Ally Coulter: The Impact of Millwork

Architectural millwork is often the first thing you see upon entering a space. Carefully used, gorgeous millwork can be a primary tool to communicate design intent and produce atmosphere—an important goal of our work at Ally Coulter Designs.

When I relocated to the East Coast, I did extensive research on different construction and building firms. I came across Woodmeister Master Builders, and found their attention to detail and quality of craftsmanship to be at an exceptional level. Their superb management of projects, and the option of using their on-site architectural team, make a designer’s life much easier and leave our clients yearning for more.

One of my most rewarding collaborations with Woodmeister was work on the sales unit of  the Residences at W Boston. Together we created beautiful custom shelving, clean bases, and crown moldings. One of my favorite historical architects, David Adler, inspired the metal inlay detail that we used to enhance the high-gloss black woodwork. The black-and-stainless-steel motif was carried throughout the unit and especially emphasized in the modern kitchen and bath. The overall feel was very strong, and it evoked masculinity.

All photos courtesy of Ally Coulter Designs and Woodmeister Master Builders.

Another exquisite example of a joint project with Woodmeister was for a unit in the Residences at Mandarin Oriental in New York. Here we created a custom, retractable dining table from stunning Macassar ebony and polished nickel. The table glides out to extend easily from seating two to comfortably seating four. It’s a practical and beautiful space-saving idea for a New York City apartment. Woodmeister fabricated this piece from start to finish and executed the installation flawlessly.

A more recent collaboration was for my football lounge at the 2013 Holiday House NYC (see more about it here)—an exemplary design partnership. We constructed a fabulous, ten-foot bar from solid wood covered in black lacquer. The top is silver leaf, protected by glass; leather and metal nail heads detail the edges. The sides and front of the bar include glass shelving and black glass inlay, not to mention nickel and brass accents throughout. It is a stunningly special piece that really helped make the room.

Millwork projects by other design firms have inspired our own vision for clients. Here are a few rooms by fellow architects and interior designers that I find impressive and informative.

This closet was designed by Woodmeister in conjunction with Ned Jalbert Interior Design. The detail in the woodwork, the height of the storage space (and the number of drawers!), the ornate, chandelier-like light fixtures, and the contrast provided by the center granite-and-dark-wood islands make this a dream closet fit for a princess.

This Joseph Louis Design kitchen is fresh and clean, sleek and chic—a perfect example of a modern collaboration done right. The simplicity of black stools and white cabinetry against a beautiful herringbone floor impressed me. The floor is not the only geometrical pattern in this kitchen. Notice the edginess of the squares and rectangles outlining the refrigerator, drawers, and cabinets. I am fond of the use of stainless steel as well. This space is a perfect, simple background for fine food and fine wines.

Last but not least, LaFreniere Architects and Woodmeister together designed the ideal custom office space. The sleek custom cabinetry was made with quartered figured movingui wood and ribbon-stripe sapele. The onyx desktop provides the nicest accent against the wood surfacing—it is beyond gorgeous and my absolute favorite! Who needs onyx jewelry when you have a full desktop?

From tiny nooks to grand ballrooms, beautiful millwork—wainscoting, paneling, built-ins, custom brackets, moldings, and more—can be the recipe for rooms of real distinction.

—Ally Coulter

Ally Coulter is principal of Ally Coulter Designs in Newport, Rhode Island. After getting her design start at Ralph Lauren Home in Beverly Hills, she has since undertaken projects on both East and West coasts and has had her work featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Traditional Home, Design New England, the Boston Globe, New York Cottages & Gardens, New York Spaces, and Boston Common, among other publications.

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