Online shopping has transformed just about every product America sells. It started with books, sure, but now it seems like every brick-and-mortar store is becoming obsolete, no matter how essential and personal the purchase. Even home furnishings like kitchen cabinets have started to fall prey to the trend. Why stand in line at Home Depot for supplies and spend a frustrating weekend trying to make your own cabinets when you can order something to your exact specs and have it delivered?
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way with everything. Kitchen cabinets and countertops are one of those items still best done locally and handmade, unless you want some inferior-grade marble in your cooking area that chips and stains, or some flimsy cabinet made of Chinese birch that’ll fall apart in a few months. Fortunately, Oklahomans still have several great local options to choose from, the best of which may be Oklahoma City’s The Carpenter Shop.
Don’t let the plain-Jane name fool you. The Carpenter Shop does it all, and does it to spec — not just countertops and cabinets, but vanities, bookcases, entertainment centers, and any and all kitchen and bathroom remodeling. With over 20 years in OKC, they have a great rep, and though their master carpenter got his start decades ago handling traditional Old World distressed cabinets, they’ve since branched out into the increasingly popular European frameless style. Bring in your own design (or designer), or have them help you around the rough spots in your floor plan themselves, they’re incredibly flexible; they’re as concerned with utilitarian use of space as they are with colir and grain. Best of all, they can tell you how to maximize your style and efficiency while keeping costs down. And while they present themselves as cabinet artisans first and foremost, their selection of countertops materials is exhaustive — the owner literally wrote the book on interior countertop design, having penned a section of the school text most interior decorators cut their teeth on, and he’s an expert in granite, quartz, Corian, Formica, soapstone, laminate, and all kinds of marble. Sometimes handmade is not only aesthetically better but a smarter purchase, and The Carpenter Shop is living proof.
Like so many other aspects of the American home, handcrafted furniture is a trend forever on the way out or the way in, and happily, the pendulum seems to be swinging back the correct way in recent years, now that the outlet furniture craze and those celebrity designer lines are burning themselves out. The eternal question remains: Why go through the trouble of finding a neighborhood that fits your personality and a floor plan that matches your lifestyle, then filling your home with furnishings that aren’t only generic but destined for obsolescence?
For Oklahomans, who still like to think of themselves as guardians of that pioneer spirit, there are a number of great artisans to choose from, but the best may be Oklahoma City’s Cooper St. Wood Co. Using only reclaimed and recycled wood, they specialize in tables, chairs, bookcases and consoles so unique and personal that they can only be viewed by appointment. (Their modus operandi isn’t driven by snobbery, either; cutting out the showroom allows them to sell handcrafted items at comparable chain prices, although they do open up their warehouse to the public from time to time with a little advance notice.)
Their bone-inlay collection of dressers and chests, in particular, is unlike anything else in the region, and it’s therefore their signature set. That prestige is reflected in the prices, but when you factor in the relative sturdiness of their product, the excess dollars melt away. Sure, Cooper St. furniture looks raw and real, pieces of living folk art, but they’re also built to be passed down, not just utilized. Want furniture that makes you feel like you’re creating a legacy of your own instead of just a place to park your stuff? Then Cooper is where you want to be; their products give the feel of real permanence, not just utility.