Featured Work



A longtime friend of mine happens to be a very promising architect in the area. He and I have collaborated on many of each other’s projects.  Keith Phillips, of The Think Shop, is a name you will most definitely be seeing often on this site, and in many other design media. Keith and his wife are friends with a couple that bought a big beautiful old home in Detroit’s Indian Village.

The Cramer’s have done a huge amount of work to update their home. When it came time to update the heating and cooling system, they were left with a bunch of empty cavities, where the old radiators used to be, under pretty much every window in the house. They asked Keith if he knew anybody that could fill the now empty old casework with some new built-ins, that would look as if they had always have been there. Without hesitation my name was given and the planning began.


The custom, one off, design features from the time this home was built meant that each new piece was one of a kind, from the beautiful octagonal bay, which became a window seat with storage below, to the oddly shaped niche that became a writing desk below their beautiful leaded glass windows.  

I used quarter sawn, white oak, also known as tiger oak, as the primary material for all of the built-ins, that numbered 5 on the main floor.

To compliment the new furniture, I installed a 3-piece crown, picture hanging molding in the 2 large front rooms. This is one home in which I was truly honored to be able to exercise my craft. I very much look forward to working with the Cramer’s on their second and third floors.



I do still enjoy the occasional laborious outside framing project, especially when there’s the remote opportunity to do some freestyle design on the fly. The Feldman’s thought they just needed some rotten wood replaced on their outside deck and lakeside patio but what they didn’t know is that the rot was not limited to the top surfaces, the main beams had literally disintegrated and the tree growing through the middle of the lakeside patio was the only thing keeping it from sliding into the lake.

I began to think about how I could make something that was relatively mundane into something that might even draw them to begin to use it as a destination, instead of just to access their boat dock.  I came up with a simple and clean design that is not only very functional, but is interesting to look at. The new custom benches are supported by a series of posts that are actually attached mechanically to the understructure and penetrate the surface of the deck at the angle of the seat back. The seat is supported by a 2 x 4 that was mortised in to the side of each main support post so as not to create a bulky assembly that would obstruct the views of the water. Lastly, I provided the new option of a couple of floating end tables, one in each corner. The unsafe, eye sore is now a great place to enjoy a great view.



Tom and Linda set out to find a dining room table suitable for their new room and some custom handrails to replace their outdated ones.  Being avid art enthusiasts and collectors, anything brought into their home had to fit. They were referred to me and the connection was made. They let me know that they were open to design ideas and suggestions. For the table, they wanted a solid hardwood top and steel legs and skirt that were minimal and that it needed to be 10′ long. I suggested a table top built of black walnut, with all the boards joined with a continuous sliding dovetail, the entire 10′ length of the table. No mechanical fasteners or adhesives.  It took little bar soap and a couple of hours to slide the boards together. I then hand planed the top surface for an old-world style finish, very little sanding, just good sharp hand tools.

The 6 legs are solid steel 1 1/2″ square bar stock that are hand forged down to less than 3/4″ at the bottom. The skirt material was given the same hand forged treatment to show the beauty of the metalsmith’s talent with the hammer. The top, legs and skirt were then attached to a welded, steel sub-frame.  The only mechanical fasteners used are those holding the top to the sub-frame. The top was treated to a pure tung oil finish and the steel was hand sealed and burnished with carnauba wax.

The design of the handrails had to fit the overall design of their home. In order to create some cleaner lines, and slim down the bulky appearance of these necessary elements of the house, I chose to wrap the wood stringers and framing at the base of the railings with custom bent steel sheet. Once this decision was made, it only made sense to elongate these elements to create the appearance of a cantilever.  These design elements were very well received. A simple mix of steel tube and bar stock, stainless steel cable and wood was combined to round out the functionality of the railings.

The following year they invited me back to design and build the railing on the front porch and the patio table for the deck. The outdoor table top is made of pre-cast concrete and the base is made of heavy steel tube and plate as an anchor to support the 300 pound top.




Wood is where it all started, the first material that I cut and assembled into something. From the very start the tools felt right in my hands, and the measurements, even when rough framing a house, were very important for me to be accurate. I consider wood to have a soul of its own, after all it is the very fiber of what once was a living thing. I like to think that I am treating the wood with some sort of dignity by adding good design, whether one of my own, or that of a colleague.  By design I don’t just mean aesthetics, but method as well.



I didn’t even take wood shop in high school, I was found soaking up all the info I could in the auto shop and the metal shop. My first passion was for cars, and it was, and continues to be, more of an obsession, then something that I am just passionate about.  I left metal working after high school and became a carpenter.  It wasn’t until my employment at the George P. Johnson Company did I find myself back in a metal shop and I really enjoyed the diversity it brought to my work. There is something about the process of metal fabrication that is very intriguing, and metal is another material that is full of it’s own rich beauty.

