Christian Woo: Vancouver bespoke woodworker

When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it. You’ll know it’s there, so you’re going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through. - Steve Jobs Garibaldi Highlands Kitchen - Christian Woo

I meet Christian Woo at IDSWest this past fall and I was completely gobb-smacked by his cabinetry, and that description does not even do his work justice. I touched his surfaces, investigated his workmanship, and was completely a kid in a candy store. Woo, a local Vancouverite, is a true bespoke woodworker and has been featured in local mags, and I am certain he wants to keep it that way.

For those who are unfamiliar with the term bespoke, it is a term that describes custom made to the buyers specifications and liking - or tailoring. Consider it like a custom detailed, limited edition, luxury good but the only one of its kind. Designing a bespoke kitchen is a dream come true and I can hardly wait to sink my teeth into the next truly custom kitchen design that falls from the sky onto my precious lap.

While at IDSWest, I had a chance to interview Woo personally and I asked him some pressing questions I had on my mind:

Corey: What is your design aesthetic and how would you describe what you do?   

Woo: I describe my aesthetic as classically modern and minimalist but textural and warm.  I am a woodworker who designs and builds minimalist wood furniture and bespoke cabinetry.

C. I noticed that your work is very linear and very simply styled. Do you think that simple is back en vogue?

W: No,  I believe that well designed pieces that are proportioned, built well, will always be relevant and timeless.  It's my main focus when designing. Create pieces which will always have a place.

C: You did a large, beautiful walnut kitchen in the West End of Vancouver, can you describe your challenges with doing that particular bespoke kitchen?

W: Main challenge with that project was under mounting a very heavy porcelain sink into a wall suspended cabinet. Some grief involved for sure! Other than that, the goal was to create a furniture installation which would function as a kitchen in an open concept layout.

West End Kitchen - Christian Woo

C: Do you every try to grain match?

W: For sure. I layout what's known as a plank match, meaning, planks, veneer or solid that connect laterally. It's not uniform like a slip or book match but displays a more random and controlled graphic.

C: For your other built-in pieces, what inspires you? Is it the home? The homeowner? An authentic style?

W: The work is often a sum of all these parts. I try to always come back to a few fundamentals. Will the form function for the client?  Is the form proportionately suitable for the space? Is the piece enhancing the space? (I hope so! ) Is the work complimentary to its environment? Is it beautiful and will the client love it?

Squamish Custom Home - Christian Woo

C: I work primarily in kitchens and bathrooms. What do you think your work could lend itself to? Do these spaces inspire you?

W: The kitchen is my favorite space in the house. It's the space we celebrate food, drink, socialize with each other. I am so inspired by a well worked kitchen and to be able to design and build these little social spaces is awesome!

C: Why do you work with wood?

W: It was clear to me quite early that I could work with wood. It was something that I had patience for and wanted to always get better at it. It never gets boring. There are always surprises and mistakes to make. The key is being able to fix mistakes well!  I love it so much!

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Thank you to all the amazing people at Canadian Lifestyle and Design Bloggers West for hooking me up with this sweet interview.