Have a quirky corner? Just ask Kevin.
A prairie boy who came to Ontario to further his studies in design and cabinet making, Kevin Karst brings out the best in one of nature’s most beautiful gift — wood. Using only wood from domestic trees, he designs and fashions custom cabinetry and furniture, and does home renovations from his studio, Kevin Karst Design Inc., in Toronto’s east end.
Kevin started working with wood in the 1970’s. After operating his own shop in Assiniboia, Saskatchewan, he came to Ontario to study industrial design at Ottawa’s Carleton University. He has a Journeyman’s qualification in cabinetmaking and continues to advise at the university. He and his wife, a professor at York University, live in Cabbagetown.
“Everything we do is custom,” he says, “we work on older homes in Toronto’s downtown core, often Victorian houses, where no dimensions are standard, the ceilings are taller than ‘normal’, and there’re lots of quirky corners.”
Kevin’s favourite woods are walnut and maple, and when he talks about wood, he’s usually talking about the entire tree.
“My approach is to use as much as possible the same tree in order to ensure colour consistency and pattern.”
When working on a large piece, such as a piece of furniture or an entire wall of cabinets, Kevin makes sure that the wood he uses comes from the same tree. He has the mill number the sheets of veneer they cut from each tree so that when Kevin designs the cabinet doors, he can line them up properly.
“A small beauty spot in the wood”, he explains, “will show you the growth process of the tree. You can see the entire ‘story’ of the piece of wood across the cabinet doors.”
He’s particularly proud of one project where 30 feet of cabinetry had to match an additional 20 feet, built two years later. He applies many other techniques for ensuring high quality, durable work, which he learned years ago when working at a high end furniture factory.
With 35 years of experience in woodworking production, Kevin places a high priority on the design process, making sure that clients don’t feel rushed at this stage by not making the design fee a separate hourly rate. “Our clients like to take the time to talk about the design, and be well informed. We hear back that people really appreciate this approach.”
Fifteen years ago Kevin made the commitment to use all water-based and non-toxic solvent and finishes. “It’s so much healthier for those who work in our studio as well as the homes we work in,” he adds. “All the stains used are mixed in the shop.”
Most of Kevin’s work is for kitchens, although he also does a lot of bathrooms, home offices, closets and furniture. He’s also quite happy to start with a small project. “Sometimes people want to try you out first,” he says, “which I understand. We’ve ended with many long term clients who have come back again and again over the years.”
Kevin Karst Design Inc.