I decided to do a major restoration of a 1968 Plymouth Road Runner. It was little more than a rusty piece of vintage American muscle, most would have said it belonged in a junkyard. I saw it as a way to challenge my skills and a good excuse to buy a welder and some metal cutting tools. As I went through the process of replacing rust with metal on the Plymouth I began to think about how the welder could add some serious dimension to what I could offer my clientele.

My mind began to fill with new ideas that had every bit as much to do with the use of metal as they did wood.



I love having the opportunity to sing the praises of Matt Michalec, affectionately known by me as “Detroit Matt”. I had the good fortune several years back of meeting Matt, while being in the middle of building an experimental, Modernist house in Upstate NY. I had commissioned the architect William Massie to design a home for me on a very special chunk of land in the Hudson River Valley. This architectural project, which had started out conceptually as a “pre-fab” building, took several years and phases to finish, for a multitude of reasons ( a whole other story! ) and ended up being more like building a fantastic modernist sculpture ( requiring lots of custom and labor intensive work ). Not long into the start of construction, Bill Massie accepted an academic position at the very prestigious Cranbrook Academy of Art. This took Bill away from the house often, hence slowing its progress. As frustrating as this was, one fantastic thing occurred due to this logistical adjustment…. DETROIT MATT!! Bill met Matt at Cranbrook and brought him on to the house project for several phases and needs. I had the pleasure of being around the house to watch the progress during this time and therefor got to see Matt in action and even more importantly, becoming his friend. Matt is the consummate professional and also fun to be around. The dream blend of artisan, craftsman, technician and personality. I watched first hand as Matt provided fantastic, focused work in wood and metal, always with the highest level of skill and commitment. There seemed to be nothing that Matt couldn’t do! It was obvious watching Matt work that he took great pride in his craft. His work ethic was top-tier and his attention to aesthetic subtleties was at a level you rarely see in craftsmen or contractors. The time and energy that Matt dedicated to my home really contributed immensely to the special place that it now is. When I am enjoying time at “The Skull”, I often look around and see all of the love and skill that went into my fantastic kitchen, the puzzle-piece cherry wood walls, etc. and I think of my friend from Detroit.                                                                                 

I say with great honesty, that my house wouldn’t be the home that it is without the contribution and artistic love provided by Matt Michalec. He put his skill, vision, chops and heart into my home and for that reason, it will always be his home too.


Greg Wooten (design purveyor and home owner)

Partner in the Los Angeles based design store THE WINDOW


“We could see at first meeting Matt “dug” our “style” and was eager to build something to suit our needs… perfect blend of taking direction, yet springing forward from that point to create the best he can… functional art is extremely important – we helped pick out the wood, we helped develop the “feel” of the table and the ironworks…. we visited it at his studio…. feels like together we gave birth!”

  Tom Nathan


To whomever may be considering retaining the wood working skills of Matt Michalec:

My wife and I contracted with Matt to replace, resurface and paint the entire wood deck surrounding our home and the wood deck, storage bins and steps leading to our lake front.

Matt’s commitment to his work was timely and exemplary and our endorsement of the quality of his work is without any reservation.

  Dede and Oscar Feldman



Born in Detroit, the youngest of 5 siblings, Matt began working as a carpenter at the age of 19 framing a house in Birmingham with a small crew.

When the house was finished, everybody else on the small crew was let go. Matt and the owner then began building office furniture, making laminate countertops, doing interior trim work and kitchen installations, all from a small garage shop.

He then moved to another small construction company that took residential remodeling projects from start to finish.

Matt joined the Detroit Carpenters union in the mid 1990s working with union contractors doing both residential and commercial projects until moving to George P. Johnson Company. 

At George P. Johnson, He was now building auto show exhibits. Matt quickly rose up to the role of a set-up supervisor on the Nissan and Infinity team. He traveled around the country working with local labor, overseeing the project builds, making sure the displays were set-up properly, safely and ready for the public, providing supervision for those major shows required excellent project management and organizational skills.

Grateful for the skills perfected, and opportunities presented, at George P. Johnson, Matt now wanted to strike out on his own again and produce custom work for his clients. 

A close friend and great architect, Keith Phillips, put him in touch with William Massie, head of the architecture department at the Cranbrook Academy of Art. Bill asked Matt if he was interested in going to upstate New York to work on a few custom builds.

One of the projects was a house Bill designed for Matt’s now good friend Greg Wooten.  This home has been featured in design, architecture and fashion, books and magazines.

He then worked closely with Bill on his “Americas House ’08” project, a build that was eventually set-up as a temporary exhibit on the grounds of Cranbrook in front of the art museum.

The next experience with Bill Massie had Matt traveling to the small Caribbean island of Mustique to manage and work on a new resort project. He spent three weeks at a time working on a very high end, private resort the likes of which had not been seen on that island, and likely an architectural rarity on any island.

Matt continues to concentrate efforts on expanding his business fabricating custom furniture and built-ins. His expertise carries on into many different materials, metal, wood… Matt also restores vintage Detroit muscle cars, helping him to hone his welding and metal working skills. Matt’s extraordinary work is produced in his custom workshop, located in Royal Oak, MI, referred to as his happy place!