BY MARIANNE SCOTT | PHOTOS BY JOSHUA LAWRENCE
A thin film of wood dust coats the floors in Jason Good Custom Cabinets’ workshop in Victoria’s Hillside area. Cabinets under construction are stacked up. Sturdy, red-painted steel wall racks support long slabs of three-quarter-inch, pre-finished plywood, whose laminated strength is the building block for all cabinetry. Woody scents pervade the air. Staff are bustling and a CNC machine is programmed to cut, drill, bore and rout, adding to production accuracy and speed.
Jason Good, 34, has operated his custom cabinet-building business for the past 13 years, and, as his 30 awards attest — 12 of them just last year — his work is considered among the finest by people like Victoria’s Frank D’Ambrosio of D’Ambrosio architecture + urbanism who designed a Telegraph Bay house that Good worked on.
“He understands both quality and design,” says D’Ambrosio. “His millwork is detailed. He picked up on the spirit of the architecture, understands craftsmanship and takes great pride in his company’s work. Besides the meticulous work of the grain-matched walls, he also designed and built a butcher block out of small pieces of different hardwoods. A parquet design, a mosaic. It fit perfectly into the spirit of the place.”
Given Good’s range of talents, his company name is somewhat misleading. He certainly manufactures cabinets for kitchens, bathrooms and laundry rooms, some for standard housing developments, others for new homes and renovations; but his reputation for excellence has grown from integrated projects that include staircases, shelving units, walls clad in wraparound book-matched or grain-matched veneers, interior trim, vanities, breakfast nooks, breakfronts and just about any custom product made of wood. Some of his kitchens and bathrooms are painted in a variety of hues, but white oak, teak, walnut, rosewood, maple, mahogany and other figured woods have a place of honour.
His designs range from traditional styles with carvings, cabriole legs and stained glass to extreme modernism where stark edges, light woods, glossy paints and sleek stainless steel predominate. One bathroom’s details might resemble the curvilinear lines of the Victorian era; another positions its floating, minimalist wash basin on an equally floating strongly figured veneer countertop.
For this contemporary kitchen on Beach Drive, Jason Good used grain-matched rosewood with a subtle oil finish to complement the Super White Waterfall quartz countertop from Stone Age Marble & Granite. To keep the look clean and modern, the cabinetry features either magnetic touch-latch technology or continuous handles.
“Right now, Shaker style and mid-century modern are in vogue, but we always make what the client wants,” says Good. “It’s not the same kitchen or bathroom over and over. We concentrate wholly on our customers’ preferences.”
It Starts in a Garage
Good caught the woodworking bug while attending grade eight at Colquitz Middle School.
“I took a special woodworking program and the teacher, Bruce Summers, allowed us to build our own projects,” he recalls. “We could construct something inspired by our own creativity.”
At age 16, he took two summer jobs: at the former Esquimalt-based Tools and Space — a store patronized by every woodwork enthusiast in the region — and with a cabinet shop providing the millwork for an upscale house.
“In the cabinet shop, I was exposed to high-end millwork,” Good says. “It really caught my fancy. My supervisor, Sergei, who joined my company early on, trained me. Every day, it was on-the-job, hands-on learning.”
After working for five years at Tools and Space, Good, at age 21, was ready to fly on his own. He started his business in the proverbial garage, moving into a larger shop, then sharing space in the building he occupies today and eventually taking over the entire 6,000-square-foot workshop. He now employs 18 people, including his two designers, Claire Reimann and Melissa Orton.
The Personal Touch
Good likes to learn about new materials personally. In fact, he tried one out when he bought and remodelled a home when he and his wife needed more space for the twins they were expecting. The open-concept kitchen/dining area features a large island covered by Neolith — “new stone” — which uses the raw materials found in glass, porcelain and quartz to create a nearly indestructible surface (available at Stone Age Marble & Granite).
“It now has three years of rough use,” says Good. “Even with my daughter and twin boys banging on it, and using colouring materials, it still looks new.” Though Good appears to have a laid-back way in the world, he becomes quite animated when discussing the projects he enjoys the most. “I like to grab really unique jobs,” he says. “The funky, neat designs. The beginning of jobs is fun because you can play with so many concepts. There’s freedom in the early design phase.”
He describes one large project where a Gothic home was designed around the antiques the owners had acquired over decades. As well as creating the kitchen and bathrooms, Good manufactured and installed stained-fir ceiling beams, window frames and wainscoting. Even the kitchen’s ceiling is coffered. But to avoid making the space gloomy, the full wall of cabinets is painted in a sedate and contrasting ivory. The kitchen’s island features integrated Gothic arches and forged pulls. The same pointed arches are found in the powder room’s and master bath’s medicine cabinets. Some of the wainscoting includes such design details as quatrefoils (sculpted four leaves). “The millwork was very detailed,” he says with characteristic understatement.
He lists off other projects: creating a shower lined with matched teak panels and installing white-oak veneer-clad walls in the 7,000-square-foot house with 14-foot ceiling heights in the Telegraph Bay area.
“We had to keep track of all the wraparound matching, around corners into different rooms, in all, 130 wall panels,” he says. “We could absolutely make no mistakes. One slip-up and we’d have to do a whole room over again.”
“I’ve worked with him several times,” says Sandy Nygaard of Nygaard Design, “and he’s not only meticulous but he understands design. He’s super aware of all the connections. As an example, he might ask, ‘Is the tile lineup in keeping with the flow of the other components?’”
Nygaard explains that designers always try to develop complete concepts tailored to their customers’ taste. “But,” she says, “working with Jason actually ‘ups the game.’ He’s aware of your design intentions and has your back. It’s very collaborative. He’ll analyze, say, a kitchen drawing, then call and make useful suggestions.”
Nygaard loves including millwork in her designs, especially in contemporary settings. But for matched veneers there’s a caveat. “Everything has to line up perfectly,” she says. “When it’s well done, it’s gorgeous. If not, it’s a travesty. Jason’s work is always right on.”
And at the core of it all, is a kind of reverence Good has for the material he works with. “Some call wood ‘nature’s work of art,’” he says.
Art Meets Efficiency
Good has installed a sealed, on-site paint shop to ensure the uniformity and thickness of paints sprayed onto cabinets and drawers. He can match any colour of other design elements. In one white-themed kitchen, for example, a lively scarlet cabinet adds bold colour borrowed from the enamelled front of the six-burner stove. In another, walnut panels with a subtle oil finish wrap a calming, white-topped island’s sides.
In order to speed production, Good recently introduced CNC machining (automated machining). “There’s so much construction in Victoria,” he explains. “It’s hard to get skilled staff. And some of the new software gives excellent results. The sanding program, for example, offers a much smoother finish than hand sanding.”
His approach has paid off. Three years ago, he was awarded the (North American) National Kitchen and Bath Association’s gold award for his own home’s “before and after” renovation, and a silver for best contemporary kitchen. In 2016, his shop won 11 gold and a silver from the Vancouver Island Construction Achievements and Renovations of Excellence (CARE).
What distinguishes Jason Good’s millwork from other producers? “We take on more challenging work,” he says. “I try things other companies don’t want to take on. Complicated projects. We face-frame cabinets. Install solid-wood supports for durability. Mitre corners. And we source our plywood and hardwood veneers from Columbia Forest Products, a leader in environmental sustainability. We do our best to stay as high as we can.”
It’s easy to see why his work is considered a step above.