5 Questions: Jon Van

February 4, 2015

Jon Van of Van Millwork reflects on the work of providing doors, moldings, stairs, mantels, built-ins, and the many other architectural details that contribute so much to a home.

Text by Kyle Hoepner    Photography by Webb Chappell

Jon Van

What, typically, is your role in a design team assembled to create a new room or house?

In general, our job is to assist the design team in finding the most elegant and cost-effective solution to meet their design goals. We offer feedback and make product suggestions based on our knowledge and experience. Take interior doors, for instance. There are many factors to consider in choosing a door: the design, of course, but also the type of construction—how it is manufactured—and different price points. Then there are issues of availability and lead time, especially if people don’t start looking at interior finish until very late in the project (which can be a big mistake).

How has the role of millwork companies changed over the years you’ve been in the business?

In the beginning, which for me was more than thirty years ago, we were working from a much more limited palette of choices. Millwork was regarded as a commodity, with most builders using very similar products. As home prices have surged over time, homeowners have increasingly viewed their homes as their primary center for socializing and entertainment. People who spend more time in their home want it to be more than just four walls and protection from the weather; they want it to reflect their individual tastes and lifestyles. So now our role in the process is to help our clients achieve the look and feel they’re after.

What is the most exciting project Van Millwork has worked on recently?

One that comes to mind is a lakefront home in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The design called for a blending of wood and steel. Collaborating with the architect and homeowner, we integrated stainless-steel rods and wire into a balustrade and used Santos Mahogany for a plank ceiling and wrapped beams. The result was a distinguished and stunning interior.

Your company is unique in having a physical design center that includes nine rooms showcasing different styles of decoration and millwork. How has this resource been used?

For the building and design community, our center can be a “millwork lab,” where everyone can view various trim applications—doors, moldings, stair parts, hardware—and see the effect they will have in a home. Since interior trim is one of the most important factors in the look and feel of a house, this becomes a powerful tool for choosing the most appropriate products for their project. Builders can also send their own customers to the design center to preview the variety of interior treatments displayed. This allows them to focus on construction instead of chasing products and information, and lets homeowners feel confident that they’ve made the right decisions.

Are there new materials or techniques you foresee becoming popular in New England?

New England homeowners have historically had a very traditional approach to interior finish; change comes slowly in this region! That being said, we have noticed some trends over the past few years. Stairways now often feature box newels, rather than turned posts, with balusters that are similarly less ornate. Contemporary and Arts & Crafts styles have influenced moldings as well, which means a trend toward simpler and cleaner lines. And some door manufacturers have introduced bold new designs that feature glass, fabric, even leather inserts.