Henri is half of "The Faux Team" with Chris Burke. Shown here in Fort Worth, Texas, they make their classes both informative and fun.


Learning Cabinets from “The Master”

Atlanta-based artist Henri Menendez, who operates DeHuelbes Designs has been generous about sharing his knowledge about cabinet finishing with the rest of the industry. He’s a long-established teacher at IDAL conventions.  While he now teaches classes about cabinet finishing many  might remember his popular “Two-Hour Mural” class that he taught for several years.

“I would do these make-shift stencils cut out of cardboard and then use aerosol paint cans  to crank out  murals in a matter of minutes,” Henri recalls,. “It was a blast. People got a kick out of me using two aerosol spray cans in both hands at the same time. It was a bit gimmicky, but people loved it. They were super-simplistic murals for kids’ rooms and (spaces) like that, but it was a way to teach people they could do a mural super-fast, get in and out in less than a day, and get paid quickly.”

Henri fields some questions from the sold-out "Cabinet Master" class in Houston, Texas.

Since turning to cabinet finishing, he markets himself as “The Cabinet Master,” a name that originated with his friend and fellow finisher, Chris Burke. Chris and Henri occasionally teach classes together, going by the title of “The Faux Team.” Henri admits that they come across somewhat as “The Odd Couple.”

“I’m neat, and he’s a slob, but we’re good buddies, and it’s a fun and interesting contrast to have both of us teaching in the same room at the same time,” Henri reports.

Henri and Chris have taught at IDAL together for several years now and will be at the upcoming IDAL Convention together in September. They also have taught various studio classes together in various locations, including Chris’ “Mr. Faux” studio in the Washington, D.C., area. They are planning to teach together at IDAL’s upcoming convention in San Diego.

“Chris will be doing four or five textured faux wall finishes, and I’ll do four or five cabinet finishes,” Henri reports. “People will get the perspective of two working finishers from two different areas of the country who have more than 60 years of combined experience.”

The fact that Henri and Chris bring such vast experience to the classroom is huge. “We’re not full-time teachers,” Henri explains. “We might teach three classes over the course of the entire year. Otherwise, we’re actually out there, selling work, doing work and physically applying finishes. This allows us to have our hand on the pulse of the industry. We also feel we’re better applicators because this is what we’re out there doing every day.”

This is a class sample Henri uses the demonstrate how the process of the Tone N Glaze can change a cabinet from the plain clear coat finish in lower right corner to a rich wood finish in just one day.

Cabinet Finishing Tips

Living up to his title as “The Cabinet Master,” Henri uses his classes to pass along some great information about how to succeed in the cabinet finishing market. Being fast and efficient is key. Ultimately, what that boils down to is having a system that boosts productivity.

“Some people think the reason I can finish a job so quickly is because I use fast-drying lacquers and have a crew, but there’s much more to it than that,” he says. “I do have a crew working for me, but I never put more than two people on any given kitchen refinish job. It’s because of the system that we’ve developed and fine-tuned over the years that we are able to work so quickly and efficiently and effectively.”

The class provides in-depth teaching on the system that Henri and his team have developed, but here’s just one little tidbit: “If you’re spraying doors, stack them already in the position that you want to spray them in—with the back side up, for example. It will save you several seconds per door.”

A few seconds may not sound like much, but imagine if the job consists of 150 doors and shelves with each piece having to be sprayed four times on each side. “If this saves you a few seconds per door, you multiple those seconds by 150 pieces times four times each, and you end up saving about an hour or two of time,” Henri says. “You save an hour here, an hour there, and you’re going to cut down your project time and increase your profits considerably.”

One concern that Henri hears from finishers about making money with cabinets is that the field is just too competitive. “If they would just streamline their system and try to get more into a production mentality, they would see that they could really increase their profitability.”

However, he cautions: Don’t think it’s going to be easy. “Cabinet finishing is really hard work. It’s not for somebody who wants to make a quick buck and not put in the work.  Once you develop your system it will take some practice  and application to reach the speed and efficiency of a seasoned cabinet finisher."