Essence Woodworks

Company History

I started Essence Woodworks in 1995 after many years of diverse design and building experiences. Directly out of high school in 1976, a series of unexpected events led to a partnership in a small business framing houses in Seattle, Washington. The path continued with an exploration of alternate energy technologies and finally a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Massachusetts in 1984. A couple of years working as an engineer and renovating an old house allowed me, along with my wife, Sue Froehlich, to save enough money to travel the world for 1½ years. Exploring the art, architecture and cultures of the world created an understanding of my need to make things with my hands and led to work building cabinets. For six years, my work consisted primarily in building commercial cabinets – everything from stock supermarket cabinets to high end doctors’ offices. That company’s ultimate financial failure and the birth of our first daughter, Else, served as the impetus for me to follow my own path and vision, and Essence Woodworks was born.

Carl Schlerman of Essence Woodworks

Over the last 12 years, I have built many different things, moving more from the commercial environment into residential cabinetry and custom furniture. I have built high quality cabinets either from designer specs or from plans that I developed with individual clients. The styles ranged from stately mahogany cabinets with silky rich finishes, to highly stylized paint grade cabinets, to a sleek modern look with high gloss laminates. No job has been like another, and no design has been too complicated a challenge.

In 2004, I met Bart Niswonger, and we ultimately started a furniture design project that was called Studio Cochineal. A two-year period of prolific design followed in which we pushed beyond the functionality of furniture and explored the textural and visual aspects of design. The results were colorful, exciting, and unique. Focusing this energy proved to be difficult to maintain over time, and we are each working on our own again. I encourage anyone to follow Bart’s work which can be found at

I now find myself at yet another crossroad. After much reflection about where I have been and where I would like to go, I have decided to forge ahead with Essence Woodworks but with a few changes. I will still build beautiful cabinets for people, but I will spend more time in furniture design under the name of Crimson Asphalt. As my alter ego, Crimson Asphalt will allow me to explore new territory in the search for thought-provoking, functional design. It is all an adventure.

Carl Schlerman
May 2007

11 South Street, Williamsburg, MA 01096 • (413) 268-3446

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