People moving into new or brand-new homes or building them often decide that’s the ideal time to opt for some extra touches that add value and beauty to homes.
People moving into new or brand-new homes or building them often decide that’s the ideal time to opt for some extra touches that add value and beauty to homes. But even when just remodeling here or there in your existing home, you can upgrade it or considerably change the whole look with some extra touches. Fine millwork – door and window molding, fireplace molding and more – is an uncommonly attractive way to do just that without necessarily really tearing your home apart or tearing it down and rebuilding. And it’s something you can take a mix-and-match approach on, say experts at Van Millwork.
Van Millwork, headquartered in Bellingham and with a variety of other venues in Massachusetts, mainly showcases molding - and supplies it to builders or remodeling or constructing homes and other buildings. The millwork’s staff leaves the installation and any elaborate design work to architects, builders and finish carpenters who handle the actual planning and execution of the project. But Van Millwork’s staffers work closely with them all and are experts in millwork with much expertise from varying backgrounds in building, finish work and more. So the Millwork’s staff can help homeowners learn about all manner of baseboards, chair-rails and other molding and even stair casing and help them figure out what they might easily mix and match with their choices.
Van Millwork staff also will also put together CAD (computer-assisted design) drawings that will show a homeowner what their project will essentially look like once finished - before a piece of molding is ever cut or a nail driven. And they work closely with and even can recommend installers for small to larger projects.
Mix and match millwork
Sean Abley of Van Millwork says homeowners and builders have been more interested in millwork of late as a way to add an elegant look to homes. However, today’s homeowners are generally choosing to decorate with millwork in a deliberately "mix-and-match" way, rather than keeping all the millwork decor matchy-matchy from the same historic millwork period-style as it was generally used in the past. Homeowners often like to pair a Georgian type of millwork, say, for some areas, with millwork touches of other styles in the same room. It’s a way to keep one’s home personal and from looking like a museum-home of the past if they’re using a lot of millwork decor.
"After all, nobody likes just one style of ice cream – or millwork," said Abley. "Our showroom has 9 rooms of millwork displayed, each with 4 walls, each wall displaying millwork of a different style. The display walls give customers a feel for what different styles of millwork look like when used throughout a big space."
Abley says homeowners are incorporating millwork into their homes in very small touches on up to wall-to-wall millwork in very big-time home building or remodeling projects.
"We go all over the gamut, from remodels of 400 square feet or $200 millwork projects up to a 13,000-square-foot home’s $300,000 media room" that the Bellingham- based company is supplying millwork for, said Abley. The big media-room project includes a giant big-screen TV "that lowers from where it’s hidden in the millwork coffered ceiling" and a second big-screen TV over the fireplace that’s installed so it can be hidden easily behind more millwork that flows around and above the fireplace and up to the ceiling. The cabling and other lines for the media equipment are hidden inside 8-by 8-inch millwork "beams" in the coffered ceiling.
And all the other walls of the room, like the ceiling and fireplace wall, are fine, high-end mahogany millwork.
Hardwood to poplar
Such hardwood fine cabinetry-level millwork, however, is often reserved by homeowners for their one favorite room where they want to really indulge in creating their perfect environment, said Abley. That favorite room usually is the only room that gets the high-end mahogany or cherry or other fine cabinetry-level wood millwork full treatment, said Abley.
But elsewhere, homeowners may also install millwork that’s a little more understated – painted millwork – and sometimes just in touches like chair-rails, millwork around the windows and doors and maybe crown molding. That’s where they often go for mix-and-matching styles of millwork.
Poplar millwork is what Van Millwork offers for these projects. Poplar "has replaced pine in the last 10 years or so for more typical home millwork projects. Pine previously was the popular wood for millwork because it’s a so-called softwood with fast growth –and it shapes well." When pine became less available, Van Millwork went with poplar, "which is a little harder than pine, still shapes well" when being carved into simple to elaborate molding, "and it’s a fast-growth wood," so is a fairly quickly renewable building resource, said Abley.
But tastes and trends in millwork – beyond renewed interest in millwork overall – are hard to key in on because people so like to mix-and-match styles of millwork "and they may see someone else’s and like their style millwork, but don’t want theirs to be just like the Joneses’," says Abley. Van Millwork’s staffers, with their backgrounds in various aspects of building, "are a mixed gathering of people like a bunch of cooks who can make up the right recipes for the customers" to achieve the individual flavor they want in their homes.
"Some people want just simple trim and a nice piece of crown molding." Others want more elaborate millwork, says Abley. "You can spend $200 on a room to $300,000" or whatever you want when it comes to using millwork to change or improve your home.
Bigger houses, more molding
Abley does see some general trends in millwork use. As houses have gotten bigger and more upscale in some areas, the builders or owners have gone in for more millwork. And builders who have bought properties they are “knocking down to put up a newer often use millwork" bigger home. They may have some constraints on the size of the homes they rebuild on the land, but "when they want to add some good value to the new home" to make the project more saleable at a good price, builders "step it up a notch" by adding crown moldings or other millwork touches.
"And trims back in the ‘80s were 2-1/2-inch-wide casing." But since then, builders and homeowners have gone for more visually prominent millwork – 3-5/8-inch-wide millwork and crown molding in living rooms and dining rooms. And Abley has also seen builders or homeowners go a step from that by another inch or two in width.
