Cabinet Company has a 'Bright' Future
August 15, 2011 | 2:04 am UTC
Bright Wood Works' success in the luxury kitchen market niche bodes well for a continued rosy outlook for the company.

Over the past 25 years, Michael Bright has positioned his company, Bright Wood Works Inc. of St. Petersburg, FL, into an interesting niche. The focus for the company is to provide the Tampa Bay area with luxury kitchens, and he means really high-end. “I am talking about kitchens that are absolutely stunning. These kitchens are so elegant in every detail that they elicit the one word response of ‘Wow,’” Bright says.

The product reflects a careful attention to detail that begins with the design process and is sustained through to installation. Kitchens are designed so that appliances meld seamlessly into the cabinetry. Additionally, the finishes are exquisite — and can be elaborate and varied. For example, recent projects have called for a multi-stepped finish, a distressed finish, gold and silver leaf, and antique look-a-likes.

Bright says that a currently popular look is a kitchen with an eclectic collection of elements, giving it the appearance that the space has evolved over several generations. With all this detail comes a hefty pricetag; his kitchens have a retail price ranging from $25,000 to $125,000.

Bright Wood Works is composed of a work force of seven, and Bright says the group has evolved into a real team with the right chemistry and energy needed to excel. Everybody is trained with the skills and mindset to work together interchangeably from the beginning of a project through installation.

Bright adds that installing their own products is an important factor to maintaining quality control. “A well-installed, pre-fabricated set of kitchen cabinets can look better than a poorly installed set of custom cabinets,” he says.

Four years ago, Bright’s wife, Nathalie, joined the team part-time, which he says worked out well. “If there has been anything in the company’s recent memory that could be called a pivotal event, it has to have been Nathalie’s coming on board to take over some of the administrative details so that I can do what I do best, which is getting dirty and doing the woodworking.”

“During the week, I usually get pulled off a machine after about 15 minutes to put out a brushfire,” he adds. “Often, I will come in on a Saturday to work on the machines to avoid interruptions.”

Well-Stocked Workshop Keeps Everything In-House
Bright Wood Works has an 11,000-square-foot workshop with an interesting mix of equipment, including a vintage Delta bandsaw from about 1946, purchased from one of his customers, and recently a Martin T-73 sliding table saw, which Bright praises. “The first time I used it, I felt guilty,” he says. “I didn't want anybody else to see me, because I was getting things done so quickly.”

Also recently, the company purchased a Vac-U-Clamp 5-foot by 10-foot vacuum table and a Steel City 20-inch bandsaw, in order to increase its veneer capabilities, Bright says. Other equipment includes an SCM sliding table saw; four 10-inch table saws; a 12-inch table saw, 24-inch planer and 16-inch joiner, all from Powermatic; plus a Holz-Her edgebander and an SCM 37-inch widebelt sander.

The company has seven shapers, each dedicated to one specific task for door making. The doors are a key element in the design process, Bright says. “It is important for the overall look and quality of our kitchens that the doors flow seamlessly into their surroundings.”

Good Customer Relationships
Bright has established a close working relationship with some of Tampa Bay’s best designers, including a team called Urban
Innovations. Recently, he had the opportunity to collaborate with Urban Innovations to do the kitchen for a husband and wife who are serious art collectors. The kitchen design includes lighted recessed areas to display wall hangings, glass vessels and ceramics.

Bright’s company had responsibility for the kitchen design, and Urban Innovations worked on the rest of the house. They collaborated on the design of a morning bar that pulled together the kitchen and the adjacent family room. The dramatic bar has onyx countertops, a wine refrigerator and a suspended buffet cabinet. The kitchen cabinets feature bamboo with mahogany accents stained a rich color.

In addition to kitchens, Bright Wood Works frequently supplies architectural casework and built-in furniture for an entire house. The company averages between five and six whole-house projects a year. Sixty percent of its work is for new construction, and the balance is for homes that are being remodeled.

So far, the company has not felt the need to advertise, and it was not until 2004 that it established a Web site, “I have a couple of contractors who are keeping me running scared,” Bright says.

Architectural casework and built-in furniture for high-end residences are visually stimulating commodities, and Bright uses the visual in every aspect of running his business. When he is working with designers, contractors or homeowners, he brings to the table his own perspective on design issues.

“I have found that often the easiest way for me to communicate my design ideas is to build a 3-D model that demonstrates my point. Then everybody can see instantly what I am talking about, and we can move toward resolution,” he says. As an example, one recent 3-D model was made to show his idea for a bathroom vanity with gold leaf lattice work.

Bright has become vigilant about documenting his work to assist in his sales and design efforts. For the past two years in particular, he has engaged two professional photographers to document almost every project. “Designing a kitchen is a visual journey. If potential customers can look at images of our previous projects, it can help them figure out what they would like to have in their homes,” he says.

Bright also has discovered that winning national awards lends credence to what the company does. Bright Wood Works received recognition from CWB’s Design Portfolio Awards last year, winning in the Kitchen and Bath category, and also from Sub Zero/Wolf 2004/2005 in the category “Best Use of a 400 Series Wine Refrigerator in a Unique Location.”

“At first, I did not think that these awards were such a big deal; but then when I took a second look and noticed the credentials of the other people who had been recognized, I knew that we were in very good company,” he says.

Bright enjoys being in the niche of high-end luxury kitchens. This way, “The company can be selective and take enormous satisfaction from each and every project done well upon completion.”

This white painted kitchen was done for a customer who wanted an “unfitted” look, as if this was an older home that had undergone several additions and evolved over time.
Company owner Michael Bright says he enjoys being in the niche of high-end luxury kitchens because it allows the company to be selective about the jobs it takes, and because he gets great satisfaction from every well-done job when it’s completed, such as this exquisite contemporary-style kitchen. Islands are a common feature of the high-end kitchens in Bright Wood Works’ market area of Tampa Bay, FL. This example has a rustic feel, with the storage baskets and distressed finish.
Doug Goodrich works in the finishing booth. Beautiful and unusual finishes are one of the hallmarks of Bright Wood Works’ high-end kitchen cabinets. Craftsman David Goldberger works on one of the company's most recent acquisitions, a Martin sliding table saw.

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