Distinctive Woodwork Inc. builds luxury into residential homes.

For homeowners looking to create luxurious spaces in their homes, the use of built-ins allows them to be creative with unique and beautiful displays. Whether a home office or entertainment center – residential built-ins can provide distinctive storage options in an unobtrusive manner.

Jim Cherubino, president of Distinctive Woodwork in Lumberton, NJ, has spent the last 10 years building this type of seamless luxury into local homes.

Cherubino started out in the industry working in remodeling and home additions. “I didn’t like the cold weather outside, so from there I graduated into a cabinet shop,” he says.

However, after “getting laid off and bumped around a few times,” he says, “I started doing my own stuff in my garage.” That work continued to grow and after three to four years, he moved to his current location just outside of the South Jersey Regional Airport. Cherubino rents space in a commercial building, which houses four other companies. His 4,500-square-foot shop is located on the second floor. Getting raw material up and finished product out usually requires a forklift and utilizing another company’s space downstairs.

Despite the logistical challenges, Cherubino and his three full-time and one part-time employees craft beautiful high-end products for homes valued from $500,000 to $5 million. His mid- to high-end clientele are within a 10-mile radius. “Occasionally, I will do a job at the shore, which is an hour to an hour-and-a-half away,” Cherubino says. “But that is rare.”

Distinctive Woodwork fabricates residential products from libraries, cabinets and vanities to “whatever comes up.” The company does not have a specialty, however, Cherubino says that bars, entertainment centers and home offices are his top sellers.

A variety of wood is used, but cherry, maple, birch and poplar are the most common, with occasional use of mahogany and walnut. Solid wood is used for the face products, including doors and moulding. “We build a top-quality product. We don’t cut any corners; we build it right,” Cherubino says. “It’s very labor-intensive, but it’s a labor of love.”

Distinctive Woodwork fabricated this library from maple solids and plywoods. Features include raised panel walls with applied moulding, fluted pilasters, a five-piece crown and an upper and lower mantle.

Distinctive Woodwork Inc.

Lumberton, NJ

Year Founded: 1995

Employees: 3 full-time; 1 part-time

Shop Size: 4,500 sq ft

FYI: Jim Cherubino does the majority of the company’s design work by hand.

Basic Shop Equipment

Although Cherubino does not consider his shop high-tech, he has a variety of machines including a Casilon sliding table saw, Extrema widebelt sander, Brandt edgebander, 8-inch Delta joiner and sander, Bridgewood planer, Kreg pocket-hole machine, Blum press and Ritter line borer.

Some items, such as doors and some wood carvings are outsourced. “However, we do make some mouldings depending on how big they are,” he says.

Cherubino does most of the finishing in-house using M.L. Campbell pre-catalyzed lacquer and Mohawk stains.

The majority of projects, Cherubino designs by hand. “We have AutoCAD. If it gets more complex or we need angles or curves, we use it,” he says.

Typically when the company works on a project that involves the entire house, a designer has specified it. “When a home owner calls, it’s for one or two items,” he says. Cherubino has cultivated relationships with area designers over the years. Initially, these designers gave him small projects to work on. After they saw how he handled those, they trusted him to do the larger ones.

Having the Right Fit, Building a Bright Future

One demanding aspect of fabricating residential built-ins is making sure everything fits. “One difficult project for us was a library because it involved all four walls and a ceiling,” Cherubino says. “So much has to fit perfectly together and we have to make sure everything is symmetric and square and that everything goes where it’s supposed to and fits like it should.”

Cherubino says he starts out with measurements and rough sketches and constantly refines them until all of the numbers match and all of the designs work with the measurements. For a smoother installation, he always “leaves a little bit of scribe because you have to allow for walls that are out of plumb and floors that are unleveled.”

Although fabricating built-ins can be very challenging, the end result often brings gratification. “We start from nothing, but when the finished product is installed and you step back…it’s awesome,” he says.

Within a year or two, Cherubino says he hopes to get his own building. His new space would include a showroom, featuring a home office, bookcases, pictures and a nice conference table. “I’m renting this second floor and it’s not really an ideal space. I can’t have a showroom here,” he says. Cherubino has already started scouting out new locations, but he is not ready to make the move just yet.

Confident about the direction his company is taking, Cherubino credits much of his success to good employees and determination. “In business it’s a lot of trial and error, a lot of ups and downs. But you’ve got to stay focused and determined.”

This built-in has roped pilasters, raised panel doors and bookshelves with a curved top. Jim Cherubino, president, says that it is important to constantly refine measurements and designs to ensure a smooth installation.
This cherry entertainment center has raised panel doors and sides, half-round fluted columns that pull out for CD/DVD/VHS storage, an arched top with egg and dart moulding and a fabric panel for the speakers. Bars like the one shown are one of the top three sellers for Distinctive Woodwork.

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