A Vintage Furniture and Design Community, Online Museum and Marketplace: An introduction to Rarify
by David Rosenwasser and Jeremy Bilotti·
Buying an Eames chair on eBay, I met the wunderkinds of vintage furniture restoration. Now I'm obsessed with their company, Rarify.
Explore high quality, curated design pieces featured in this article:
Buying vintage furniture in the 21st century
The design renaissance of the mid-20th century happened because furniture and design objects had not yet been created to accompany the increasingly modern world.
Today, we face a different challenge. Many facets of life have moved into a digital space, making the once-novel idea of a showroom less and less relevant. As we have become comfortable buying furniture online, we as consumers want an experience that is as immersive as being in the showroom itself.
Instead, what we have available to us when buying new furniture online is an unfiltered and often chaotic offering of every new product that every design brand produces. Combine this with hundreds of material options, and we already have a headache.
Private equity groups are now guiding the future of vintage furniture marketplaces, distilling what may have been special in exchange for higher earnings. In those cases, there is rarely any vetting of authenticity, and quality is rapidly descending.
Where can you go to buy truly curated authentic designs that are both new and vintage?
You couldn't go anywhere—until Rarify.
We created Rarify to make buying high quality furniture easier.
We were tired of seeing our friends and family spend tons of money in a vicious cycle: buy low-quality furniture, throw it out, buy more low-quality furniture...
Meanwhile, we knew there were amazing furniture designs out there, created with care and passion by some of our favorite designers. We would show our friends that, if they invested a bit more up front, they could experience much higher quality furniture and then sell it for a much higher amount than if they had bought the cheap stuff. Yes, we were always super picky about what we’d recommend…but we weren’t about to steer our friends and family in the wrong direction.
There’s an entire history of furniture design in the United States and around the world, and it can take a lot to understand all the nuances of what makes a piece high quality, collectible, or desirable.
We created Rarify to make this easier. To educate. To share our overly-picky, design-obsessed interests with you. To find an excuse to curate a collection with really high standards of quality.
What is Rarify?
It’s also an ongoing research project about what makes design timeless.
At our core, we care deeply about design.
We’re obsessed with curating the world’s most special pieces, showing you the value that these designs represent and creating the most innovative shopping experience.
Through Rarify, we aspire to showcase the finest museum-grade examples of rare design for view and for purchase, while also offering authentic new products that are timeless classics of the future.
Rarify was co-founded in 2021 by us—David Rosenwasser and Jeremy Bilotti. We’re two self-proclaimed “design nerds” who get really excited about things like precisely machined metal, hand-finished hardwoods and ceramic glazes. We also love stuff like six-axis robots, machine learning, and 3D scanning.
For over a decade, the two of us have worked on projects, published papers and giving talks together that always circled around three things: design, craft, and technology. For many years, we knew we wanted to start a company together that was built upon those methods and motivations.
After creating, testing and scrapping tons of business ideas, we finally landed on sharing our passion for the best design in the world with you through Rarify.
David has always been obsessed with 20th century furniture and has been a dealer and historian for 13+ years.
It all started when he flipped one Eames chair as a teenager, which developed into a way to put himself through some of college... and grad school. Eventually, this blossomed into a thriving vintage curation business and a rigorous line of research at Harvard's Graduate School of Design and beyond.
David is constantly seeking out new knowledge about design history, but also the technologies that will help create timeless classics of the future. He has become known for his extensive knowledge of Eames, Nakashima, Knoll, and others through his collection.
Jeremy has always been interested in how new technology can be applied to design.
He’s an artist and painter at heart, and he loves making furniture by hand. But there has always been a part of him that was fascinated by the potential of technology, robotics and 3D software to create incredible design.
While studying architecture at Cornell, Jeremy worked two or three jobs at a time—helping to teach design classes, working in the woodshop and working as a researcher in technology labs all at once. He helped design the first architectural pavilion powered by AI and eventually published research at MIT on how we can use machine learning to create (and curate) better furniture designs.
Inspired by design history's innovators
We look to the foundation laid by Florence and Hans Knoll in particular, along with the influence that brands such as Design Within Reach have had in increasing exposure to the designers and works that we so appreciate.
Florence and Hans Knoll might have been single-handedly responsible for bringing the international style and modernism to the eyes of millions in the 1940s and beyond. Florence Knoll was prolific in taking her professional expertise in architecture from working with Marcel Breuer, Walter Gropius and Mies Van Der Rohe, and then translating pressing needs in the architectural world to uncanny success and impact.
Through the Knoll Planning Unit, Knoll’s interiors division, Florence Knoll designed and delivered innovative new works to complement and create post-war corporate interiors within the US. This included the likes of General Motors, IBM and CBS, along with the interiors of countless influential architects of the mid-20th century.
Florence brought established and untested designers to the Knoll company to produce new works. She sought out existing designs from those such as Mies Van Der Rohe to produce through Knoll at scale. When there was a need for other designs, she created the “meat and potatoes” herself. Those “fill-in” furnishings often included less-desirable products such as sofas and credenzas that other designers did not take an interest in; however, her expansive catalog of works has now become as recognized as Knoll’s icons by other designers.
Thanks to Knoll’s impact across corporate America and to innovation from Charles and Ray Eames, George Nelson and others, a design renaissance took place during this period that led to excitement and education about what modernism looks like. While modern design was visible in magazines, television, and to clients who could afford to find designers, it was not widely available for sale across the US and international marketplace.
Fast forward to 1999 and the introduction of Design Within Reach (DWR), a company that made iconic designs of the 20th century accessible to the public for purchase. Through their showrooms, catalogs and online presence, design was finally easy to buy and frequently in stock.
From its inception until 2010, however, the company made the ill-advised decision of choosing to carry some unlicensed products along with licensed counterparts, while facing financial losses from rapid growth of showrooms. Former CEO John Edelman helped to change DWR’s fate, bringing his industry expertise and passion for authentic design to the company. Today, Design Within Reach is under the ownership of Herman Miller.
Welcome to the Rarify community
Rarify not only aspires to sell products to customers. We hope to foster a community of design-lovers, where we can bring collectors and enthusiasts together and facilitate deep knowledge and exploration of important design works.
We are passionate about design and believe that enthusiasts, designers and collectors alike deserve an inviting place to engage their passions.
We’re so glad you’ve joined the Rarify community. And we hope you join the thousands of others who trust us to foster an enjoyable shopping or learning experience through our digital showroom. We yearn to be your trusted resource that is educational and useful in exploring and appreciating the world of design.
Rarify is an evolving collection of iconic, authentic-only furniture by history's most visionary designers. We curate collections of timeless classics and rare, authenticated vintage furniture pieces, as well as the collectible classics of the future.