A LODI WOODWORKING AND DESIGN FIRM PAIRS TOP TIER CRAFTSMANSHIP WITH A KEEN EYE FOR DETAIL
BY ERIK SCHONING • PHOTOS BY ALEX BARRETO
Custom woodworking is rare in today’s hurried world, notorious for its difficulty and painstaking pace. It takes a rare enterprise to pull it off enter WL Kitchen & Home of Lodi, one of the state’s chosen few.
Under the direction of husband and wife team Gabriel Salazar and Olga Botero, the company launched in 1988 as a manufacturer of custom home bars. In 1991, architect Julio Botero joined the brand. What started as a modest operation quickly took off, and clients began asking for custom kitchens.
“At the time, we didn’t want to do kitchens,” said Julio Botero. “There were so many people manufacturing kitchens, and most came pre fab. But people liked what we did for them. They liked the quality. They liked that it was custom made, that it was made to fit.”
Today, these custom kitchens are WL Kitchen and Home’s calling card. The firm is unique in that it controls every stage of the process, from the earliest design sketches to the final touches of installation. At its facilities in Lodi, there’s a 4,000 square foot showroom packed with sample kitchens, bars, doors, and samples of pane lings and carvings. There’s also a design office, where Botero and his team work. Just next door lies the production plant, where furniture and cabinetry is cut, finished, and assembled. With a craft as fine as woodworking, this extensive in house operation ensures a faultless final product.
Botero noted that most of his clients have a general sense of what they want when they walk through the door. From there, the design process is always collaborative. Another advantage of custom work is that there is simply no blueprint; every decision is made with a single space and client in mind. This allows Botero and his team to tailor every last detail.
“I think the challenge is to get in the head of the client,” said Botero. “Sometimes you know what you want, but you don’t know how you can get it done. My challenge is to get in your head and figure out exactly what you’re looking for and to give shape to it, whatever sort of style it is.”
WL Kitchen and Home made its name doing ornate, classic kitchen woodworking. These projects abound with hand carved details and moldings, distressed patinas, and an air of fine precision. It would be easy to spend thirty minutes contemplating the swirling lines over a range hood, for example, or an hour examining every carved leaf running along the edge of a kitchen island. The kitchen, that most functional of rooms, becomes a kind of art gallery.
The company has never ceased adding to its portfolio. Today the team undertakes a range of projects, from private to commercial, wine cellars to movie theaters, vanities, libraries, catering halls, and even synagogues. Because everything is created in house, the process is endlessly flexible.
“One of the things that makes our products interest filling is that we can build from very traditional to modern,” said Botero. “We have access to something that is very hard to do today, which is hand carved pieces. It’s rare nowadays to find a company that can offer that. And because we do that, which is really hard to do, we are good at everything else.”
The firm divides its kitchen work into two categories: classic and modern, but Botero noted that often the lines are blurred. One of WL Kitchen and Home’s latest innovations is a stripped down set of kitchen concepts drawing heavily on contemporary design. In keeping with today’s trends, there’s an emphasis on heavy duty hardware, knurled metal and bold rivets, and solidity. But even in these projects, you’ll find the occasional ornate hood or richly stained slab of mahogany. These designs seem to say that the new world need not abandon the old.
“The panels of the kitchen are completely flat,” said Botero. “All the doors have a metal trim. The hardware is a very heavy hardware. It looks very industrial, but at the same time it’s very modern. The combination of colors with the metal and the wood makes it very alluring.”
Aesthetics are always changing, but a commitment to quality, careful design and top notch materials is timeless. As Botero pointed out, WL Kitchen and Home is able to deliver a mosaic of looks for any type of space through a unique blend of woodworking, hardware, and design. As anyone who’s had custom work done in their home knows, sometimes the right detail can take a room from afterthought to main attraction.
It requires excruciating patience to carve wood. In today’s ready-made world, patience and attention to detail are rare gifts. The brochures of WL Kitchen and Home harbor lists of specific knobs and pulls, galleries of custom doors, hoods, stools, coffee tables, even pool tables. The lesson here is that even the most subtle of home accents can be a work of art.
WL Kitchen & Home
100 US 46, Lodi / 973.773.7475 / wlkitchenandhome.com