If you see a piece of artwork or furniture you admire in one of our shops or on shophousingworks.org, there’s a good chance it was donated by a gentleman named Bruce Tilley. Tilley, has been connected to Housing Works for almost 25 years, he served on our then nascent Thrift Shop Board of Directors and helped open our original shop on 18th street. As owner of Decor NYC, a high-end furniture consignment gallery in Chelsea, he made supporting Housing Works part and parcel of his business; listing Housing Works as donor of choice for unsold goods. We caught up with Tilley to learn about his history with the organization and his lifelong passion for giving, decor, and fashion.
Housing Works: You own Decor NYC, a consignment Gallery, a high-end furniture consignment shop in the Flatiron District, in a city chock full of consignment stores dedicated to fashion, what made you focus on furniture?
Bruce Tilley: I started buying, selling, and collecting antiques and vintage items when I was still in high school. I started selling Art Deco in the 70’s, when no one knew what Art Deco was. I spent a major part of my career with Alexander Julian, a fashion designer. In the span of 19 years I started a home business for him and we had one of the largest and most successful furniture launches at that time. After working there, I helped build various businesses and created a huge venue in Westchester for 3 years. After that, I was looking for something to do on my own and in a niche market, which is not easy to do in New York City.
HW: Tell us about Decor NYC
BT: Decor NYC is the only high-end, luxury home furnishings consignment gallery in the city. There are other website venues that have appeared since our inception, but we actually creatively put room settings together to inspire our client base, since a major part of our clients are decorators. We are not a normal consignment store where everything is thrown in one space for folks to shop. We actually put together inspiring vignettes that have an eclectic array of products. We never know what we’re going to get, so we have to be creative in what we do and I think that brings a great level of comfort to our customers.
We have customers with expensive taste levels, but may not have the income to purchase the high-end items they desire. All of our items are 50% or less then the actual price. We have things that are ordered by decorators for their clients and it just didn’t work, either because the color wasn’t right or the space wasn’t right or she/he didn’t like it and chose to get something else. Then we get things that are gently used that are from clientele that have the ability to decorate, and redecorate, whenever they want.
HW: What is your connection to Housing Works?
BT: In 1991 Pamela Auchincloss, a close friend who had a gallery on Broadway and Prince, invited me to a party at the gallery to introduce people to Charles, Keith, and Housing Works. At event I was totally moved by Keith Cylar and Charles King and the goals and services provided by the organization in the very beginning. Today the mission that is still exactly the same – it has just expanded and developed in a much broader way.
I joined the Thrift Shop Board when Housing Works was about to open their first thrift shop, a tiny little storefront on 18th street. I served on the board for several years until we signed the first lease for the big space on 17th street, which was our first real “big store” across from the Chelsea Passage and Barneys, and it was really quite an amazing endeavor. We were all scared to sign this huge lease for what it was at the time. But, in the end, it was a phenomenal success.
HW: You’ve been a long time donor and advocate for Housing Works, what compels you to continue donating?
BT: When I opened Decor NYC, I included Housing Works in my business plan. The reason and how I did that was our focus was in high-end luxury and home furnishings, we get a lot of items and things that we believe we could sell but we do not for whatever reason don’t. We have a 60-day term with our cosigners and after 60 days they have a right to renew and/or reclaim or donate. We included Housing Works as donor of choice. Most of the cosigners they don’t want it back and they’re happy to donate it through our suggestion to Housing Works. In fact to this day I’ve never had one client say, “I want to donate it somewhere else”.
HW: In addition to your support of Housing Works, you are involved other nonprofit organizations, tell us about that.
BT: One of the groups I am involved with is the Oliver Scholars Program, which prepares extraordinary African-American and Latino students for success at top independent high schools and prestigious colleges. We provide crucial support for our Scholars so that they can realize their full potential and ultimately give back to the city, the nation, and the world. Last year we had 44 students who went to the best schools in the country. It’s really quite incredible.
HW: Anything else to add?
BT: It’s not said enough and I don’t think people understand the scope of services Housing Works provides. I’m willing and inspired to support the organization because of the heartfelt passion Housing Works puts into creating a community and a home for clients. Whenever the organization enters a new community, Housing Works is sure to reach out and open their hearts up to capture compassion for people and mesh within the community where they are placing these people.