Truth Bee Told: Interview with Steve Szabo of Carpenter & MacNeille

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Steve Szabo

A Woodworking Prodigy

Woodworking is still very much alive and well, Steve Szabo is proof of that. The Bees had the pleasure of interviewing Steve of Carpenter & MacNeille a few weeks ago. He specializes in woodworking and shows great care and detail in centuries-old homes. His work is stunning and certainly gets the Bees buzzing as we LOVE a good early-American home!

How did you get started in this industry?

I always loved woodworking and was fortunate to find great mentors along the way. One of my first exposures was a woodworking class in junior high school. I remember our teacher, Mr. Sullivan, was missing his index finger. He never explained that to us.

The summer after I finished high school, I found myself working with a great group of Portuguese craftsmen restoring a 67’ mahogany motor yacht. I learned a lot that summer, but most profoundly, I discovered that woodworking was my passion.  After that, I landed a job at Scott and Duncan in Boston, the biggest cabinet making firm in New England at the time. While apprenticing for these master cabinetmakers I determined that I only wanted to do the highest quality work and would not settle for anything less. 

Photographer: Michael J Lee Photography

What differentiates you and your team from other woodworking/interior firms in the area?

C&M Woodworking is a division of Carpenter and MacNeille, a full-service architecture and construction company. We have become a great resource for designers and architects because of the support we can offer throughout the whole design/build process -- we are really a trusted resource for our partners far beyond just the fine woodworking.

We also actually offer a nice semi-custom cabinetry option as well – this way, even if parts of their project aren’t shop-made, clients don’t have to deal with outside sources and we can keep a watchful eye on schedules, budgets and quality – it’s just another way we work to exceed expectations and offer a seamless client experience.

Photographer: Richard Mandelkorn Photography

What's your proudest moment in your career?

I don’t necessarily have a proudest moment, but I am gratified to have been part of the creation of our highly-respected woodworking business… the culmination of the years, projects and relationships is what I enjoy reflecting on most.

What are your passions outside of work?

I have a full woodworking shop in a barn I built – I get lost in time when I am working in there. I own a late 1800s wooden house and enjoy puttering around maintaining and restoring it. Over the years I have pretty much touched every part of that building. I have made the kitchen cabinetry, all the interior and exterior doors, the built-ins and ran all the original moldings to replace damaged ones. I also made most of the furniture in the house.

I have also just started creating some artwork using found architectural elements, pieces of furniture and other flotsam and jetsam collected over the years on vacations to the islands of Maine. (Note for readers: If you want to check it out, it’s called “Maine Coast Window”. You should check it out - it’s beautiful!) I think this is in my genes.  Everyone in my family seems to be involved in some sort of creative activity.

Steve’s “Maine Coast Window” Art

Do you find that the design industry has changed over the years and how? 

I can’t speak much to the design-industry evolution since our part has pretty much remained the same – we are handed plans and our job is to bring them to life – in whatever form that takes. Over the years we have produced a wide range of work, initially much of it traditional in style, but in the past few years we have seen renewed interest in contemporary design as well, not only in the cabinetry but also in building design and furniture.  It is exciting to see the mix of different disciplines evident throughout the shop.

What do you wish people knew about your industry/work?

I think I speak for all woodworkers when I say that we do what we do for the love of the work. It is so gratifying, after finishing a project, to sit back and look at what you have done and know every square inch of it. It is a great feeling to build a piece from a set of drawings and to see the person you made it for smile when they first see it. This industry is full of people that are rewarded by simply doing their best.

What's the best advice you ever received during your career? 

I have two sage offerings, both have proven true on many occasions. One was given to me from business school professor who said, “Be on time, nothing else matters.” The other I got from my father. He said, “Don’t do work for someone because you are the cheapest, have them come to you because you are the best.” I have had the good fortune of hearing time and again that I was chosen not for the quote, but because they could depend on me and my team.

 And finally....what's your favorite architectural style/period?

I would say that my favorite architectural style would be exemplified by the traditional shingle-style homes, especially those that were built on the islands off the coast of Maine in the late 1800s.

Click on the images below to see a stunning round window being created….

Photography Credits above: Sam Gray Photography

We have to thank Steve for his time and answering our questions! We love talking to others in our field, Steve’s experience makes him an admired leader in his field. We hope you enjoyed reading as much as we enjoyed interviewing Steve!

Check out our other Truth Bee Told Interviews on our blog as well as other great articles with tips and inspiration. Questions for Steve or the Bees? Maybe we can get Steve to take us all on a house tour, his place sounds amazing, who is in?! Comment below…