When Jay and Karen Brooks moved to Eagle's Trace, the Erickson Living-managed community in West Houston, they wanted to maximize the storage space in their one-bedroom Dawson-style apartment.
Jay's woodworking skills, paired with Karen's eye for curating and organizing the couple's belongings, resulted in a beautifully appointed space that's both functional and pleasing to the eye.
It's also a space that's evolved since the couple moved to the community in November 2013.
Jay repurposed an end table to serve as a kitchen table, built bookcases for the bedroom, and crafted a mantel to display the couple's treasures, all work he completed in the well-stocked woodshop at Eagle's Trace.
"I had a woodshop in my garage before we moved to Eagle's Trace, but it didn't compare to the one we have here," says Jay. "This woodshop has everything you need for any project, all the big equipment and tools."
Jay's latest project, his most ambitious undertaking to date, took him one day shy of a year to complete.
"We had the components of a home office scattered around the apartment, even a filing cabinet in the closet," says Jay. "I wanted everything in one spot."
Jay envisioned a furniture piece that would double as a home office. In early December 2018, he spent nine days drawing up plans before starting construction in the Eagle's Trace woodshop on December 10, 2018.
"It's 100% my design," says Jay. "I was inspired by different ideas I saw over the course of the year, but the architectural renderings came from my head."
Karen likens the undertaking to a full-time job.
"Jay worked on the project every day, and sometimes on Sunday afternoons," she says.
Perfecting his plans
The finished cabinet features four shelves. The top shelf is fixed and holds office supplies. The remaining three shelves are full extension pull-out shelves and house the couple's laptop, printer, and file folders.
Jay used five types of African mahogany to build the furniture piece. He says the design evolved as he worked through the minutiae of such a complicated project.
"Once I had the exterior cabinet completed, I realized the inside needed to be illuminated," says Jay. "I installed LED task lighting on three sides of the cabinet and put tempered glass in the middle of each shelf to allow the light to flow all the way down to the bottom shelf."
Six months into the project, Jay had another revelation.
"I realized I didn't want to have wires coming out from every direction, so I cut a panel into the back of the cabinet and organized all the wiring into one easy-to-access control panel," he says.
Repurposing a family heirloom
Aesthetically, the front of the cabinet showcases a number of unique features.
One of the most intriguing components is the pair of spooled post flanking each cabinet door. Fellow woodworker Tom Burrow's house was flooded during Hurricane Harvey, and he moved to Eagle's Trace following the flood. One of the pieces that survived the flood was a bed that has been in Tom's family since the late 1800s. Jay saw the unique bed posts and asked Tom if he could have one.
"I brought the bed with me to Eagle's Trace thinking I might find a purpose for it," says Tom. "I was delighted when Jay envisioned the spooled posts as part of his project."
The cabinet doors feature wood pieces, fashioned into waves, and painted to create the illusion of movement. Exterior rope lighting across the top of the cabinet illuminates the waves and also serves as a nightlight.
"I had to figure out some skills, like vertical fluting, as I went along," says Jay. "I learned what I needed to do as each new challenge came up."
Unveiling the finished project
Jay completed his home office cabinet on December 9, 2019. The piece generated a buzz around Eagle's Trace over the 12 months he worked on it, so Jay held an unveiling in the Audubon Clubhouse before moving it to its permanent home in the couple's apartment.
"I'm thrilled with how it turned out," says Jay. "It fits perfectly in our living room, and it's nice to have everything we need in one spot."
With his project complete, Jay often fields the same question.
"People ask me what I'm going to work on next," he says. "I tell them it's whatever Karen wants."