Do green cabinets sell?
 Very nicely, thank you.

  When times are tight, why outsource business you can handle yourself? That's what Jermain Todd of Mwanzi Green Building Supply was thinking when he started Greenhaus Cabinets. His new in-house cabinetry line is manufactured from FSC or reclaimed woods, and is free of VOCs and formaldehyde. But it's not free of customer response; in its inaugural month, Greenhaus sales on the residential side have exceeded expectations, and on the commercial side, Todd is closing in on a very large sale to a major corporate client. 

“This is developing much quicker than we first anticipated,” Todd told us. “We launched the brand August 9 and completed 17 kitchens in our first five weeks.” Greenhaus is so new that Todd has been promoting the line before he completed his marketing materials or finalized his color palette, which will feature 15 standard colors.

In creating the line, Todd envisioned environmentally friendly cabinetry that would also be stylish and contemporary looking. Mwanzi is headquartered in an historic neighborhood, so much of the company's residential and light commercial clients would be interested in a design that would complement the heavy mouldings and wainscotting that were characteristic of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 

So Greenhaus cabinets are designed with a more contemporary or minimalist aesthetic that lets the wood and the color speak for themselves rather than opt for some fancy millwork. At present, there are two door styles: slab and shaker. “We built our line of cabinets for a certain esthetic, a certain look,” he described. “It's a transitional cabinet; not extremely contemporary and not extremely traditional. It's a midway. Most people have liked the shaker style, and kitchen and bath stores will tell you that's what people are going for these days.” And history tells us that a no-frills look does become more popular during recessionary times.

The cabinet boxes are made from Columbia's urea-formaldehyde free Purebond plywood. “We are most concerned with the fact that it's formaldehyde free. Everything we use is 3rd party certified,” said Todd. “Our preference is to use the veneer core because it's the strongest, it has the best screw strength for shelves, if you want to put heavy objects on the shelves. But the client's budget determines what type of core we'll use. A deep particle board core would be the least expensive choice.”

Some of the veneers we use have the adhesive already in it, but Greenhaus uses TiteBond for all its adhesive needs including its cold press hot press applications. “It's FDA approved, it's water based, and it bonds really well,” Todd explained. “We are adding a melamine door from Roseburg that has a particleboard core because we're starting to see a lot of interest in that sleek style, especially with our lift-system doors. The melamine's clean line is looking really good to people. 

“Melamine definitely serves its purpose,” he continued. “We may use it for some interior boxes for clients who want the most moisture resistant and durable interior finish. The fact that we can get it formaldehyde free means that it fits our bigger picture and helps us achieve that simple look we're after.

Greenhaus is capable of offering cabinets made from locally grown wood, collected from downed trees by the city's forestry department, and kilned locally. “This lets us get some really cool species, like sassafras, which grows like crazy here,” Todd remarked. “It has a really cool and unique grain, with a lot of rings in it. The texture is very intense, and it rivals a knotty pine. The color is a mix between a hard maple and walnut.” It's also a unique selling point. Greenhaus just finished a customer's cabinet job using silver maple from a tree that had been right down the street from her home. 

Formaldehyde-free is more important for kitchen cabinets than for parts of a home or office environment, because that's where food is stored. “But that kind of information can really scare folks, and I don't want to get into the alarmism part of it,” Todd stated. “We tell people about that carefully. I read an article recently in the New York Times talking about formaldehyde. It said that we're now at a point where formaldehyde laced materials, especially MDF sheets, have been in our lives long enough that we're starting to see the side effects. It doesn't happen overnight, it takes years.”

None of this matters unless people invest in building and remodeling projects, and Todd believes the market is looking up. “We're getting more bid requests within the last month and a half,” he has noticed. “I'm starting to see some daylight in new home construction.”

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