Excerpted from the San Clemente Times,
From: August 9-15, 2007
By Sabrina Abercromby
Read more: San Clemente Times – Made by Hand
Sometimes looks can be deceiving—especially when it comes to furniture. A cabinet may look like it was skillfully crafted from solid wood, but often it’s really just veneered plywood, held together by glue and staples. “In the way builders and most people go about decorating their home or office, there’s little or no importance given to where things are made or how they are made,” says Jason Nedelman, co-owner and founder of Origin Design Center, formerly known as San Clemente Trader.
Nedelman believes in a more old-fashioned approach to furniture design, one that emphasizes quality. His company makes solid teak wood furniture and kitchen cabinets by hand in Indonesia. “So much [other] stuff comes out of China in a box,” he says. “And then you slap it together and put a new door on it; whereas our company, Origin, you know who carved it, when they carved it, where the material was salvaged from. We actually give [customers] pictures of their cabinets being made on the workshop floor.”
Well they must be on to something because the business keeps growing. Five years ago, Nedelman began the company as San Clemente Trader in the old KWVE building on El Camino Real. It was a furniture store for about three years, but then Nedelman started doing custom kitchens. “We were just going to try to be a furniture store ,” says Nedelman. “When we did those original kitchens with the first contractoirs, they asked, ‘Well, can you do doors, mantles, flooring? What about copper and stone?’ And then we started going into people’s homes and designing things custom from scratch. And that turned into cabinetry, kitchens and bathrooms, and custom-carved stone, copper and metalwork—all done by hand in Indonesia.”
Origin is now a one-stop-shop for homeowners who are remodeling or for builders working on new homes. “Now in a lot of cases, we get in on a remodel while the customer or builder is still in the architectural phase and build from that point forward,” says Nedelman. “Because I am my own store, I work across the board to create a package. It’s the floor to the ceiling, from beginning to end just like a regular design center would. The only difference is I also have custom stone carvers, wood carvers and metal workers.”
The best part is that it’s eco-friendly. Origin cabinets are made from reclaimed teak that comes from the time when Indonesia was a Dutch colony. “It’s got so much grain, color and texture in it,” he says. “What we do is take old buildings that were built during those colonial eras from really old trees. We incorporate that old wood into our cabinets and that’s why they look like they were made in the 1600s or 1700s.”
This old-fashioned approach has been a perfect fit for the historic area of San Clemente. The company has remodeled two Ole Hanson homes in the last six months with everything from solid teak kitchens, a wine cellar and two bars, to custom stone carvings, mantles and wrought iron. “Those customers liked what they had so much that now they’re doing the next room and the next room,” he says.
And thanks to modern technology, customers know exactly what they’re getting before the work has even started. Computer programs are used to generate a three-dimensional view of what the custom kitchens will look like. “We set up our company in Indonesia with the software, so we now communicate on a totally modern 2007 level, but we manufacture using chisels, hammers, handsaws and whatnot—to those specifications.”
These projects take Nedelman to Indonesia on a regular basis. He says that it’s 31 hours of flying, which involves four different airports. “I was gone for over three months last year,” he says. That’s quite a challenge, considering that he also coaches volleyball at San Clemente High School. But he schedules his trips around the season and travels during spring break. “It actually works out pretty well.”