Calling back to the location of their original headquarters in South Bend, Indiana, Liberty & 33rd puts the classics of design on the map. Their 20,000-square-foot showroom contains finds from many of the greats, from Knoll to Baughman to Risom and beyond. But what truly sets them apart is their restoration work—their ability to take a faded treasure and bring it back to its original glory. We spoke to the team about how they make that happen, as well as the origins of their business and how they manage their sourcing. See what they had to say, and be sure to shop their extensive collection of 20th-century treasures on Chairish.
How did you decide to launch Liberty & 33rd? And where does the name come from?
Liberty & 33rd was launched with little more than entrepreneurial spirit and a commitment to hard work and learning. We come from humble beginnings, as our initial workshop was our garage and our first showroom doubled as our living room. All of this at our home in South Bend on—you guessed it—33rd Street. We’ve expanded and moved locations several times since those early years, but we kept the name to remind us of our roots and how far we’ve come.
You primarily focus on 18th- to 20th-century European and American furniture. How do you select the pieces you carry, and how do you manage your sourcing?
To many of our customers, furniture is about so much more than functionality. It’s about design, aesthetics, and contributing to the overall feel of a space. Thanks to our team’s eye for quality and craftsmanship, we curate only the finest pieces for our customers’ consideration.
Each piece in our inventory is handpicked for its character and quality. We procure pieces from all over the United States and receive new shipments weekly. We focus on high-quality brands like Baker Furniture, Henredon, and Ethan Allen that are known for their timeless styles and materials. These companies have excellent reputations for a reason—they’re the best! And we strive to be the best as well, by restoring these items so they are ready to place.
You intricately restore many of the pieces you carry. Tell us a bit about that process, and what it entails for different types of antiques.
Pieces arrive to us in a variety of conditions. Our craftsmen inspect each one to assess if it needs to be touched up, refinished, or fully restored. Whether it needs a gentle touch-up or full restoration, we ensure each piece is ready to place before it hits our warehouse. Our in-house restoration team has decades of experience and is highly skilled at working with both high-end furniture as well as antiques. We’ve taken the lost art of true furniture restoration and brought it into the 21st century.
Over the years, antique furniture forms a natural patina—a beautiful weathered surface that’s individual to each piece. When working with items that have stood the test of time, the Liberty & 33rd team uses a light touch to preserve those characteristics. The restoration process for antique and vintage furniture is often as unobtrusive as filling in a hardware hole or repairing a loose leg. Our approach brings each piece back to the best possible quality while letting its history stand front and center.
Sometimes pieces need a full refinishing to be brought back to life. When refinishing pieces, we believe in being thorough. Our process is as follows:
- Remove hardware — Before any refinishing or restoration work, we remove all screws, nails, and other hardware. By stripping each piece down to its original veneer or bare wood, we ensure a more thorough restoration.
- Fills and repairs — Time still takes a toll on the structure of furniture. We tighten legs, apply glue where needed, and do any other minor repairs that are necessary to ensure a long life.
- Full sanding — While some antique shops only do a light scuffing or sanding, we strip every square inch of each piece that needs it. It’s a more thorough process that brings out the best in every piece.
- The finishing touches — If a piece needs paint, it’s done after our sanding process. For others, we stain, lacquer and apply a durable topcoat in a variety of sheens. The result is a beautiful, one-of-a-kind piece that will look gorgeous for years to come.
What are some of the more popular styles that you see selling? There’s obviously been an explosion of interest in mid-century styles for quite a few years… are there other styles on the move too?
The way we live today allows us to mix styles and pull from different periods to achieve a unique look and feel. We carry several styles of furniture, but a few seem to be particularly popular with customers.
Mid-century modern design is known for its clean lines, interesting shapes, and sleek look. The mid-20th century was a unique time for design. With the widespread use of new materials, the postwar need for accessible pieces, and the embracement of all things “new” and different, furniture designers were free to create their own looks which were quickly embraced by the public. This was an innovative time in history when many threw off the constraints of tradition.
Speaking of tradition, our traditional styles are in demand as well. From Chippendale to Georgian, we find that customers are constantly looking for traditional pieces to outfit their homes. These styles have remained popular—they speak to classical design principles, proper scale, and functionality.
We also do very well with Arts & Crafts pieces. We’ve found that focusing on high quality makers such as Stickley and Limbert gives our customers the assurance that they’re getting a well-constructed piece that will last for generations to come.
What kinds of brands are your most popular?
Baker Furniture is our best-selling brand. We pride ourselves on having one of the largest collections of Baker Furniture in the country. We also sell a lot of Henredon, Kindel, and Stickley furniture. When it comes to mid-century modern, we see a high demand for pieces designed by Paul McCobb—especially once we’ve refinished them.
Have you seen more customers coming through digital methods like Chairish?
We’ve absolutely seen a significant increase in customers purchasing digitally. Over the last several years, people have become comfortable with sourcing online. Platforms like Chairish have opened up so many uniquely wonderful pieces to people all over the country. We make it a standard practice to provide several photos of each piece from all angles, and a detailed description including condition notes in each listing. This gives the buyer confidence that they are purchasing a piece that is ready to place.
Do you see differences in the types of pieces purchased by designers for their clients and those purchased by customers for their own spaces?
Taste is subjective, but quality of materials and craftsmanship is not. One thing that makes designers stand out is their knowledge of brands. Many of our interior design clients have worked with showrooms to order custom furniture for their projects. They understand the value of quality materials and expert craftsmanship, so when they find that we sell those high-end brands, they know they are investing in pieces that will stand the test of time.
Designers are also more confident mixing styles. They have honed their taste to understand that pieces from different time periods can work beautifully together. It’s all about color, scale, form, and function.
Do you see any upcoming trends in terms of what’s next for the design world? What types of pieces do you hope to stock next?
People are spending so much more time at home these days, so they really care about the pieces they surround themselves with and use on a daily basis. We are seeing a trend of clients outfitting dining rooms again. For a long time, the open concept look was what people were after, but over the last couple of years, we’ve noticed people wanting to have distinct rooms and spaces for specific uses. That being said, we are constantly restocking our dining room pieces, in particular traditional double pedestal dining tables.
Are there any styles or trends you’d like to see disappear in the design world right now?
Trends come and go, and we always enjoy seeing what’s new and next. As long as quality isn’t sacrificed, we say keep innovating!
Who are some of your favorite makers or designers, in terms of your own inspirations?
George Nakashima’s innovative use of natural forms and materials definitely inspires us. He believed that nature should be incorporated into design, and the pieces he designed reflect that. Nakashima’s furniture designs are now world-renowned for their blend of simple, natural designs that cater to modern needs.
Frank Lloyd Wright is another big inspiration. The architectural influence can be seen in his furniture designs. He designed homes and the furniture in them, with a heavy influence on incorporating nature.
We are also inspired by several interior designers, but have to give a shout out to our client, Bunny Williams & Elizabeth Lawrence. Their work is timeless, elegant, and also liveable.
And finally, what’s a dream piece you’d love to own yourself?
The “Judas” dining table by Finn Juhl is a stunning work of art and design genius. We are fortunate to have one in our collection currently, and it is certainly tempting to keep it for ourselves!
Lead image courtesy of Baker / Liberty & 33rd