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A long time friend of mine happens to be a very promising architect in the area. He and I have collaborated on many of each others projects.  Keith Phillips, of The Think Shop, is a name you will most definitely be seeing often on this site, and in many other design media. Keith and his wife are friends with a couple that bought a big beautiful old home in Detroit's Indian Village.

The Cramer's have done a huge amount of work to update their home. When it came time to update the heating and cooling system, they were left with a bunch of empty cavities, where the old radiators used to be, under pretty much every window in the house. They asked Keith if he knew anybody that could fill the now empty old casework with some new built-ins, that would look as if they had always have been there. Without hesitation my name was given and the planning began.

The custom, one off, design features from the time this home was built meant that each new piece was one of a kind, from the beautiful octagonal bay, which became a window seat with storage below, to the oddly shaped niche that became a writing desk below their beautiful leaded glass windows.  

I used quarter sawn, white oak, also known as tiger oak, as the primary material for all of the built-ins, that numbered 5 on the main floor.

To compliment the new furniture I installed a 3 piece crown, picture hanging molding in the 2 large front rooms.

This is one home in which I was truly honored to be able to exercise my craft. I very much look forward to working with the Cramer's on their second and third floors.


I do still enjoy the occasional laborious outside framing project, especially when there's the remote opportunity to do some freestyle design on the fly. The Feldman's thought they just needed some rotten wood replaced on their outside deck and lakeside patio but what they didn't know is that the rot was not limited to the top surfaces, the main beams had literally disintegrated  and the tree growing through the middle of the lakeside patio was the only thing keeping it from sliding into the lake.

I began to think about how I could make something that was relatively mundane into something that might even draw them to begin to use it as a destination, instead of just to access their boat dock.  I came up with a simple and clean design that is not only very functional, but is interesting to look at. The new custom benches are supported by a series of posts that are actually attached mechanically to the understructure and penetrate the surface of the deck at the angle of the seat back. The seat is supported by a 2 x 4 that was mortised in to the side of each main support post so as not to create a bulky assembly that would obstruct the views of the water. Lastly, I provided the new option of a couple of floating end tables, one in each corner. The unsafe, eye sore is now a great place to enjoy a great view.


Tom and Linda set out to find a dining room table suitable for their new room and some  custom handrails to replace their outdated ones.  Being avid art enthusiasts and collectors, anything brought into their home had to fit. They were referred to me and the connection was made. They let me know that they were open to design ideas and suggestions. For the table they wanted a solid hardwood top and steel legs and skirt that were minimal and that it needed to be 10' long. I suggested a table top built of black walnut, with all the boards joined with a continuous sliding dovetail, the entire 10' length of the table. No mechanical fasteners or adhesives.  It took little bar soap and a  couple of  hours to slide the boards together. I then hand planed the top surface for an old world style finish, very little sanding, just good sharp hand tools.

The 6 legs are solid steel 1 1/2" square bar stock that are hand forged down to less then 3/4" at the bottom. The skirt material was given the same hand forged treatment to show the beauty of the metalsmith’s talent with the hammer. The top, legs and skirt were then attached to a welded, steel sub-frame.  The only mechanical fasteners used are those holding the top to the sub-frame. The top was treated to a pure tung oil finish and the steel was hand sealed and burnished with carnauba wax.

The design of the handrails had to fit the overall design of their home. In order to create some cleaner lines, and slim down the bulky appearance of these necessary elements of the house, I chose to wrap the wood stringers and framing at the base of the railings with custom bent steel sheet. Once this decision was made, it only made sense to elongate these elements to create the appearance of a cantilever.  These design elements were very well received. A simple mix of steel tube and bar stock, stainless steel cable and wood was combined to round out the functionality of the railings.

The following year they invited me back to design and build the railing on the front porch and the patio table for the deck. The outdoor table  top is made of pre-cast concrete and the base is made of heavy steel tube and plate as an anchor to support the 300 pound top.

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Matt Michalec • 248.343.5301 • mattmichalec@comcast.net • Royal Oak, MI 48073

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