According to Mike Faulkner, co-owner of the Phoenix custom wood products company Public House Creative, kitchens have changed a lot. “Especially in the past five years,” he says, “all the rules have gone out the window.”
Faulkner is an affable guy — extremely quick to smile and make a joke. You’re sure he would have made it work no matter where he ended up at 33. But, he does seem happy running his own company with his business partner, Jake Raymo.
Company Creation Story
Faulkner, who spent a good part of his professional life in construction, and Raymo knew each other from “around” — bars, shows, mutual friends. They started working together in late 2012, right away with woodworking and physical objects. The two pumped out a number of little chalkboards for Raymo’s mother, a teacher, to give out as gifts. They were a hit.
Of course, the finished product was posted on social media. Soon, they were getting hit up for more small jobs and began working outside their day jobs, fueled by Justin Timberlake’s at-the-time latest album, The 20/20 Experience. This resulted in some holiday cash. “All the money we spent on Christmas we just made from making other people’s gifts,” Faulkner says. Things progressed from there.
At the time, both were single, their only obligations being their bands and jobs. Raymo was a server at Pita Jungle; Faulkner was an IT guy who enjoyed his job but missed working with his hands. The two had to quickly upgrade to Faulkner’s garage in the west Valley for a workspace. Furniture and other projects continued to come in from family and friends, all through word-of-mouth.
Raymo was the first to quit his job, about a year and half before Faulkner, in 2014. “He did a lot for our growth by first taking that risk,” Faulkner says. “That’s kind of how we got started.”
Eventually, the garage work was drawing the wrong kind of attention. The police began showing up because of noise and other workshop-related complaints, and the small business had to go for a building, an official company address.
It went something like this: “Here’s your $1,000, here’s my $1,000, let’s go,” Faulkner says. “It took us a long time to realize we could do this for real.” Now Public House creative needed a bigger team. Faulker’s experience lent to construction; Raymo’s patience ensured he’d be painting and putting on the finishing touches. They hired their first people in 2016, and now there are eight employees.
Now, this small group of dudes is consulted constantly on home remodeling and woodwork. They have clients all over town, and have featured work in bars, nurseries, living rooms, offices, and the big kahuna, kitchens.
“People are spending more time in the kitchen. It’s definitely one of the most mulled-over rooms to remodel,” Faulkner says, “That, and laundry rooms.” Let’s just stick with kitchens for now.
Taking the Heat
“It was a big deal when we did our first kitchens because we didn’t think we’d live in that world,” Faulkner says, but they soon realized if you can build a decent cabinet, you can do a kitchen. “So we started bidding out.”
There was a big learning curve ahead, the guys getting more creative all the time. They were working with other companies and vendors. “Partnerships is one of our core values,” Faulkner says, everything but seriousness dropping from his tone.
Public House works with the Arizona-based Elite, a woodworking firm and custom door manufacturer, and the “local dude” at Top Drawer. They also work with interior designers, ultimately so they can create anything their customers dream up.
“We want to continually improve,” Faulkner says, explaining how his team will talk to other companies, learn from them, even lend tools.
That brings us to today.
The New Style
“There’s nothing unique about old kitchens, it’s just a box,” Faulkner says, “We’re now doing things more for functionality” — like a whole cabinet for your kitchen mixer.
Faulkner says people are turning away from rows of upper cabinets, leaning more toward open shelving, accentuating the backsplash. Even the farmhouse look is dated, and Public House is beginning to use other materials instead of barn wood. That's maybe because, as Faulkner says, “Barn wood is garbage.”
Public House Creative is cutting the ribbon on more kitchens with simple shaker cabinets, more storage, more functionality, and more, brighter colors.
“Colors have changed the most recently,” he says. “Forever, people were afraid to do anything but white.” Even he recently was surprised by an off-putting green paint that he says he later thought was beautiful.
Oh, and one more thing: islands. Islands, islands, islands.
“What we’re seeing a lot of are these gigantic, even double, islands,” he says. One’s for food prepping and cooking, and one acts as a gathering space, the nowadays dining room table. And it makes sense. Think about any party you’ve ever thrown. Where do people congregate?
“Before, islands were used mostly for storage,” he says, but now they’re installing mini fridges in them. “Just redoing their kitchen is changing the layout of the whole house.”
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Even with seven years as a company, unofficial chalkboard business included, Public House Creative is still on the grow. They’re putting in the new bar to the upcoming Thunderbird Lounge, have back-to-back jobs, and they’re still growing.
Expectedly, Faulkner seems happy with this, so it’s amazing to hear him say, “I’m not passionate about cabinets,” although followed unsurprisingly by, “I’m passionate about success.”
“I could give a fuck about cabinets,” he says, “but I believe in growing something from nothing.” Editor's note: For more examples of remodeled Phoenix kitchens, check out the full Public House Creative slideshow.