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December 27, 2014
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Joncy Bennett’s wabi-sabi life; A work in progress

This humble barn serves as studio working space and parttime home for master wood craftsman, furniture maker Joncy Bennett.
Location photos by Cass Collins

By Cass Collins

Joncy Bennett’s home/studio is a study in wabi-sabi, the Japanese aesthetic devoted to the acceptance of imperfection and impermanence. It is hard to ignore the contrast between the skilled perfection of his handmade furniture and the modest aesthetic of his home in Callicoon Center, NY.

For Bennett, life is “a work in progress,” and he has his priorities straight when it comes to what gets attention. When we first met, his wedding day was just three weeks away and Bennett had three projects in various stages of finish. He was determined to get them done before departing for his honeymoon in Greece. One gets the sense he is on target to meet all his goals.

The “love of his life” is one Tina Del Purgatorio, a social worker in one of Bedford-Stuyvesant’s junior high schools in Brooklyn. Her initials, in a Gothic font, are the only visible tattoo on Bennett’s lean and muscular frame. The job is one she loves, he says, and that makes it easier to imagine her enjoying the rough and tumble nature of Bennett’s studio/home on the Callicoon creek.

It is not clear at first that anyone lives at the Bennett address. Across the road stands a sturdy farmhouse. But Joncy (his name is from the town in France where he was conceived) claimed the barn as his home as soon as he set foot on the land. Randy Florke, a designer and realtor and owner of The Rural Connection (theruralconnection.com) whom Bennett met on a job in Brooklyn, showed him the property in 2003, when he was looking for studio space outside the city, with its increasing property values. “I was here for a half minute before I knew it was mine,” says the craftsman. “I had an accepted offer before I was back in the city that day.”

At the time, Bennett was single and looking for work space for his growing business, building bar and restaurant interiors in places like SoHo and Brooklyn. He had grown up in a converted carriage house on Downing Street in Greenwich Village in an artistic family who always spent summers and vacations in the country. His parents had restored an old schoolhouse in Columbia County. His father, John Bennett, is a sculptor and painter, and his mother, Karen Lee Grant was the advertising creative director for Ralph Lauren for many years.