An artistic approach

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After spending more than three decades as a high school woodshop teacher and athletic coach, pursuits that always found him surrounded by other people, it may seem strange that Glen Guarino now delights in working alone in his 12' x 20' shop, a facility that looks like a hobbyist’s hangout and doesn’t even have a sink or bathroom.

But Guarino is no mere hobbyist. In fact, his wife Marie, who seeks out galleries and shows where Glen can display his creations, refuses to speak of him as a “woodworker,” preferring to call him a “furniture artist.”

GUARINO FURNITURE DESIGNS, LLC

Principals: Glen and Marie Guarino
Location: Cedar Grove, N.J.
Established: Official start was in October 2007, but Guarino, 60, has been working with wood since he was a child and has been in the same basic work space since 1978.
Maker of: Museum-quality, one-of-a-kind hardwood studio furniture
Shop size: 12' x 20', soon to be enlarged to 24' x 20'
Number of employees: None
Species used: “I do a lot of accents with rosewood, bubinga and cocobolo, but I have never actually bought a piece of any exotic species,” says Guarino. “Many years ago, I received permission to rummage through a five-acre landfill that was situated next to a lumber yard. I found lots of exotics that the lumber yard had discarded, and it was still in usable shape. By contrast, the domestic species had mostly turned to dust.”
Web site: www.guarinofurnituredesigns.com

“I have banished the word ‘workshop’ from my vocabulary,” she says. “His work comes to life in a studio [italics ‘studio’].”

“I specialize in designing and building museum-quality, one-of-a-kind hardwood studio furniture,” Glen explains. “Many of my pieces are tables, but I will design and build almost any freestanding furniture as well as other work found in a home or office. The last few pieces have been side tables, a conference table, display case and several mirrors.”

It may seem pretentious for someone who was not even incorporated until October 2007 to be aspiring to such artistic respectability. Once Guarino’s imaginative and graceful, yet functional, pieces have been seen, however, there can be no argument that the 60-year-old native of Newark, N.J., is anything but an artist.

Also, it should be noted that even though his business is relatively young, he has been designing and crafting wood furniture since he was 9 years old. Nor is there anything new about his work space. He began using it in 1978, when he and Marie bought the house they still live in. At that time, Glen converted the one-car garage into a workshop — make that studio — and he has been there ever since.

Double teaming
What has changed in the last year or so is the amount of time and dedication the Guarinos put into their new enterprise. No longer a full-time teacher — although he does teach some courses at William Paterson University in Wayne, N.J. — Glen is in almost constant motion, visiting clients, creating designs, buying materials, constructing and installing pieces, overseeing photography, and attending exhibitions.