The financial tables turned

From cleaning tables to handcrafting them from antique lumber, Mauricio Guevara’s story is the embodiment of the American dream.

The tables have indeed turned for lumberer, wood restorer and master carpenter Mauricio Guevara and wife Patricia – owners of New England Antique Lumber in Mount Kisco and Westport. In 2006, the economic crisis brought the couple and their three young daughters from their native Ecuador to Westchester County in search of a better life. With no money in their pockets to speak of and no knowledge of English, the couple managed to find employment as nightshift cleaners at the Katonah Art Center in Mount Kisco and later as house cleaners, working seven days a week for seven years in private homes in the county.

A few years in, while still house-cleaning at night Guevara took on an additional job with a construction company after an introduction from his nephew. He had never so much as picked up a chisel, but he quickly found he had an extraordinary aptitude working with wood. 

“I took to it. I learned fast,” says Guevara, “and my ex-boss was very happy with me.” Little by little, he started to take on clients of his own. Asked by the architect Carol Kurth, who was working with one of his early clients, about the possibility of adding old wood to a project, Guevara admitted to the difficulty of finding reclaimed lumber in southern Westchester. But it also set him to think of it as a gap in the market and an exciting opportunity started to suggest itself to him.

After taking a couple of drives upstate to source the kind of hard-to-find old lumber he was looking for, he asked his wife to join him on a trip. Together they tracked down an old barn, bringing back beautiful beams, sidings and flooring. And more convinced than ever that there was nothing of its kind in Westchester, his question to his wife on their return was perhaps inevitable: “Why don’t we open a small showroom?” 

That question was met with some small resistance. “Yes, it was a little hard to convince her,” acknowledges Guevara with what one suspects is more than a hint of understatement. But the hunt was on, regardless, and in 2015 the Guevaras found their present site in Mount Kisco. They agreed to jump right in and sign a rental agreement.

Next, of course, was the need to establish a consistent source of quality lumber, which Mauricio was able to do upstate. He also found himself working closely with Amish communities in New England and Pennsylvania. “Beautiful people,” Guevara says, who “take the barns down for us.”

The modest street door on the East Main Street showroom gives little clue as to what lies beyond. The 100-foot-long showroom is something of a barn itself, a veritable treasure house stocked with exquisite hand-carved dining tables, occasional tables, console tables and benches. Off to the sides, groaning stacks of wood and timber are piled floor to ceiling, waiting to be inspected, bought and consigned.

Although nearly all the finished pieces you see in the showroom carry a QR code and are for sale, the furniture on display also serves to provide visiting clients with ideas and inspiration. That’s because the thrust of the business is custom-made furniture, along with customized beams, flooring and mantels. The ability to see so many examples, though — to appreciate the different colors, grains and hues and to be able to touch this gorgeous old timber, all under one roof — is unusual. It offers a real service to the prospective customer, Guevara explains, one that could not easily be found elsewhere.

He also points out that every piece is unique and mentions that most clients, be they architects, designers or independent retail shoppers, are referrals. Supplementary home goods and decorative items, from rugs and kelims through to chandeliers and light-fittings, glassware, chopping boards and even pepper mills, give context to the larger furniture items and make visiting the showroom a pleasure, even for the casual home decorator.

Much as it might have threatened the still fledgling business, the pandemic has brought actual benefits, Guevara says. As people migrated north from New York City, house sales and renovations have created massive demand. Suddenly everyone was redecorating or upgrading, he says, requiring new desks for working from home and large new dining tables and tabletops for extended families hunkered down together during lockdown. (What’s that they say about an “ill wind”?) In October 2021, the Guevaras opened the Westport showroom.

Now working with a team of about 18 carpenters and fitters, the “big stuff,” such as large cabinetry, tables and other furniture, is done at a separate site in New Jersey, while steelwork (for table legs, brackets, etc.) is carried out at a workshop in Brewster. The business is expanding exponentially.

With two of their daughters now in college and one already graduated and working in Boston, folks whose fancy Bedford and Katonah houses Mauricio and Patricia Guevara were cleaning not so very long ago (the married actors Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively, among them,) are now the Guevaras’ clients at New England Antique Lumber. It’s a near perfect iteration of the American dream.

And asked about future plans, Mauricio Guevara, his English no longer quite as faltering as it once was, responds crisply and with a smile: “I hope to open in the Hamptons next.” 

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