The beautiful handcrafted cabinetry and furniture of Portsmouth resident Chuck January can be found in homes across New England. The married father of two acquired knowledge of the craft when as a young college graduate he worked for a Providence contractor and was given valuable advice: “Keep your eyes and ears open and learn” from two older master carpenters on the crew. Chuck earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from the former Southeastern Massachusetts University (Now UMASS Dartmouth) and has been self-employed for the last 14 years. Recently Chuck has enjoyed sharing his knowledge and skill as an instructor in the Carpentry Apprenticeship program at The Rhode Island Construction Training Academy in Pawtucket. In addition to making cabinetry for every room of the house, which he installs himself, Chuck also paints decorative furniture in the Italian Tradition on commission and does furniture refurnishing and repair.
What room means the most to your customers?
The kitchen is the most popular and most important room to my custom- ers. It brings the highest return of investment for resale. I do cabine- try for both renovation projects and new construction.
What are the trends for kitchen cabinetry?
Cherry is still the most popular wood with maple close behind. Cherry has a beautiful warm glow and picks up a great patina. I love to work with it. But many are going with painted cabinets, white the most popular color. People are starting to get into some gentle hues of yellows and greens. The shaker-style is still the most requested. A new trend in the last five years is to get away from boxy traditional cabinets and use some architectural elements, round feet or bracket detail or arches to soften the look. There is a trend to use different colors and styles in the kitchen. The island might be a piece of furniture or might use a worktable converted to fit a sink or cook top. It is a very eclectic look. To maximize kitchen space, cabinets now are going to the ceiling and very recently I have been doing some toe kick space drawers.
What brand and finish of paint do you use and recommend?
I almost always use Benjamin Moore and I recommend a satin finish. I don’t like anything too glossy because it shows too many imperfections and I think it looks tacky. Flat is difficult to keep clean. I always used to use oils, but for the past year and a half I have been using the Benjamin Moore new water based product Aura paint, which dries fast, is washable and gives a beautiful finish.
What is helpful to know before starting the kitchen renovation process?
People usually have a sense of what they want. The first thing I will ask them: have they seen a kitchen that interests them? Do they have pictures? If they are working with an architect. The decisions about the layout of the mechanics of the space and where things go are pretty standard. I work with the customer on the aesthetics. I recommend making it easier for the homeowner if they are living in the house that they don’t touch their kitchen until mine is ready to be delivered. Although it is more difficult to take my measurements with everything still in place I try to create the least impact on them.
How popular are bathroom vanities?
They are the second most popular for me to make. The vanity is about maximization of space. It has to be utilitarian with as many drawers as possible. Cherry wood again is most popular, although in the last few years I’ve done a lot of mahogany.
What is the most elaborate piece you have created?
Dressing room cabinetry can get very elaborate and I do a lot of that. But the most elaborate piece was probably a kitchen island I built to mimic the look of a boat, which had curved rails, foldable seating and boating hardware built in. I created it in one piece in mahogany. It was designed by an architect and was a beautiful piece.
How does your work make you feel?
I have to create. That is who I am. As a child growing up I was fascinated watching construction crews. My pa- ternal grandfather was a carpenter so it a genetic part of me. Whether it is art or cooking, I need to create. It was a natural progression to work in carpen- try. I always have and still get a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction when I finish a piece. So many years later I get a thrill when I deliver a piece and see the happiness of the customer. It’s what keeps me excited about going to work every day.
Chuck January | 15 Gooding Avenue, Unit 11 Bristol | 401-474-6175