Steve Ward & Associates Blog

What is Custom Millwork?

[fa icon="calendar"] Sep 11, 2017 / by Geoff McElrath


Welcome to Custom Millwork 101! Custom millwork, or architectural millwork, is defined as “ready-made millwork as obtained from the mill, especially fabricated to meet the specifications for a particular job, as distinguished from standard or stock items or sizes” (McGraw-Hill, 2003).”

Today we are going to break this down; what does this mean exactly and how does it help me? But before we do this, let’s first talk about standard product offerings.

We are all familiar with casework. It is often the heart and soul of large projects.  It is a standard product offering that is tried and true. Our manufacturers have thoroughly engineered and tested it to last a lifetime. In a perfect world, once the casework is installed, it shouldn’t need to be replaced and on the off-chance it does, it is typically covered under a warranty.

Standard casework has many benefits. Aside from its’ longevity, it is incredibly durable and serves a functional purpose in many different capacities; be it in education, healthcare, laboratory or even commercial use. It creates a clean, practical and flexible space if utilized appropriately. In addition, there is a great deal of convenience and sometimes cost-savings with standard casework.

However, projects don’t always require 100% casework and often need what is considered as custom millwork to highlight and complete specific areas. This may be in the form of reception desks, banquette seating, and nurses stations to name a few.  Not every customer has the same requirements and a one-size fits all approach does not always work.

Custom millwork, also known as architectural millwork, is a tailor-made solution fabricated based on a customer's requirements. This creates a personalized solution suited specifically for you. This may be as simple as creating a standard product in a unique size with a single unique feature or fabricating something completely from scratch with elaborate details and customization.

There are many benefits to utilizing custom millwork. First and foremost, it allows for personalization. If you desire an exact look to match the design elements of a project, custom millwork can provide a finished product unique to your specifications. Second, custom, or architectural, millwork allows for more elaborate designs. For example, check out this beautifully designed reception desk fabricated by our SWA Millwork Division in Tennessee at The University of Tennessee Medical Center. The design creates dimension and eye-catching elements matching the rest of the design, architecture and casework within the building. It also optimizes and perfectly fits within their allotted space.

There are endless examples, but the point is that while you can create some really spectacular pieces, the primary goal of custom millwork is to provide customers with unique and functional pieces that fit their space. Done correctly, custom millwork should bring together the different elements of the project, such as the casework, and create a stunning focal point.

If you’ve read this far, you’re officially a custom millwork expert! But in the event you still have some questions, feel free to contact us below. We love to talk about custom millwork!

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Custom Millwork. (n.d.) McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Architecture and Construction. (2003). Retrieved July 13 2017 from

Geoff McElrath

Written by Geoff McElrath