At a Glance
Westlake Village, CA
Custom carpentry and millwork
The 20th century was the age of industry, and its focus on mass production made artisanship a dying art. Even amid such utilitarian reform, though, the passion for handmade goods continued to burn, and Smith Bros., Inc. is carrying the torch into the new millennium. The custom carpentry and millwork business, located in Westlake Village, California, has diversified its capabilities over the years, but it still gravitates toward the finish work it began with.
“When we started, we were working out of our garage at one point,” says executive officer Don Smith, who founded the firm with his brother, Dan. “My father was a plastering contractor, and we got a lot of trade knowledge from him, but then we went off on our own.”
Westlake Village is roughly halfway between Ventura and Los Angeles in Southern California, and during the early days of Smith Bros., as it was forming its niche, it picked up a lot of work with doors and trim in track homes that were being built in the area. And it was from their appreciation for this sort of work that Don and Dan built the foundations of their business, which now employs a staff of roughly 80 carpenters and artisans for everything from finish carpentry to general contracting.
“The evolution has been interesting,” Don says. “We started by doing finish work, then we went over to commercial and general contracting, when custom-home work was slow, and then we gravitated back toward what we like to do: custom millwork, doors, and windows.”
Smith Bros. also operates a retail storefront named Agoura Sash & Door, powered by a small team of salespeople and account mangers. The showroom is part of the company’s 20,000-square-foot office building, and it’s a perfect visual example of how Smith Bros. has diversified its services in the face of economic fluctuations and industry changes over the past 30 years. “We have evolved based on what we thought would work,” Don says.
A particular project that demanded the firm’s versatility was Sunset Tower, a 20-story commercial adaptive-reuse project on the corner of Sunset and Vine. The building had suffered fire damage, and Smith Bros. was tasked with completely restoring the interior. Although the job didn’t call for any ornate finishings, the necessary work to bring the building back up to code was grand in its scope and specificity, so the company had to apply the breadth of its skills.
The bread and butter of Smith Bros., though, is still wood and custom craftwork. “The more complicated and the more details, the better,” Don says. “We’re now better suited and more equipped than the guys in the garage can now handle.”
Some of the custom work completed in 2012 included 10,000- to 20,000-square-foot estates in upscale California communities such as Thousand Oaks, Pacific Palisades, and Beverly Hills. At all locations, Smith Bros. was responsible for all doors, windows, and custom cabinetry. One of the firm’s more interesting current projects is a 15,000-square-foot residence with an ocean view in Santa Barbara, California, which is expected to be complete this fall. The company provided custom glass windows and doors from Amari, an Austrian custom thermal-window maker for which Smith Bros. is the only US installer.
With sustainability now a permanent consideration, Smith Bros. also offers various composite materials to its clientele, but Don finds that high-end customers still prefer the real deal, and the best projects for Don are the ones with these unique—and increasingly rare—flourishes. As he puts it, “We really enjoy working with the architects and designers that take our trade and can embellish the interiors and exteriors of their projects with what we do.” ABQ