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Wood & Stone: It's all in the details

About Details International, Inc. CEO Michael Capp III

May 27th, 2011 | Suzie Rodriguez
As a purveyor of high-end architectural specialties, Sonoma resident Michael Capp scours the world in search of antique wood and natural stone--limestone from a 14th century French castle, redwood logs that have been submerged in a river for more than a century, over-sized 19th century Austro-Hungarian bricks.

He brings such treasures back to his materials yard on 8th Street East, from which they eventually re-emerge in wineries and estates in Sonoma, Napa, and beyond.

We asked Capp to talk about his work as CEO of Sonoma's Details International:

Q: How did you get started in this unusual line?

In my early 20s I was a carpenter in the Grass Valley/Nevada City area, and I gradually worked my way into supervision. I saw a lot of waste, with wood thrown away, so I started recovering it and using it for other things. People weren't talking about recycling in those days. I just didn't like seeing good wood go to waste.

In 1982 I took a job supervising construction on Robert Mondavi's residence, and I had to find unique materials such as old wood. I found an old stash of redwood stored in a barn up in Northern California and milled it for that project. I flew all over the state looking for old grape stakes to use for the ceiling. In Europe we purchased stone flooring, antique roof tiles and ceramic tiles, and nearly two-dozen doors from an Italian convent.


Q: And that led you to start Details International?

Yes. Around 1983 or 1984 I went out on my own and founded DI. Living in wine country, I saw a growing demand for specialty stone and wood products for new wineries and estate projects. With my technical background in construction and supervision, I set out to supply high quality resources to the region's general contractors.


Q: Describe a project in which you've recycled wood.

In 1984, Yosemite National Park replaced its ancient redwood water pipeline with metal. I used helicopters to take down the old pipeline, milled the wood to bring back its original beauty, and sold it for a huge trellis at Chalk Hill Winery in Healdsburg.


Q: Is there an advantage to using old wood?

A great advantage is that, by recovering old wood, new wood doesn't have to be cut out of the forest. Reclaimed wood is typically old growth timber with tight grain, dense structure; it's excellent for high-end millwork, flooring and timber framing.


Q: What do you mean by natural stone?

Natural stone comes out of the ground--it's quarried. A lot of the stonework you see today is cast stone.


Q: Where have you traveled in pursuit of wood and stone?

Ireland for bog oak. I've found sunken timbers in Central America, reclaimed teak in Southeast Asia, stone artifacts in Europe, and carved marble in China.

Q: What's the most exciting discovery of wood or stone you've made?

When we reclaimed that water pipeline in Yosemite. The 300' tall trestle that supported the pipeline was made of vertical grain redwood 8 x 19" timbers, rather then old Douglas fir timbers. In today's market those timbers are worth five times more than the fir beams.

Q: What projects have you worked on in Sonoma Valley?

For the Lasseter residence in Glen Ellen we used reclaimed Douglas fir 3"x18" timbers to create beautiful door shutters that are 5' wide, 22' tall, and 3" thick. We fabricated all the stone hardscape--including stairs, patio and arches--for the Jasper residence in Sonoma, and located Amish hickory floors for an 1860s Victorian restoration. Right now we're working on an equestrian facility north of Sonoma, producing limestone stairs and fountains.

We've also done a lot in Napa Valley, such as Joe Montana's Tuscan villa in Franz Valley, as well as a million pounds of limestone at Harlan Estate in Oakville (that was a 12-year project). Also, there was a 12,000-foot Swiss chalet replica made of recycled Douglas fir at the Olympic Village in Squaw Valley. We've had projects in Carmel, Hawaii...

Q: What's the best thing about what you do?

Doing what I love using 30 years' of construction experience. I get to search the world for unusual artifacts and assist architects and designers in creating exotic architectural projects.

- Suzie Rodriguez

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