Studio Tour

Studio Tour: Dorset Finds

by Garrett Fleming

For 17 years, Justin Dorset worked in the music industry, tapping undiscovered talent from the UK, Australia and US for a record label. “At the time, I loved the work that I did with bands, but working in an industry for such a long time, I found myself getting restless,” Justin explains. As he grew ever-more tired of the daily grind, another of his passions – vintage furniture – began catching his eye. By this time, he had moved to New York and couldn’t keep buying an endless supply of furniture and decor for his own cozy home, so he came up with an idea. On a whim, he refurbished a vintage chair for the sole purpose of selling it. In no time, he was hooked. Justin “unsubscribed from all the music blogs, ceased updating [his] website and stopped taking on new clients,” in order to open his shop Dorset Finds. The store provides New Yorkers with refurbished, vintage pieces and is driven by the realities of Big-Apple living. In the city “…there’s no room for the superfluous. Every item in your home needs to be functional, so when I’m buying, I try and hone in on pieces that have an industrial heritage that can be easily modified or transferred to a residential setting.”

His studio and shop, located in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, has soaring ceilings and a natural light that seems custom-made for the craftsman. He even gets to look out over the Manhattan skyline while working away on his latest find. When designing the space, “it was important to [me] that clients who visit not only see where the work takes place, but that the space also gives context to some of the decommissioned factory pieces on display.” Throughout the shop, these vintage finds create vignettes that highlight the era and feel of the piece. Justin has a very specific eye for picking. “My philosophy, in terms of the items I purchase, is that I must feel a connection to it and be able to visualize it in my own home, rather than buying off-brand items that [help me] simply make a buck.”

I fell in love with his work when two of his recent clients, Roy and Tommy, let us into their home for a recent tour. Surely their Dorset Finds table isn’t the last time we will see homeowners showing off the artisan’s beautiful craftsmanship. His metal and woodwork fit so easily with any style of decor that his pieces will be popping up all over the place in no time; shining in a vintage bungalow’s kitchen or an updated walk-up’s living room. Luckily for us, Justin’s agreed to let us take a peek inside the shop where all that “shine” begins. Click through and enjoy! —Garrett

Photography by Justin Dorset

Studio Tour: Dorset Finds, Design*Sponge
Justin Dorset poses in his Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn showroom/studio next to "[an] Uhl Toledo chair with original wood finish." Nearly 10 years ago, Justin moved from Australia to Brooklyn. One day, while walking, he found an Uhl Toledo chair in the trash and restored it. "Though I was blind to it at the time, I feel it was the universe gently telling me that working in music wasn’t the be-all and that something else could prove far more creatively satisfying if I allowed myself to be open to it. It took me awhile, but I worked it out," Justin says.
Studio Tour: Dorset Finds, Design*Sponge
"I like to surround myself with inspiring pieces. Many get used as props in photos and though almost all of them are for sale, I don't actively try to sell many of them. Frequently, a client will come through the studio looking to pick up a stool or dining table and end up leaving with another object they'd not anticipated buying. It’s interesting to me, watching people connect to random pieces in a similar way I did when I first saw them."
Studio Tour: Dorset Finds, Design*Sponge
"The openness and light of the studio makes it really conducive for creative work. It's also appealing to clients as they can wander though the space and get a sense of how/where things are made. They can view items in their original state, right through to their completion."
Studio Tour: Dorset Finds, Design*Sponge
"I enjoy repurposing old, well-worn butcher block and I try to keep various shapes and sizes in stock so that when inspiration strikes, I'm equipped with the raw materials to design a desk, console, dining or boardroom table."
Studio Tour: Dorset Finds, Design*Sponge
Justin says, "the photography area doubles as a work space and there's usually a lot of cleaning up that occurs prior to any photo staging. A good deal of time goes into creating a vignette that builds a narrative. Color, form and purpose all work to inform the composition. This image includes: (restored) 1930s workbench, (restored) Uhl Toledo stool, brass business card holder, steel book files, vintage tool bag and vintage ledger."
Studio Tour: Dorset Finds, Design*Sponge
"I'm philosophical about the furniture I build. There are times when I'll find a stunning workbench top with gorgeous wear, but I won't have the perfect set of legs to go with it. There's no point in corrupting the visual balance with a set of legs that are too tall or don't have a wide enough stance, so I'll sit tight. In the case of this 102" x 46" dining/ conference table, I held on to the unfinished top for almost two years before finding the legs, which were attached to a giant factory machine and covered in rust. I knew immediately that they had to be mine," Justin says.
Studio Tour: Dorset Finds, Design*Sponge
"Aside from gathering up old butcher block, I also stock a range of antique, cast iron machine legs of all different shapes and sizes. They're not fun to move around, but I love the aesthetic of these solid pieces paired with the refinished wood of the workbench tops. It's satisfying to me to breathe new life into these legs that would otherwise be scrapped and melted down."

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  • What is the address of his shop so we can stop by? Not finding much info on Google…

    • Hey Justin,
      This is Spencer. Don’t know if you remember me. I bought a great set of industrial machine legs from you a few years back and I Also had some antique Buddy l trucks that you were possibly interested in buying. I wanted to stop by your studio in Brooklyn but I see that you’ve relocated to California. Is this a second location and you still have a Brooklyn location or is that studio closed now? I was looking for some industrial bases for a few projects I need to complete. Let me know brother. Look forward to hearing from you.