Q+A: Mark Jupiter
Mark Jupiter is a fourth-generation builder who lives and works in DUMBO and specializes in high-end, hand-crafted, locally-sourced home furnishings. As you might expect from someone whose great-grandfather hammered out the copper roofs on New York City's first skyscrapers, Mark embraces the story behind his products. At his 191 Plymouth Street showroom, which opened in October 2012, you can find everything from a dining table made from a recently-demolished Tribeca townhouse to redwood media console made from a 20th century Upper West Side water tower.
It started up in the mountains where I bought fourteen acres of land and a chainsaw.
Tell us - what is the Mark Jupiter story?
My story is long–and strange. I am a fourth generation New Yorker. My father was a builder and furniture maker, his father was a builder and furniture maker and his father was a builder and furniture maker. They all had different craft and artisan jobs. My father worked to support us as a general contractor. He and I used to make furniture together. He had a shop where he worked on his renovation projects, and we worked out of there together. From day one I was like his indentured servant. I was a really hard working kid and he totally took advantage of that.
I absolutely loved working with my dad. His father, my grandfather, was a house-flipper out in the Rockaways. He would buy old farms, fix them up and sell them to the new influx of people that started coming after the war. My Great Grandfather was a tinsmith who worked on the original roofing for the skyscrapers in the city. There was no OSHA, no safety, back then. They would just be all the way up there with nothing. Just them and a bottle of whatever, working away.
Building is in the blood! How did you come to your particular style?
My father was the best artist that I ever met. He didn’t teach me the technicality of building and art, but he taught me about the SOUL of it. My father was into 2D, but I started out as a sculptor. I was always three-dimensional and that’s what I knew.
No one in my family had fully built houses before. So, I started a company building custom homes. I was a homebuilder for high-end very green homes across the northeast. It all started up in the mountains, in the Catskills, where I bought fourteen acres of land and a chainsaw.
But more than that, I am influenced with the city around me: my style is very straight forward, strong, classic, dimensional, and geometrical, because these are the shapes that I am surrounded by in my life. I use a lot of steel and reclaimed woods from the city.
How did you end up in Dumbo?
It was an interesting moment in my life. I grew up in Manhattan and I was between apartments and I needed a new home.
My realtor asked if I would consider Dumbo. I definitely knew about Dumbo and visited a few times but back then it was a little bit rougher. I said “yeah”. When I got here–it was just incredible, the complexity of it, the dynamic of old world and new world. I signed the lease right then and there! I was single at the time and I thought this was going to be the best bachelor pad in the world. Later that night I met my wife. We fell in love in that apartment and had a baby and have stayed in Dumbo since.
That was 11 years ago. I started my business here 6 years ago. to stay in Dumbo. I was in custom homes at the time, but saw that there was a lot of furniture makers in Dumbo then and I wanted to become one of them. I rented a warehouse and just started making furniture and it struck a cord with a bunch of people right off the bat. We have been selling furniture not just for residents at Dumbo but all around the world now and things are going great.
Where do you source your materials?
Materials are domestic, mostly from the northeast. I get my reclaimed wood in Brooklyn. I have 3 types of reclaimed woods that I use. One is heart pine – if you live in Dumbo, the wooden beam structures in your apartments are made out of heart pine. Anything that was built in this country between 1650-1920 was built from Georgian heart pine. It’s an amazing material and it outlasts a fire compared to steel which was why it was used. I salvage a lot of Redwood water towers, old New York and Brooklyn water towers. Those are made out of Pacific Northwest Redwood, probably from thousand-year-old trees which no longer exist. They make for a beautiful high-end furniture. I also used a lot of reclaimed Oak. Plus I use all the regular hardwoods: walnut, maple, and white oak that I get from Pennsylvania. For live edge slabs, I go all around the country–to Oregon, Pennsylvania, and upstate New York.
Do you make custom pieces? Walk me through the process of creating a piece for a client.
My typical client is someone that is into design, and quality. They're interested in things that are about themselves, they're not interested in something that they are forced to buy. I am easy to find; most people will find me on from googling custom furniture in Brooklyn and they will be able to locate me. We work as a collaboration to create the perfect piece, whether it is a dining room table, credenza, bed, cocktail table, storage unit, what have you. I speak with the client, we set the price and and we start! The design is born from conversations with the client, plus my personal twist. We speak at least three times to ensure that they approve the design. Once the design is set, it typically takes 12 to 16 weeks to delivery. I would say 100% of the time it is perfect.
Tell us about one of your favorite pieces or projects.
I love all my projects! But, once we made a 40-foot-long conference table out of a single log of American Black Walnut. It was a live edge table and made out of sequenced slabs from one tree. It was for the Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment that owns the Barclay’s Center and the Brooklyn Nets. I made about 25 pieces for them and all were very beautiful.
Tell me about the team that makes this happen with you.
I’m blessed to have the greatest team that I have worked with. They are comprised of people that fell into my life, that are attracted to this kind of work. There are lots of things to do in New York City...to be a furniture maker, it’s a bit obscure career choice. It is not something that you can make a fortune from but it is driven by people who need to build and problem solve with their hands. Going from a blueprint and manifesting it to reality–it’s amazing. My team is thrilled to bring beautiful things to the world. We do a lot of work together to give to our community.
You’re famous around here for your BBQs. How did that tradition start?
Since we work really hard, we like to have a lot of fun. Therefore, when our doors are up during nice weather, we throw neighborhood barbeques. Probably about 100 people come, and most are artist community around here. This barbeque party started when John Goldstein used to own a factory at 51 Jay Street and he used to have a barbeque every Friday. He and I wanted to celebrate the hard work that we do for our team. The energy of it spread, and he would used to do it every Friday and everyone would do it and have a good time. I do mine about once a month and it’s for all the hard work that we do and it’s pretty much a Dumbo tradition that John started.