David Rosenwasser and Jeremy Bilotti are both self-described nerds. They met as students at Cornell University’s prestigious school of architecture, so it makes sense that Rarify, the forward-thinking design business they started together in 2021, would take an academic approach to selling midcentury and contemporary furniture.
Rosenwasser caught the design bug early, tagging along with his dad to the flea market–like Antique Automobile Show near their home in Hershey, Penn. He was so enamored of their vintage finds that he used his bar mitzvah money for a treat uncommon for a 13-year-old: a dozen settings of Georg Jensen’s Pyramid sterling cutlery, designed by Harald Nielsen, that he found online. “I still have it,” he says 15 years later.
More from Robb Report
While Rosenwasser spent his teen years amassing Eames chairs and the like (which he eventually loaded into a shipping container destined for one very supportive client in the Philippines), Bilotti’s New Jersey youth was consumed by painting and drawing. But curiosity about design “was a part of me from very early on,” Bilotti says, adding that studying architecture “really calcified that interest for me.”
After graduating, the two continued working in the studio of their esteemed professor and mentor, Jenny Sabin, while Rosenwasser earned a master’s in design studies in technology at Harvard and Bilotti picked up master’s degrees in both design and computer science at MIT. They founded Rarify to marry their mutual love of architect-designed furniture, scholarship, technology, and sustainability.
The business has several revenue streams, but its bread and butter is consigning and authenticating works by Arne Jacobsen, Isamu Noguchi, and Florence Knoll, among others. The duo takes pains to establish provenance, using high-resolution imagery, 3-D scanning, and studious research into the materials and construction these creators employed. “We’re working on perfecting the art of photographing these pieces from every angle, showing all the correct parts of the objects that would indicate to a collector that you’ve found an authentic piece,” Bilotti says.
But they’re aiming for more than seasoned shoppers: Rosenwasser, who’s 28, and Bilotti, 29, hope to entice their millennial and Gen Z peers using strategies primed for digital natives. It’s why their YouTube channel and Instagram page are full of lessons on, say, how to spot a real Marcel Breuer Cesca chair or the importance of Poul Henningsen’s lighting designs.
The pair work from a sprawling warehouse and showroom in rural Pennsylvania and plan to open a space on Bainbridge Street in Philadelphia next year. “The world of furniture and antiques is often thought of like Antiques Roadshow—it’s not technologically innovative or even necessarily academic as a field,” Rosenwasser says. “We want to take that same idea—bringing together a cultish, passion-drive niche group of people—and foster a business and a community.”