The company has since grown to include the workshop, the storefront, and a consignment shop in Milford, PA, called Nomad’s Land, featuring Green Palette’s work alongside the recycled artwork of 29 other local artisans.
“My zen comes from giving back into the community,” said Anthony, who opens his doors often to hosts community events like free clothing swaps. The far wall of the shop, upon closer inspection, is a puppet theater. “The kids come and put on shows,” he says, holding a puppet in his hand. It’s made out of cardboard shipping corners, prettied up with paint and construction paper.
In addition to welcoming neighbors into his space, Anthony has begun beautifying the community that welcomed him years ago. Across town The Green Palette has designed and created the interior of Rough Draft Bar & Books, a combination pub and bookstore that should have opened its doors by the time you read this. The bar counter is made from a beautiful old “barn skin” sourced from a company in Pennsylvania that deconstructs historic buildings.
Anthony used to do design work for the very company that supplied the barn wood for the new bar. Those pieces sold for thousands of dollars a pop. “It was so high end,” he said. “I’m trying to make this affordable for everybody, not just the elite, so we can all be a participant in taking care of the environment and our community.”