Linda Villasenor could only laugh when she heard her husband George proclaim that he was going to replace the furniture in their 1920s house because he wanted a “new look.” Luckily for her, George Villasenor has the talent to construct exquisite furniture.
A designer and master craftsman for Villasenor Studio in West Salem, George has more than 40 years of experience in crafting custom furniture and kitchens. He has designed and built custom furniture and kitchens in the Victorian, Art Nouveau, Arts and Crafts and Asian style.
“Each piece I create is an original,” George said, adding originality is his forte.
Growing up in the Bronx, New York, George won a contest for a drawing he entered for the Buster Crabbe Show. His prize was a carpenter set. “I went to a local market in the Bronx and asked if I could have bunch of wooden crates that I used to start making things,” he said. When he was 15, his family moved to Los Angeles.
After high school, he attended a trade technical college for illustration and worked 10 years as freelance artist for the aircraft industry. When computers started coming into the market, he knew it was time to find a new career. “I always had a passion for antiques before antiques became popular,” he said. “I was an original picker before picking became popular.”
He and his wife would rise early before the trash man and scout neighborhoods throughout LA such as Beverly Hills looking for items people were throwing away, discovering treasures including a Russian lamp, furniture and more. “In those days, antiques were considered junk. Nobody wanted them,” he said, adding he still scouts places for treasures that he purchases at a bargain and then brings home, repairs and sells.
Visiting his workshop is like stepping back in time – a collection of old woodworking tools and furniture as well as George’s philosophy on creating high quality furniture. “The pieces I have designed are still out there,” he said. “The furniture I make is made to last.”
He has endured his share of success and failure in his lifetime, treasuring each as a valuable life lesson. At his age, he admits, it is a little harder to move the furniture, relying on assistance from a grandson. He has no intention of slowing down. He believes everyone has a talent – with his being quality craftsmanship. “I think the worst thing in life you can do is to waste your talent,” he said. “If you never find what your talent is or if you find it and don’t use it, then you will live your live in a quiet desperation.”