Dave Hadley takes a creative approach to creating high-end custom cabinetry.

Watch David Hadley give insight into his custom computer cabinet design, which features hand-carved inlays that create a tree pattern to soothe weary computer users putting in long hours. The bottom center is actually a chair that pulls out when needed.

View web exclusive pictures featuring more of Hadley's work here.

Virginia Beach, VA, is a bustling suburban area that is home to the annual East Coast Surfing Championships, three military bases, the longest bridge/tunnel complex in the world (the Chesapeake Bay Bridge/Tunnel) and of course, the longest pleasure beach in the world. The area is also home to thousands of affluent homeowners who build exclusive residences on the shore front and in the area. When these customers need custom woodwork, they can turn to another long-time resident: David Hadley.

Hadley is an energetic and personable individual, who first got into woodworking when, as a teenager, he inherited his grandfather’s tools and began turning wood on a lathe.

Throughout his early life he worked all sorts of different jobs, such as making signs and working with boats. He says that is how he learned the important lessons that he still uses to this day in business. Case in point: hard work, attention to detail, striving for perfection, finding a better way to do things, and a professional and considerate attitude toward others served Hadley well, as he worked his way up in his first major career, eventually owning his own successful cable company.

The lucrative cable business earned him an abundant living, he says, and satisfied his drive to be the boss. But the hours weren’t conducive to family life, nor did the cable business fill his desire to express himself creatively. When he returned to his first love, custom woodworking, Hadley decided to combine his skills at organization, estimating and planning with his innate artistic eye.

With his woodworking business, like his cable company, he also found success. One early high-profile success was his extensive interior woodwork for Aldo’s Ristorante, one of the premier fine dining establishments in the area.

Hadley produced these granite-topped outdoor cabinets out of composite decking material.

One of a Kind

He calls his company Custom Cabinets by Hadley, with “Custom” being the opportune word. He admits that he would never be happy simply “building boxes” and revels in the opportunity to create new and interesting designs that take the initial customer request and add the “wow” factor.

“On any kitchen job I go on,” he says, “it’s already built in my head once the customer tells me what they want. It’s just a matter of getting it out of my head and into the shop.

“The gears are always spinning,” he continues. “I’m calculating how I’m going to build this product in the most feasible way.”

Hadley’s ability to take the customer’s ideas and launch them to a whole new level has resulted in unique pieces like the one-of-a-kind computer station that he is currently building for one customer, who wanted a computer desk for his home office that didn’t look like a typical computer desk.

This huge wall unit is made with all hardwoods. The face frames, stiles and rails are green poplar. The background is black limba, while the door panels are planed maple overlaid with mappa burl veneer. The floating, hand cut panels are held in place by Brazilian cherry strips, and the cabinets above are backed with NuMetal’s “Patina Autumn Leaves” metal laminate. All electronics are hidden, and the computer screen will lower with the flip of a switch.

Another unusual feature is a built-in chair, which pulls out when needed, but is camouflaged within the structure itself when not being used.

In his life and work, Hadley expresses a motto: “Some are born to greatness, others strive to achieve it through perfection in their craftsmanship.” He prides himself on doing the latter.

“Some people think outside the box,” Hadley says. “The problem is, they think 6 inches outside the box. When I think, I am so far outside the box that one would need the Hubble Space Telescope to see where my thought process takes me.”

A New Approach

Hadley has characteristically also come up with a new solution for building outdoor cabinets, to take advantage of this growing market niche. For homeowners looking for a wood appearance with less maintenance and potentially longer life, Hadley uses composite decking material, which he painstakingly resaws to size and fits with stainless steel hardware.

This decking material (brand names include Verdana, Trex, Timbertech, EverGrain, etc.) comes in a wide range of colors and simulated woodgrain. Hadley says the material is easy to work with, inflicts minimal wear and tear on equipment, and can be carved easily to meet customer requirements for the unique and artistic. His only problem has been finding a manufacturer who will produce the boards in 4-foot-by-8-foot size.

“I tell people that my business card should read ‘Dave Hadley, Problem Solver,’” Hadley says. “I’m all about solving the problem. But ultimately I love doing high-end cabinet work.”

“I think way outside the box,” he adds. “When most people say they think outside the box, they are maybe an inch outside the box. When I say it, I mean I am in the next galaxy.”

With a Little Help From His Friends

Hadley says that his work is made possible through the help and support of a network of suppliers.

"The masterpiece is a combination of vision and good support from those in your circle," he says. "Wurth Wood Group is in my circle, Cabinetmakers Hardware in my circle, Mattos (Pro) Finishes in my circle, Home Depot 4614 in my circle. It's just how it is. I can't do it all on my own, so I find people that value honesty and integrity, and with their help we make the circle go around."

He adds that his family also plays an integral role in his creative process.

"I would not be able to do what I do without the support of my family, Donna and Annamarie, who know I must create," he says.