Justin Donahue: Cabinet Architect
By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter
PLEASANT HILL — As a young man, Justin Donahue was headed toward a career in architecture, but when he applied his skills to cabinet design, he knew he’d found his calling. “My dad is a general contractor, so I grew up around construction, which naturally led to an interest in architecture,” he remembers. “After graduating from high school, I started doing architectural drawings for a living. However, since I was so young, I didn’t have very good contacts, and I routinely got stiffed on payment. Eventually, I decided I’d be better off getting a regular job, so I went to work for a local cabinet shop doing cabinet design. I fell in love with it right away and I’ve been designing cabinets ever since.”
In 2012, Justin returned to working as an independent contractor, but this solo stint didn’t last very long. “Soon after I decided to work for myself again, I was contacted by David Fontan, who had purchased a local cabinet business and was looking for a lead designer,” he explains. “I kept telling him I didn’t want to work for anybody, but he insisted that I come and check out what he had going on. I came out and he made me a pretty sweet offer, and the rest is history.”
Today, as an independent designer at Oak Mountain Cabinets, Justin says his favorite part of his job is making clients happy. “I enjoy bringing a customer’s dreams to fruition and seeing their face light up when they get exactly what they wanted. It’s just a great feeling when your work makes someone smile.”
A resident of Pacheco, Justin spends his time outside of work on a variety of pastimes. “I like going to movies and concerts, as well as doing small projects around my home,” he details. “For example, I built most of the furniture in my house. I also enjoy spending time with my two daughters—they’re still pretty young, so they enjoy going to museums, amusement parks and libraries.”
In regard to a professional philosophy, Justin says he tries to guide customers where they want to go, even if it’s not where they initially expected. “When I’m designing cabinets for a client, I’ll often make two different sets of plans: one that reflects exactly what they asked for and one that includes my personal recommendations. I’ll then sit down with them and compare the two. More often than not, the customer will pick a lot of the things in my design and incorporate them into their design, and in some cases they’ll just choose mine wholesale. I find this is a good way to steer people in the right direction while still giving them control over the process.”
Ask Me Anything!
Q: What’s your favorite local restaurant?
A: Lemongrass Bistro in Martinez.
Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
A: Croatia. It’s not a well-known tourist destination, but it has everything you’d want in a vacation spot: a beautiful landscape and plenty of things to do, all at an affordable price.
Q: Do you collect anything?
A: I collect old computer parts.
Q: What’s your favorite snack?
A: Beef jerky.
Q: What was your first job?
A: When I was 15, I got a part-time job cleaning out storage units at a public storage facility.Read more