When we had final drawings of my vision for our new Funeral Center, step one in creating and extending the feeling of “from our family to yours,” Chelsea and I talked about cabinetry and the wood surfaces we’d like to see in our center. There’s something truly special about custom woodworking and how we feel about a room, a house, or an office building.
We were new to commercial custom and other office furniture, so my first thought was to call Bob Kraus, President of Keystone Millwork in Bryan. We’ve known each other for a long time through Bryan Rotary Club. That, and I firmly maintain the importance of doing business locally and patronizing small family-owned businesses here, friend to friend.
We’d already liked their impressive web site portfolio—their work includes the Brazos County Courthouse, The McNay Art Museum, Miramont Country Club, Texas A&M’s Bright Complex and the MSC, Copy Corner, and the Austin ISD Performing Arts Center.
Chelsea and I visited Bob’s architectural millwork plant on Harvey Mitchell Parkway, and saw exactly how they develop and fabricate custom orders. It’s amazing. Not one table saw anywhere. They’re entirely digital CNC Machinery (or Computer Numerical Control), so the computer controls a cutter that works on wood, metals, and other hard materials. Talk about precision!
Now Bob has wisdom and extra expertise, in addition to his team of 30 employees who design everything on computer and see it all the way through to installation in the customer’s facility. Bob not only loves wood as an art form, but he knows the science of it too, what kind of surface is impacted by humidity, how to stain different wood types, and how to create a feeling of light and peacefulness, simply by knowing exactly the right wood species to suggest.
I’m most proud of our outstanding reception desk, the first thing you see when you enter our new Funeral Center. It’s fumed eucalyptus, and there’s an incredible process that it goes through from raw wood to working desk. There’s so much to say about Keystone Millwork; this is just the start.
Bob Kraus and I started talking from blueprint point forward. We knew we’d need custom cabinetry in the lobby, in the flower room, and in the break room as well. I didn’t know as much about Exotic woods as I did after Bob talked to Chelsea and me about them. The choices of wood seemed endless—so many samples to look at. But the first time I saw the eucalyptus wood, I told Bob it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. Chelsea agreed.
Bob Kraus fell into this profession as a young child when he’d visit his uncle, who had a full set of woodworking tools and he was fascinated by those. The rest, as they say, is history. Kraus has built a team of 30 people who have been one of the secrets to Keystone’s success. Theirs is also a family business, just like ours is. That really resonates with me, as you already know.
Bob showed us a photo of what it looked like on a project they’d done for the Texas A&M Board of Regents offices and that is all it took. At the first stage of natural wood, eucalyptus is a lighter wood, but Bob has perfected the chemical staining technique, where he places the wood in a chamber and then exposes it to chemical fumes, which tans the wood as the wood fibers start to change colors.
Also, I didn’t really realize before Bob shared that the regular woodgrains have some wiggly lines in them. There’s another set of horizontal lines in the regular grain. When you cut the wood just right, there are medullary rays, or wood rays, and it looks like there’s an added dimension to the wood.
What I like most about the woodwork in our facility is that it’s a simple style, not complicated with decorative molding or other distractions. It’s not minimalist but it is modern, elegant and is best served with the exotic veneer. They’ve done over 4,000 projects and have used hundreds of veneers, but Bob loves the fumed eucalyptus as much as Chelsea and I do.
Keystone Millwork is based in Bryan and many of their projects are here (Miramont Country Club, part of the TAMU Memorial Student Center (MSC), the Brazos County Courthouse, and the Board of Regents offices (BOR), but so many of their projects are regional.
Some of my favorites of their designs (check out their web site) are the Austin ISD Performing Arts Center, and presentation/lecture halls in the McNay Art Museum. Our friends at Copy Corner had their very cool work desk/customer service counters built by Keystone Millwork years ago. Even the Valero Corner Stores where I drop in have their counters from Keystone.
Thanks to Bob Kraus and Keystone Millwork, you will get a feeling of warm sunlight when you enter our Funeral Center. The woodworking and cabinetry we have continues that open feeling and you don’t feel a heavy sense of sorrow when you’re inside our center. To create that ambiance for our clients and families, every design decision we make matters, right down to the grain of the wood. Come in and see for yourself!