Like his father and grandfather before him, Joe Biunno has spent his life repairing, and restoring furniture. In his 9000-square foot showroom and workshop in Long Island City his staff has the ability to design, carve, gilt, and polish projects from start to finish. Biunno has also developed a specialty business in curtain hardware that includes tiebacks, rods, brackets and finials. He’s an affable, enthusiastic man who loves combing through in yard sales for parts of objects that he can spin into gold, or at least gold plate.
I think the first thing that everybody is going to want to know is: what is a finial?
Well, a finial is a decorative end. Most of what we do goes on the end of drapery poles but they can also quite often go on top of the posts of a four poster bed and they can go on fences, like a newel post. Traditionally there is a finial on the first newel post of a staircase.
And this business was started by your grandfather or your great-grandfather?
My grandfather was a finisher, specializing in doing paint finishes, faux finishes. My father followed in his footsteps and he was really a restorer/finisher. When I started work with my father it was restoration business only.
When did this business, what you’re doing now, start?
In 1986. Learning all those crafts and skills of faux finishes and restoration played a big part in what is now our product.
So everything is more or less handmade here? There’s no mass production.
No [mass production]. We’re are the kind of people if someone wants to have line of furniture and they want 100 of the chairs for a restaurant or something along those lines—that’s not our thing. It’s strictly custom. Ninety-five percent of our work comes from designers or architects. They may find a beautiful mirror and they want a pair made, so we will make the second mirror to match the original or we’ll make six dining chairs to make a set go from eight to fourteen.
To me it seems as if today’s style indicates that heavy curtains [which Joseph Biunno also makes] are really no longer want most people are doing in New York but I would imagine there’s still demand for that in other parts of the United States.
Believe it or not – I have an issue with selling some of our things in Texas—they’re too small! And people in New York look at my things and say, “Joe, it’s too big.”
There’s such a lack of light in Manhattan and it’s at such a premium that people are sort of moving away from curtains.
A lot of the newer buildings do not work well with our hardware [either]. It’s just that … there’s no walls! It’s glass floor-to-ceiling and column-to-column. It’s a wall of glass There isn’t even any place to screw a bracket on to a wall that will hold the pole! Bracket challenges!