When Judy Engel and Peter Schulzetenberg hired Gonyea Homes to build their new house in Golden Valley, they had one unusual request: All the cabinets would be a DIY project.
Schulzetenberg suspects the contractor’s initial reaction was dubious.
“I’m sure he thought, ‘The homeowner wants to do the cabinets?’ ” he said. “They were nice enough to let me.”
Fortunately, Schulzetenberg was more than up to the job. As owner of JPS Woodworking (jpswoodworking.com), he’s crafted cabinets and custom furniture for many clients, often working with exotic woods that make a statement, such as African bubinga. “I try to steer people to something a little different,” he said.
For his own kitchen, he chose Italian ebony, a man-made wood product with a distinctive grain that comes in large sheets. Combined with espresso-stained maple floors, granite countertops and a backsplash made of stainless-steel tile, the new kitchen has the modern, minimalist look that the couple both favor.
“It was a collaboration,” said Engel, an attorney, of the design. “We like sleek lines. A lot of Peter’s furniture is modern Scandinavian.”
The timetable for installing the cabinets was tight. “We thought he had eight weeks,” said Engel. But he ended up with only four, or risk delaying the project.
So Schulzetenberg took a monthlong hiatus from his business and spent long hours working on his own home.
“It was a full month of 12-hour days,” he said.
In addition to the kitchen, he also crafted the bathroom cabinets, and designed and built most of the couple’s wood furniture, including their redwood burl and mahogany dining table with bubinga panels, their bubinga coffee table and a distinctive side table made of exotic wood cut into precise triangles to form a geometric pattern.
But he stopped short of making their dining chairs, which came from Room & Board.
“It’s easy to make a good-looking chair,” he said. “It’s very difficult to make a chair that’s good-looking and comfortable.”
A family affair
Other family members pitched in to create other unique features for the couple’s new home. Engel and Schulzetenberg had picked out a distinctive modern chandelier made of lightweight glass balls for their staircase. To complement it, they designed an unusual metal staircase with a curved railing and circular cutouts, then handed it off to Schulzetenberg’s father, Jack, who owns a metal-fabricating business in South Dakota. “They normally make truck parts,” said Engel.
Peter’s dad’s hobby is stained glass, so he made them a coordinating glass entry window as a housewarming gift.
Peter’s brother, an electrician, helped with the wiring for their smart home. “Everything is hooked into one brain in the basement,” said Engel. “You can operate everything on iPhones and iPads. It was really a family affair.”
Engel loves many features of their new home, including a three-season sunroom with huge outdoor TV. “We really like outdoor living,” she said.
But the kitchen remains her favorite spot. What’s her favorite thing about it? “That my husband built it — and he cooks in it,” she said. “He built all these cabinets. That makes it special for me. I look at it and know how hard he worked. I’m so proud of him.”
After they moved in, Engel assured him that there was no need to hang onto their packing boxes. “I said, ‘You can get rid of every box. The only box we need is a pine box to move me out.’ I’m never leaving this house.”