The new custom: Carpenter Jeff Saine solves problems in wood


Photo: Christian Hommel Photo: Christian Hommel

Jeff Saine has worked with wood for as long as he can remember. In high school, he spent most of his time in the wood shop and even helped his English teacher build a Japanese-style house on Lopez Island in his native Washington his senior year. After graduating from college with a degree in anthropology (“which automatically qualified me to be a woodworker,” he said), he moved to Charlottesville, built guitars for a year, and was a carpenter and cabinetmaker before opening Saine Cabinetry in 2005. His Charlottesville shop specializes in everything from exterior millwork elements to detailed furniture pieces to, of course, custom cabinetry, which, he said, doesn’t have to be an outrageously expensive venture. “Support your local artisan/craftsman in general,” he said. “Invest in an heirloom. We’re dwindling.”

Photo: Courtesy Jeff Saine
Photo: Courtesy Jeff Saine

Describe your aesthetic in five words or less.

Complex minimalism.

Where do you stand on form versus function? 

Much of what I make is for people who would like a functional piece of furniture, or cabinetry that is designed within a set of functional parameters. Then I stuff in as much “form” as I can get away with.

What would you say is your specialty? 

Well I would say that my specialty would be the process of solving problems in wood. “Can you make me a desk that can double as a drawing table and a bed with a remotely operated top that goes up and down, with matching chair, made out of sassafras and copper, and if possible could it butter my toast?” That sort of thing…

What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever made? 

One of my favorite pieces of furniture is on my website titled “Tansu in the Round.” It takes the basic elements of Japanese Tansu cabinetry translated to a curved form. It’s nice because it uses multiple mediums such as bronze, soapstone, leather, a mechanized lift, and wood.

What’s the first thing you ever made?

A wooden go-cart.

What’s the process like for creating a new piece for a client? Does someone come to you with an idea and you run with it? Or is it more of a collaboration? 

The process is about listening to the client. Then it’s very much about collaboration. Some people have very specific thoughts about what they want, while other people are open to a variety of ideas and suggestions. It depends on the project. With kitchens, it’s very much about how things function and flow efficiently in a way that will fit well with its surroundings in the home.

Get in touch

Thinking about a custom project? Head to to learn more about Saine’s work.