One Company, Many Talents
Design ideas and high-end residential casework construction are just two of Residential Dynamics’ abilities.
By Sam Gazdziak
With its ability to produce high-end residential casework and its expertise in veneers and veneer matching, Residential Dynamics is able to bring any design to fruition. Those designs may come from an outside designer, or they may come from its president, Phillip Lucero.
In a home theater Residential Dynamics recently completed, the company was able to take an existing design and augment it. The designer had made a drawing by hand and presented it to Lucero. “The designer had a concept of what he wanted. He was able to rely on us to produce working drawings and shop drawings,” Lucero says. “As the design progressed, we were able to work with our AutoCAD drawings and mature some parts of the design.”
Residential Dynamics of Long Beach, CA, is the wholly owned subsidiary of Terraza Design Group, started by Lucero and partner Walter Myers seven years ago. Lucero manages the woodworking end of the business while his partner oversees the parent company.
The bulk of Residential Dynamics’ work is high-end residential projects, including bar areas, home offices and home theaters. The company currently has six employees, and Lucero says he prefers to have a small shop. “The kind of work we do demands that there isn’t a lot of crazy production work going on; it’s really meticulous work. It’s hard to do that in an environment where there are too many people running around,” he says.
The company’s work is centered in and around the Los Angeles area. It does not do any advertising to the public, marketing itself only to top designers. Being in the L.A. area, Residential Dynamics has had many wealthy and celebrity clients, to the point that the company includes a confidentiality clause in its contract.
The majority of its work has been for remodeled houses, and Lucero says the company frequently gets repeat work from the same house.
“The way we like to look at it is we go in to change a lightbulb and end up rebuilding the house,” says Lucero. “It happens because once they get a look at the kind of work we’re doing and our capabilities, they say that they’re going to do another room, and it ends up building one on top of another.”
The house in which Residential Dynamics built the aforementioned home theater has three completed projects from the company: the theater, a home office and a guest bedroom. A fourth project, a bar area, is currently in development.
One of the strengths of Residential Dynamics is its design abilities. Lucero has a good command of many different design styles, and well as a large design library from which to research. He also takes full advantage of resources found on the Internet.
Lucero was involved in one home office project where a client was not happy with the original designer’s plans. He was invited to submit his own ideas. Lucero went through the house and took photographs and made sketches of the area, to look at the constraints. “Based on the house and other things, I went through and said, ‘I’d like to do this in a Biedermeier style,’” he says. “So I went online and downloaded from museums conceptual pictures they could examine.”
The finished piece has the columns and other attributes found in a Biedermeier-style piece, but the client requested a lighter wood than the orange that is normally used.
Lucero happened to have a flitch of quilted maple in the shop. Residential Dynamics gets its veneers exclusively from David R. Webb. Lucero says that working with exotic veneers is a company specialty, and he will sometimes buy veneers without a job in mind if they are particularly exceptional quality. In this instance, he suggested the maple for the home office, and the owner quickly agreed.
“That’s a typical situation, where there was an existing concept out there, and we took it, made suggestions, came up with a style and bounced that off the designer and the homeowner, to come up with a project that we thought worked better for them. And it’s a really stunning piece,” he says.
Lucero also uses the Net to learn about components that will be incorporated into the pieces. Designers tell him what kind of sink or refrigerator will be used in the kitchen, and he downloads the dimensions directly off the manufacturer’s Web site.
Residential Dynamics charges a design fee when coming up with a new design. So if the deal falls through, the clients have a design, and the work spent on it has not been totally wasted. “We’ve evolved to where that’s a necessity,” explains Lucero. “Otherwise you end up doing a bunch of work, and somebody else comes along and says, ‘Thirty thousand dollars for that room? I’ll do it for $15,000.’ They can’t do the level of work that we’re doing, but it can happen.”
While building and installing its casework, Residential Dynamics also gets called upon to make sure other aspects of the project run smoothly. Lucero has worked with general contractors in remodeled homes to ensure that the casework will fit properly. He has also made sure that homeowners would have enough electrical outlets to plug in their audio/video equipment. One project even had the company coordinating with the client’s marble supplier, so that a stain on the slab he was bringing into the house would be covered by the casework Residential Dynamics was making.
“It usually happens that our scope increases when they discover we have a talent to be able to perform various tasks,” explains Lucero.
Residential Dynamics is also a general contracting firm, so Lucero and his employees are able to spot things that need to be changed before they get to be a problem. “That’s why we take so many photographs and we have so much interaction,” Lucero says. “It cuts down the ‘I forgots.’”
Residential Dynamics’ work is strictly high-end, not only because of the materials used, but also because of the intricacy and involvement of the work. The home theater the company recently completed was a $230,000 project.
The theater, with enough seating for a dozen or so people, is made with sapele pomelle and macasser ebony veneer, all bookmatched from one panel to the next. The columns are also matched, as is the wainscot.
“No matter where you are, you’re looking at matched grain; there’s not a random grain,” says Lucero. “It’s costly for us, because we end up rejecting a lot of material because of how we bookmatch things. We look really hard at what should be matched.”
The theater also has columns with alternating maple and ebony veneers. Speaker surrounds were mounted onto four of them. The tables at the front of the theater were lacquered and hand-rubbed. The original finish was to be high gloss, but it would have thrown up too much light at the screen. Even the entry doors had some intricate work, because one side had sapele pommelle veneer layup in a diamond pattern to match the theater interior, and the other side was made to match the existing raised-panel doors in the house.
It took six months to complete the theater. This was an exception to the rule, as most projects are completed in six weeks.
All of the work, with the exception of finishing, is done in Residential Dynamics’ 4,100-square-foot shop. (The company works with several area finishers.) The company has divided its workplace into two areas, one for machining and one for assembling, laying up veneer and vacuum pressing.
The most recent addition to the shop was a Griggio widebelt sander from Laguna Tools, which was bought to replace an older Performax sander, also from Laguna. In addition, Residential Dynamics has a Robland table saw and a Casadei edgebander from Laguna. The company has a Mercury vacuum press to bend panels, using bags as large as 8 feet by 12 feet.
Employees are responsible for making their own cutlists, once they have the final drawings. They also look at the veneers and decide what will be used. Lucero says that his employees may have prior woodworking knowledge but are also trained on the job. “Our work requires more than average cabinetmaking skills. You don’t find people who have this kind of experience,” he says. “You have to train them and help them see exactly what you’re after.”
Sales for Residential Dynamics have been strong, around the $450,000 to $500,000 mark for the last few years. Lucero says he likes the company’s position as a high-end furniture shop. “I never wanted a shop that just cranks out wood products,” he says.
“I want to design pieces that are exceptional,” he adds. “I want to work with different designers. In Los Angeles, there are always celebrities and others that want high-end furniture, so it makes my ability to get that work a little easier.”
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