Wouter Vos – “In the end you really learn everything by doing it”

Written by: Sidney Steinmann
Wouter Vos (41) has been building and doing DIY-projects around the house ever since he was five years old. Not his father, but his grandfather introduced him to the world of wood. After a detour in construction he’s been making a living for almost ten years now by working with his favourite material.

Why do you have a thing for wood?
I was always hammering and building things when I was a kid. We used to have a small house in the backyard. After a couple of years it had two stories and an annex, haha. Wood is just a beautiful product. Easy to process and if you make the right choices it will last as well.

How did you learn the tricks of the trade?
My grandfather was very handy. We always built things together. Because of him I chose a cabinet maker study at the Hout- en Meubileringscollege in Amsterdam. After that I worked in construction and followed a work-study track to become a carpenter. But in the end you really learn everything by just doing it.

When did you realize you were good at it?
Well… good, good. I especially enjoyed doing it. But during my first education to become a cabinet maker I did notice I was handy.

So you started doing several renovation projects as a carpenter. What was the main reason to start working as an entrepreneur?
Nine years ago I started as an entrepreneur mainly because I felt I wasn’t going to last very long in construction. I didn’t enjoy going to work anymore. You could be out on a scaffold for a whole winter or you’re carrying stuff every day and there’s a lot of dust. I was done with it. In the meantime I got requests to make wardrobes or a bookshelves. I enjoyed doing that. So I decided: this is where I want to put all my focus on.

What do you like to make most?
I don’t just make furniture, I also do small renovations. I prefer using real wood, directly from the tree, as opposed to processed wooden panels. That’s the most fun to do and it’s also the most challenging to do. But because it is also very time consuming it’s the most expensive option for the client.

Do you own a hangar where you can store a tree like that?
I always had a workshop in Amsterdam, but that got a little too costly at a certain point. I noticed I was only working to pay my fixed costs. So I terminated my lease. After that I used a garage next to my house as a workshop. Recently I’m renting a workshop again in Deil, a small town between Utrecht and Den Bosch. I found it through a friend of my in-laws. Now I can use my machines again, those had been stored for about three years.

It has never been as busy in the construction markets as the past year. Have you noticed this too?
The number of jobs didn’t increase, but they also didn’t decrease. People might have more time now to do it all themselves. They can use the money they don’t spend on travelling and holidays to fix up their homes.

Do you ever go to IKEA or do you also make all your own furniture at home?
Haha, at home I make everything myself! But I sometimes visit IKEA with my clients. People are on a budget most of the time. So tailor made shelves and racks can be expensive. I often advise them to buy the interior shelves for cabinets at IKEA for the custom made cabinets I make them.

What piece of furniture have you made that you’re really proud of?
I’m quite happy with the loft bed I made for my son. It’s floating, it has accessible glass and steel steps with wooden treads. I like ‘weaving’ various materials together.

What does success mean to you?
I have three children. We live in a nice place. I do something I love. That, to me, is pretty successful.

Website: voswouter.nl
Written by: Sidney Steinmann