Greg Paolini wasn’t supposed to be a woodworker, although he did grow up in a late-19th-century farmhouse filled with quarter-sawn oak mouldings and Arts & Crafts-era trim, in Buffalo, New York. Greg followed his parent’s advice and majored in mechanical engineering, then went to work in the automobile industry.
He could never get that childhood woodwork out of his mind, though. He’d inherited some hand tools and started making furniture at the age of 14 (his first piece was a trestle table). Finally, in 2006, following his heart, Greg opened a woodworking shop in the historic, artisan-friendly city of Asheville, North Carolina.
The Buffalo area has a strong Arts & Crafts heritage, so Greg found that period a natural focus. He became a member of the Roycrofters-At-Large Association, then was chosen as a juried Roycroft Artisan. He keeps Stickley’s approach in mind: Most of Greg’s pieces are made by hand—with hand planes, carving gouges, and chisels—but machinery is employed when it doesn’t compromise the integrity of the project. “My workshop has no robots,” he jokes, “only people.”
Greg Paolini and a crew of nine talented craftspeople produce fine furniture, from Morris chairs to desks inspired by Greene & Greene. But they also build and restore Arts & Crafts homes. Period-inspired kitchens are in fact a specialty. “It’s challenging,” he says; “kitchens are central to our lives today, but they were not emphasized in early-20th-century houses.” To design useful kitchens, his approach starts with “form follows function.”
“I ask the clients to compile an idea book. How do they want to use the space? Do they have specialty appliances? Will they eat meals in the kitchen or just drink coffee at a counter?” Good design means “junk drawers are out,” he says; instead he designs “drop zones” for keys and mail and the cell-phone charger. A rough layout is given to the client for review during discussion of the schedule and budget.
Paolini cabinets run from painted and distressed to clear-finished hardwoods. Greg’s favorites are cherry and alder: “they cut nicely.”
Gregory Paolini Design