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Why You Might Need Custom Carpentry in Your Home: An Interview with Stuart Naft of Stuart Home Improvement

By Stuart Naft

Tell us a little bit about your company and its foundation.

Stuart Home Improvement, LLC was founded over 12 years ago, to provide creative and practical remodeling and custom woodworking solutions for our clients. Our building experience is complemented by professional degrees in art and design, and includes master furniture finishing techniques and repair. Each client benefits from a personalized design plan and innovative solutions that enhance everyday living. Our company's mission is to help customers not just maintain, but increase the value and comfort of their home. We pride ourselves on quality and we care deeply about the lasting results of our work.

What other services, besides custom carpentry, does your company provide?

In addition to custom carpentry (custom designed and installed built-ins and furniture, cabinetmaking, bookcases, finish carpentry and trim work), our services include updating and remodeling family rooms, kitchens, baths, home offices, closet spaces, general carpentry, and home repair.

Due to our in-depth experience, we are able to expertly handle every detail of client projects, large or small. Good communication is a top priority. We stress that throughout all phases of the projects, clients can expect us to offer pragmatic solutions, be available for consultations and provide phone calls and emails for progress reports.

Please elaborate custom carpentry as a service and what it pertains.

Custom carpentry is a specialized area of woodworking that requires a different skill-set than "general carpentry", which typically refers to framing and general building construction. Custom carpentry includes a number of woodworking types.

Finish carpentry or trim-work is the design and installation of a wide range of molding types or decorative trim found all around the house. This can be as simple as window or door casement, crown molding, baseboard trim, or ornate as raised panel walls, wainscoting, and vaulted ceilings.

Custom cabinetmaking and Built-ins are the design, fabrication, finishing, and installation of cabinetry built to fit client individual specifications for style, material/ wood type, features, color, and site requirements. Most people think of kitchen or bathroom cabinetry when describing cabinetmaking.

Built-ins can be found in any room of the house and are fitted for a wide range of uses designed to blend seamlessly with the décor and architecture. These include entertainment centers, home offices, bookcases, general storage, bedroom sets, and in some cases, all of the above!

The process begins with a consultation to understand the client's specific goals for their project: what they want to achieve in function and aesthetics, how the features and design elements they prefer can be incorporated into the style of the home, the site requirements and restrictions, their timetable, and of course, their budget. After the meeting, I create sketches and computer renderings and a written, detailed estimate for their unique project. There is not a separate charge for the professional design service or estimate. All of my cabinetry is detailed in CAD for accuracy in fabrication.

A typical project includes the design, fabrication, finishing, and installation of the built-ins as well as any alterations to the original site, remodeling or carpentry as necessary.

When might you suggest someone should look into custom carpentry to complete their job?

Custom carpentry is a great way to economically add style and utility to a home while increasing its value and desirability. Whether you want to update or freshen the living space, or address a specific functional need, you can count on these projects to be game changers when you eventually sell your home:

Adding decorative moldings such as crown molding, chair rails, or wainscoting to upgrade a room or highlight architectural features.
Address storage or maximize space with multi-function built-ins.
Increase functionality of a room with custom work centers, home offices, and entertainment centers.
Replace existing stock cabinetry with cabinets that are tailored exactly to your individual needs and style.
Build something you want, but can't find in stores.

What are some benefits of custom carpentry?

I believe the greatest benefit of custom carpentry is that it maximizes your living experience. It is an enduring amenity that you will enjoy every day for as long as you are in your home. It has the added advantage of being a permanent fixture that it has lasting value for resale. This is true no matter how large or small the project.

Moldings such as crown moldings or chair rails, etc., expand decorative possibilities with the use of accent colors, add texture to flat surfaces, highlights or creates architectural features. Molding can unify open floor plans, add distinction, or formality. It takes the ordinary and makes it extraordinary.
Custom cabinetry utilizes quality materials, finishes, and workmanship crafted to your specifications that are fitted to your exact space. It powers up your square footage while adding character and versatility to living areas.
Custom carpentry is a problem solver for storage issues and underutilized areas. It can transform and augment space with multi-functional built-ins, and increase the functionality of a room with custom work centers, home offices, or entertainment centers.
Custom cabinetry gets you exactly what you've always wanted- tailored to your lifestyle and in the ways that work best for you.

Is custom carpentry more expensive than if someone were to just install a pre-designed building supply?

Let's compare a store bought entertainment center to a custom built entertainment center. A store bought system's size, style, features, color and finish are generic to fit a wide variety of homes. They are factory-built overseas using unskilled labor, all materials, hardware, and finish is optimized to reduce cost. You would then bring it home, assemble it, and modify it for your components/ wiring, etc. They are made to be economical, not durable. That is the lowest price point system.

If you compare a custom built system to a higher quality name brand system, in many cases the overall prices are surprisingly similar. The brand systems are still made to appeal to a wide consumer base and optimized for large scale manufacturing. They are offered in standardized dimensions and finishes. The price of their goods reflects the store's cost of doing business, middleman, rent, employees and transportation, etc.

A custom built system by nature is the opposite of factory built; each project is unique- all components are hand fabricated to a specific size and function with high quality materials. The final product is custom finished to match and seamlessly fitted/ installed (in many cases floor to ceiling and wall to wall) to become an integral part of your home. Prices can be higher, but economics still dictate that the bottom line must be competitive with what is available commercially. Dollar for dollar it is a sound investment, both in function, beauty and value for home re-sale.

Is the process longer to custom build pieces than it would be otherwise, and if so is it so much longer that you feel it would really be an issue?

Typically yes, the process is longer. In my experience, people readily accept and understand the amount of extra time required for custom work. I like to compare it to buying furniture. You can buy an "off the shelf" couch and get it tomorrow. However, if you want a better quality, style, size, or fabric that best matches your needs and décor, you know it will have to be ordered, but it's worth the wait. Given the nature of a "custom" project, each one is designed and built to fit the specific installation site and job requirements.

Are there any downfalls to custom carpentry?

Given the more specialized nature and permanency of custom carpentry and cabinetmaking, it is important to find a qualified reputable company with the proper skill-sets and experience for your project. Work with someone that you feel confident understands your objectives; function, decorative/ design style. Conversely, you don't want to get "stuck" living with a permanently installed, poorly-designed or constructed built-in/custom project that does not meet your needs or expectations. Note, that a number of contractors only do certain parts of the project; such as the woodworking only and not do the finishing or painting.

Get a clear picture in writing of what will be included in the final product. Make sure the contractor guarantees the best quality materials for your budget and that the hardware is included. Check out websites, get references, just like you would for any other contractor.

What is the easiest way for people to contact you or your business?

I can be reached by email at:
info@stuarthomeimprovement.com
203-305-8553

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