Architectural Millwork
August 15, 2011 | 12:04 am UTC

Winning Project Incorporates the Distinguishing Style of Biedemeier

Home office ‘period’ pieces make a big impression in the architectural millwork category.

By Lisa Whitcomb

When Jay Speetjens accepted a job to make built-in home office furniture and millwork for a penthouse condo in Florida, he did so realizing the challenge of doing an installation 13 hours away from his shop, J. Speetjens Inc. in Greensboro, NC. But the distance and installation challenges were not even in the forefront of his mind. Instead, he was focused on the demanding prospects of fulfilling his client’s desire to have a home office where “workspace [would] be functional as well as beautiful,� says Speetjens. The final project won first place in the architectural millwork category of this year’s Design Portfolio Awards competition.

The design had to provide space and wire management capabilities for a laptop, docking station, keypad, printer, fax machine, cable modem and various other office accessories. Above all, it had to be aesthetically pleasing to the homeowner. But ample storage space also was a key issue.

Having decided upon the Biedemeier style, Speetjens says, “I researched the materials and design elements that were used for that style period. [Then I] considered what we were trying to accomplish in the space provided. I aspired to come up with a comprehensive design that neither copied elements of previous work verbatim, nor broke away from the character that distinguishes the style.�

Speetjens met this challenge head-on with ingenuity. He says that the cabinet construction itself was pretty straightforward. Face frames were biscuited and glued to plywood boxes.

Architectural Millwork

Name: J. Speetjens Inc.
Greensboro, NC
Year Established: 1992
No. of Employees: 3
Shop Size: 3,000 sq ft
Specialty: Custom furniture, cabinets and architectural millwork.

The cabinetry was engineered in a modular fashion, so it would be easier to transport and install. All components were assembled on-site with KD fittings, then leveled, scribed to the floors and walls, and trimmed.
The project was stained with a custom mix of Solar Lux NGR stain and was finished with Guardsman precatalyzed lacquer. Speetjens says that all surfaces were painstakingly rubbed out by hand.

However, for the cherry veneer work, the shop had to develop a proprietary system to get the grain to waterfall seamlessly down the fronts. The cherry veneer was figured, quarter, curly and flat cut. The shop used black costello veneer for the inlay lines and solid cherry lumber for the moulding and substrates. Many species of underlaid woods also were utilized, including basswood for face frames, doors, drawer faces and upper pilaster substrates; Russian birch plywood for the top substrates, bookcase partitions and shelves; select white maple for the base cabinet construction and maple for the dovetail drawer boxes.

The timeless elegance of the Biedemeier style lent itself to the incorporation of such stately characteristics as fluting, pilasters, pediments and ebonized cherry mouldings. The lower pilasters were tapered in two dimensions and the curve of the capital was integral. The fluting also was tapered. The faces of the pilasters were veneered with quartered curly cherry. Ebonized cherry mouldings wrap the base and the capital.

Upper pilasters were veneered in bookmatched curly quartered cherry. The arrow corner inlays were laid up with black costello and West System epoxy. The pilaster bases are a laminated black costello plinth applied on top of a quartered cherry border that surrounds an ebonized field.

The tops were laid up with flat cut curly cherry fields surrounded by a black line and a wide quartered cherry border. The top’s edges were banded with crossgrain quartered cherry, and the corners were inlaid with black costello and epoxy composite.

“The pediment has a bookmatched flat-cut field surrounded by a black line and a wide quartered cherry border,� says Speetjens, adding that the bookmatching in the project was done so that the grain echoed the shape of the feet, as well as the capitals of the pilasters.

However, Speetjens adds, “The most unique design element of the project is the upper pilasters. The pilasters are square in cross-section and are rotated 90 degrees from the front line. Because of this, the crown moulding wraps the top in a very dramatic fashion. Add to that the corner inlays and the built-up veneer work of the plinths, and you get a stunning composition.�

The finesse of Speetjens’ Biedemeier design is reflected in an office that not only sings with the pride of yesteryear’s European charm, but dances with today’s world of practicality.

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