Arts & Entertainment

Cranford Sisters Open Urbanhouse:309 in Kenilworth to Public for Holiday Season

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Pipes that have found new life as a light fixture. Credits: All photos by Pat Boyle.
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Pipe fixture chandelier.
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Sisters work together on a new piece of art.
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Jamey's handiwork, creating a necklace from old keys. 
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A drawer filled with finds will eventually become part of a finished piece of furniture or jewelry.
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Reclaimed frames to become something new again.
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Shelves piled high at Urbanhouse:309 with unique finds that will become part of a new piece of art.
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KENILWORTH, NJ - The "Carlino Sisters" as they are affectionately referred to, are three talented artists who opened up a location in Kenilworth last year to house unique finds and develop their own pieces of art.

They are first to point out that they are not "recycling or upcycling" nor "restoring", they are taking otherwise unused pieces of furniture and other material and giving it new life.

It's their love and appreciate for things that don't have a current use that makes them see beyond an old piano and into the future of a turning it onto its side and creating a bookcase. Or creating rings, belt buckles, clocks and mirrors from old tire rims and car hood ornaments. Then there's the secretary that is less functional in today's times that the Sisters have turned into a vanity, "Taking something from the past and modernizing it while also making it functional is what we do best," one sister, Jamey Montes explains.

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The sisters, born and raised in Cranford, have been working in the creative space all of their lives.

Gina Carlino-Halopka, the oldest sister, now resides in Brooklyn and spent years as a creative director at advertising agencies, providing direction to graphic designers for major brand work. She lead the way with her creative spirit that her younger sisters admired, "We were always inspired by her," the younger two sisters said.

Jamey Montes, still a Cranford resident, has worked in and around fashion, design and art her entire adult life; creating jewelry, children's clothing and most recently working with her husband, the Owner and Chef of The Red Cadillac restaurant in Union. The restaurant decor was her labor of love, with handmade light fixtures and penny-laden bathroom flooring that she made putting one penny at a time onto tile sheets. 

Elise Ambrosio, the trained artist, is an expert in the field of textile design and hand painting "coloring". Elise owned several other locations with her husband, to work and display her refurnished furniture and artwork in Cranford, Garwood and Westfield, for over ten years before going into business with her sisters. Gina and Jamey are in awe of Elise's talent and help to bring her pieces to life incorporated with furniture pieces, where form meets function and artistry. "Her work is so beautiful and while many people don't buy artwork to display it regularly, we display her work via functional furniture, so it can be used and enjoyed everyday," Jamey commented.

Jamey and Elise worked together previously painting chairs, murals, tiling, everything you can imagine for restaurants as well. Jamey has always enjoyed jewelry making and reclaims old pieces and breathes new life into them, adding, "All jewelry I make is reclaimed, I take parts from all different places, keys, bullet casings, typewriter keys, and redo them into pieces of jewelry art that you can wear."

Gina adds, "We see the beauty in the damaged, I'd much rather go to the salvage yard in my Brooklyn neighborhood or to the hardware store then to the mall; I can get screws and small pieces that I can use in our work." She looks for pieces that she may be able to use one day, like a door handle, table legs, and while she may not know the use now, one day it will end up as part of a piece of their work.

If you're looking for a one of a kind piece of artwork that serves a purpose Urbanhouse:309 is the place for you. 

Urbanhouse:309, the business name and the number portion that came from their Grandfather Richard DeStefano's house number, where he lived and maintained a family farm his entire lifetime in Roselle Park. According to the sisters, he was a handyman extraordinaire and could fix and make anything. 

Gina doesn't like to throw much away, she admits she has a large shot glass collection because she never knows what life they have left in them. She talks fondly about her Grandfather and qualities they have in common like the ability for him to turn something unused into something beneficial like tin cans into Barbie chairs for their younger selves, or planters made from old car tires. 

The Carlino matriarch, Eleanor, now lives back at No. 309 and she herself a creative spirit, at 83, still makes her own greeting cards and according to her daughters is a very talented calligraphy artist.

By bringing new life into old pieces of wood and metal, the Carlino Sisters are paying homage to their lineage everyday. Urbanhouse:309 makes and sells jewelry, furniture, mirrors, home accessories, light fixtures; from $20 bangle bracelets to upscale works of furniture art, you can find unique pieces on their website.

Although the business is not a retail space, they are opening their doors for a short-term holiday pop up shop on the day after Thanksgiving, Nov. 27 from 4:00 - 8:00 p.m. and then every Sunday after that through Christmas from 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. and Thursdays from 10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Visiting Urbanhouse:309 is like walking through both the past and into the future. 

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