"Their houses are bigger, their ceilings are taller and they want nicer molding than they grew up with or saw in others houses, or (want) bigger, fancier staircases," – and bigger molding, says Abley. In fact, Van Millwork "had to put on an expansion at the Bellingham headquarters just for fancier staircases" displays, because some builders and homeowners also want staircases with more elaborate millwork. And Van Millwork also has a custom shop in Fitchburg for homeowners and builders who want to step up the millwork touches even further to be their one-of-a-kind dream looks.
"If they can dream it, we can put it into action. And it’s fun" to help customers learn about and choose their own millwork recipes, says Abley.
Expert help is available
For small projects or more everyday budgets, such as changing the look of a fireplace or improving it, customers often just need to browse the styles of millwork available, choose what they like and then have Van Millwork help them with the basic dimensions and amounts they need or to find experienced installers. For bigger, more elaborate projects like the all-mahogany media room, "customers often have an architect or design firm design the room and do drawings. And a builder is like the conductor putting all the pieces together. And you tell us what you want and we put it all together" from the supply standpoint so you can have it built, said Abley.
But "we also have do-it-yourselfers come in who are doing over" some part of their home. And that works too. "Part of our service is we have a sales force that goes out and measures houses for people" so they know what they need for their project, said Abley.
Van Millwork also has worked closely with experienced builders and carpenters and other finishing experts they can recommend to customers. Among them is Mike Jones of Custom Home Interiors Inc. in Braintree, a finish carpenter who has installed many fireplace millwork projects and more, all the way on up to the extensive millwork in "a house in Duxbury that’s 12,000 square feet, with every nook and cranny covered with panel work everywhere."
That was a project that Jones worked on for six months. But most home projects where owners want to upgrade a fireplace or add millwork touches to a dining room are much quicker upgrade projects – a matter of a day or two to three days.
"The decisions (about what millwork you want) are the toughest part," he laughs. He takes care of doing the fine-tuning of the measuring and cutting of the millwork and installing it.
Fireplace millwork tends to be an easy job. "It’s so common now to have gas inserts (in fireplaces) - and they’re relatively repetitive, almost the same dimensions - that it’s just the planning and deciding what you want" then installation – Jones hardly has to refigure the dimensions of millwork these days for standardized-size gas insert fireplaces. Others take some jiggering so everything fits perfectly. A fireplace millwork project typically takes a day or two to install. "A room of crown molding and placing all the trim and crown molding panels and the like can take around three days" for a typical size living room or dining room. Average staircases are more complicated and take "probably a week’s work." Curved staircases in wood and millwork "are usually prefabricated and installed" by staircase-makers, not typical millwork installers.
Things to think about before actually installing millwork
Mike Jones of Custom Home Interiors Inc., Braintree, suggests these tips when you are contemplating installing millwork in your home:
If upgrading a fireplace with millwork, makes sure the chimney and firebox have been inspected and repaired first, if needed.
Have a gas fireplace insert installed and other such fireplace work done before the millwork. If changing the exterior fireplace stone or brickwork, it’s often best to do that before the millwork job, too. Jones often covers new granite hearths and such to protect them from bumps during millwork installation. After the mantel and millwork is installed is the time to paint the millwork. And paint the walls last.
For some very elaborate fireplace millwork updates you might need an architect or designer to draw a design the millwork installer can go by. But skilled finish carpenters and millwork installers with experience often can do typical fireplace installations without architect or designer’s help. You might want to check your millwork installer’s references with past customers for an idea of their skill, precision and quality of work. An unskilled installer can cost you money by cutting millwork wrong, possibly requiring replacement millwork.
Skilled fireplace and millwork and building experts know that the millwork in your room should be sized in pleasing proportion to the size of your room. They may suggest you adjust the dimensions of millwork you’re ordering to keep your crown molding, etc. from looking too large in proportion to a small room or small windows etc. or they may suggest you increase the size of the millwork so it will look right in a large room. If you’re unsure of proportions, millwork experts often can advise you – as can an architect or other skilled builder, finish carpenter or millwork expert. Planning the proportions before you purchase the millwork can avert costly adjustments.
For those remodeling, if possible clear your garage or another space indoors where the installer can have plenty of space for cutting millwork etc. unimpeded by people and furnishings. And, of course, clear the room the installer will be working in as much as possible. Trying to work amid people and furnishings hampers the installer and also can possibly lead to accidents with your furnishings.
Van Millwork’s main offices, retail counter and production facilities are at 27 South Maple St., Bellingham (508-966-4141. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Web site: www.vanmillwork.com)
The Van Millwork Design Center is at 65 Crawford St., Needham 781-444-8744; E-mail: email@example.com. Hours at the Design Center are: Mon. - Fri. 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. and Sat. 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Van Millwork Cape Cod & Islands Sales Office & Showroom -Summerfield Park, 800 Falmouth Road (Rte. 28N), Mashpee. 508-539-1005; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Van Custom is at 225 Industrial Road, Fitchburg - 978-353-7775; Email: email@example.com
Mike Jones at Custom Home Interiors can be reached at 617-549-5253.