Mustard Seed craftspeople understand the special responsibilities inherent in restoration work. We come from diverse backgrounds but we share one common goal: doing the job as well as (or better than) the original builders, and doing it safely.
Founder Scott McBride began restoring vintage houses in New York’s Hudson Valley in the 1970s and 80s. Among his most challenging assignments was a cornice rebuild at the Armor-Stiner octagon house in Irvington, NY. This landmark home – a bizarre confection of Second Empire and Egyptian Revival influences – was the first National Trust property to be handed off to a private owner contingent upon restoration.
Scott transplanted his contracting business to the Virginia piedmont in 1990, whereupon his focus shifted to the remodeling and expansion of country estate homes. Since the spring of 2005 Scott and his team have been spearheading carpentry restoration at President James Madison’s Montpelier in Orange, VA – a $28 million project which has been recognized for setting new standards of excellence in restoration practice.
In tandem with his building career Scott has established a reputation as a technical author. His feature articles on all phases of carpentry work have appeared in national trade journals such as Fine Homebuilding and Traditional Building.
Project manager Bill Bichell “launched” his woodworking career with a boatbuilding apprenticeship on the coast of Maine. In addition to honing his craft over the next decade Bill worked with a variety of schools, museums and other non-profit organizations developing programs for the demonstration and teaching of wooden boat building. His journey came full circle when he returned to Maine as a Master boat builder/instructor at the school where he began.
A move to Virginia prompted a shift into house carpentry when Bill undertook the interior restoration of a ca. 1776 Fredericksburg home. Since joining Mustard Seed in 2005 he has been at the forefront of the Montpelier Restoration. Bill combines the skill and precision of a master boat builder with the creativity and passion of an artist.
Lead Carpenter Ed Gomez got his start as a production stick-framer in southern California, but his creative bent soon led him into specialty work as a Hollywood set-builder. After moving his family to not-so-sunny New Hampshire Ed took a supervisory position with a firm specializing in superinsulated timber frames. Ed’s artist within still beckoned, however, so he spent a two year sabbatical studying cabinetmaking at Boston’s North Bennett Street School. After graduating from the cabinetmaking program Ed returned to carpentry, eventually hooking up with Mustard Seed. As our company inventor, Ed’s specialty is thinking outside the box; if the right tool for the job doesn’t exist, he conjures one up.
Cabinetmaker Gene Lyman left the suburbs as a young man and moved to Rappahannock County, Virginia when it was still a rural backwater. There he began a lifelong study of eighteenth century homes and furniture. The woodworking shop he founded in 1974, Country Cupboards, has helped dozens of appreciative owners throughout the Virginia piedmont to restore and furnish their vintage homes, making everything from elegant mantelpieces to one-of-a-kind stair spindles. In the public sphere, Gene was commissioned by the National Park Service to reproduce furniture for Turkey Run Farm Park in McLean, VA.
An accomplished horseman as well as a woodworker, Gene can be found among friends at fox-hunts and timber races on the weekends.
Foreman Juan Alvarado is Mustard Seed’s quintessential jack-of-all-trades. Originally trained as an electrician in his native Honduras, Juan became a building maintenance technician after immigrating to New York City in 1998. Since moving with his family to Virginia Juan has concentrated in the carpentry field. The imperturbable Juan maintains an even keel whatever the situation.
Preservation carpenter Nick Oster is another North Bennett grad who recently joined Mustard Seed. Originally from Baltimore, he’s the closest thing we have to a native southerner on the crew. Before coming on board Nick taught woodworking to disadvantaged inner-city kids, and spent a year cyclin’ about in Australia.
Assistants Oscar and David Morales give new meaning to the word “hustle”. As brothers from a family of nine boys, Oscar (the oldest) is geared for power while David (the youngest) is wired for speed. A computer hookup keeps Oscar in touch with his kids in Honduras. We couldn’t “get ’er done” without these two guys.
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