Custom Powder Room Vanity
We have been on the hunt for some interesting pieces of American Black Walnut for a custom bathroom vanity we’re designing and building for a client in Needham. Black Walnut has always been sought after as a fine furniture wood because of it’s workability, beautiful rich color, grain movement and stability. Today, we are seeing it show up more and more in small batch cabinetry and tables. In spite of it’s enduring popularity, it makes up less than 2% of all commercially harvested lumber in America which explains its high cost per board foot. Our client has this vision, of a furniture-grade vanity, with an extra thick stone countertop and beautiful gold faucets. Along with custom wainscoting, new flooring and lights, this Needham half bathroom is getting a full overhaul as part of a 2-bathroom and laundry room renovation. For the purpose of this post, we are just focusing on the powder room vanity.
So, what do you do when commercially available walnut is too perfect and pricey? You set out on a mission, to find something that may be lesser known and perhaps even better. An adventure like this will send you to a place you didn’t know existed. Our adventure lead us to Westerly, RI. J.P. Hoffman Design Build Owner and CEO, Jason, had put feelers out with business contacts and friends. He was seeking an authentic piece with a rich history. He heard back from a couple of sources but was especially intrigued by one particular source another client of ours purchased from last year. That client turned over the raw piece and our team created a custom walnut desk nook. See the finished product here.
“Come early and bring cash…”
Back to our adventure. Honestly, there was very little information to go off of. A first name and a marketplace posting on Facebook is all we had. A little poking and prodding and we were able to get an address (no business name) which led to a second address, to a building an hour and a half away. This better be worth it. We were told to come early and bring cash. That doesn’t sound questionable at all.
After a long drive south, to Westerly, Jason arrived in an old town that was probably built up during the industrial revolution and had since gone sleepy. But in recent years has seen some revitalization. The old building gave no indication of it housing thousands of board feet of neatly stacked, sawn hardwood and softwood alike. It would’ve easily been passed by if not for the gentleman in a mask at the door waving Jason in. In the foyer was a stack of Ambosia maple getting ready to be moved out to a truck. Inside, were stacks upon stacks of rare and common wood species alike. From hardwoods like mahogany, red oak and ash, to various softwoods like pine, red cedar and fir. Jason carefully went through the walnut piles, talking to the Owner about the backstories. Many pieces came out of local properties. These homes were purchased and renovated but had overgrown trees needing removal or pruning. The Owner sells the pieces to carpenters like Jason, with the hope that each piece’s story continues. In addition to pieces for our bathroom vanity, Jason collected more boards for future projects.
Back at our workshop….
Back at our workshop, Jason laid out each board, setting aside the best pieces for use in our powder room vanity. In the process, he discovered that two of the larger pieces he selected independent of each other, for futures projects, were actually mirror images of each other. Any guesses what that means? Future blog post perhaps?
A few days later….
A few days later, Jason finished up his shop drawings, and received final approval from our client. Prior to shop drawings, Jason collaborated with our client on the best materials, size and functionality for her vision. Here’s where we landed during Phase 3 of our Design Build process.
Fun fact – from the 3D renderings, Jason will always hand sketch the design and measurements, on a scrap piece of wood, even though he may have computer schematics. Old habits die hard.
He then started selecting the lumber, considering what part of the vanity each piece would be used for, paying special attention to color, grain patterns and figuring. From there, Jason then started plaining and sanding each individual piece.
We will continue to take you along the journey as Jason builds this one-of-a-kind piece. We also have some fun videos, including a downtown Westerly, RI tour of Jason’s travels to the inconspicuous shop. Be sure to follow along on our social media on Instagram and Facebook, particularly the “Custom Woodworking” story highlight.
We always try and leave our signature on each project we do. Be it a kitchen renovation with a custom breakfast nook, something special in a bathroom remodel or custom moldings for a bedroom feature wall, our team values each client’s goals and treats each project uniquely. This custom walnut vanity is one signature we’re going to leave at this Needham bathroom renovation project.
Side note: when helping our client decide the type of wood for this piece, we shared this article which helps differentiate between wood species. Like maple vs. cherry vs. walnut.