Where should I start? Maybe with the thrill I get every time I happen to glance yet again
 at the unique lustre and richness of any of the 13 beautiful pieces that grace my home. 
Or should I share the enthusiastic expressions of admiration I receive when guests visit?   
It is usually the husbands of my friends that show the greatest rapture. They understand the incredible
work that these pieces of art entail.  When the single wall unit, Murphy Bed and cupboards, arrived to be slid into the 
existing opening of the old clothes closet my contractor had his breath taken away - it fit so perfectly.    
I never mind going to my office to work now that I have the perfect environment. And my bathroom makes me
smile, my vanity is so lovely - and so different from the eternal  'two cupboards and two sets of drawers'.
Working with Matt is a pleasure and an honor. He is gracious, unassuming, too generous and
the epitome of an artist. I would be happy to show you the lovely things he has done for me in my home if you
are considering his work. Just ask Matt to set it up. 
 
-Victoria

Portola Valley, Ca

"WE HAVE THE PLEASURE OF OWNING A NUMBER OF PIECES MADE BY MATT RANGING FROM CLOCKS AND ORGANIZERS ALL THE WAY TO AN OUTSTANDING JAPANESE STEP TANSU. IT ALL STARTED WHEN WE NEEDED A DUAL STATION DESK FOR OUR HOME OFFICE AND MATT CAME UP WITH A NUMBER OF DESIGN IDEAS. CLEARLY, WE THEN NEEDED A MATCHING FILING CABINET, DISPLAY UNIT AND ORGANIZERS FOR THE DESK! MATT THEN COMPLETED A BUILT IN WINDOW SEAT FOR THE MASTER BEDROOM, THE STEP TANSU AND WE ARE CURRENTLY LOOKING FORWARD TO SEEING THE BED AND SIDE TABLES THAT HE IS BUILDING FOR US NOW. HIS HAS AN AMAZING ATTENTION TO DETAIL AND GREAT SKILL CRAFTING WOOD INTO FURNITURE THAT ARE REALLY PIECES OF ART.WE ALSO PROUD TO SAY THAT HE HAS NOW BECOME A GOOD FRIEND OF THE FAMILY."

 -ADAM AND DIANA

BOULDER, CO

 

"Matt has made ten custom pieces for us, both free standing and built in. The workmanship is exceptional and we enjoy each piece everyday. Matt is a pleasure to work with. We are proud to have his work in our home!"

-Alex & Susan Macario 

Palo Alto, CA

 

"Our experience with Matt was great.  We asked him to design us several different pieces and appreciated the way he got to know us and our styles. He introduced us to a variety of different designs and wood that would complement our existing decor while still making a statement.  HIs first choice of design was always the one we ended up with - his design instincts are superb. We love the way his designs worked in the architectural elements of our house. Matt's creations are truly functional art."

Brad and Robyn Pope

Marin County, CA

"I return to Stark Furniture time and again because Matt has against-all-odds passion for his craft.  He has a keen eye for wood and wood combinations. His work is an amalgam of beauty, functionality, and heirloom quality." 

Randy Pi, MD

San Jose, CA

 "The pieces of furniture that Matt made for us (bed and coffee table) are both beautiful and practical. We love the fact that we get to use the pieces everyday - a reminder of a good, talented friend. We plan on using these pieces forever!"

-Kit & Jim

Columbus, OH


"The novelty of looking at the two gorgeous custom beds Matt has made  
for us just never goes away. They are spectacular and the workmanship  
down to the smallest detail is simply amazing. We ordered our first  
custom bed from Matt and it was delivered on budget and ahead of  
schedule. Two years later, we ordered a second with the same results.  
And we shall return to Matt the next time we need furniture."

 -Munira & Sean Walston, Livermore CA

 "Charlie and I are really enjoying our new bedroom furniture, it's beautiful!!"

-C & C Villa

Vienna, Virginia 

 

"Matt, I received the custom box yesterday and it is absolutely stunning. Thank you so much for the beautiful craftsmanship and love you put into making the box. It will be a perfect memorial for my dad and one that I know he would have loved."
-Kristy, San Francisco, CA

 

 

"We received the writing desk in perfect condition delivered safe and sound and love it!
Thank you so much."

-Mr. & Mrs. Roberts

Melborne, Florida 

 

"Matt, We are all very pleased with the furniture.  My mother-in-law was impressed and thought it very beautiful.  She is ready to finish the rest of the room.  I expect that you will be hearing from us again when we sort out what we would like to do."

-Jeff

Westport, Conn.

"Hi Matt,  The custom jewlery box you made for me is absolutely perfect. Thank you!"

-Jo Ann 

Discovery Bay, CA


San Jose Mercury News (CA)

ARTIST GOING AGAINST GRAIN

HE FASHIONS FURNITURE, ONE PIECE AT A TIME May 26, 2005 

At age 27, Matthew Stark, of Santa Cruz, is one of the youngest masters of the dying art of hand-crafted furniture. It took him more than 200 hours to build this walnut and sycamore cabinet.
Fine furniture is renowned for rare details like this drawer made out of bamboo and walnut.

Two hundred hours into the job, with 50 more to go, Matthew Stark blew the sawdust from the mahogany dining table he was building in his two-car garage in Santa Cruz. The burst of breath revealed a flawless inlay of exotic, dark brown wenge wood from the troubled African nation of Sierra Leone.

''They fight over two things in that country,'' the furniture craftsman said, ''diamonds and this wood.''
At the relatively young age of 27, Stark is as rare as old-growth redwood. He's a budding master in an ancient craft struggling to hold a valuable place in this age of cheap Ikea chic. Master woodworkers once hand-fashioned majestic cabinets and tables for English monarchs, French queens and Chinese emperors, and were considered artistic superstars. Today they work day jobs to cover roof and groceries.

 

David Welter can tell you that much. He's taught at the College of the Redwoods' highly regarded program in fine woodworking for 20 years. Despite its internationally known quality and fame, he estimated that only 5 percent of the program's graduates become successful and independent woodworkers. Half, says Welter, depend on related work -- like factory cabinetry -- to survive, and the rest become hobbyists.

 

''It's a struggle,'' Welter said by telephone from the school in Fort Bragg. ''It's not so much an industry anymore as a way of life. There will always be people who do the work for the sake of doing work of value.''

 

Almost every picturesque town in California has an art gallery row with plenty of sculptures and paintings. But rare is the place featuring a gorgeously comfortable desk made of African mahogany, a whimsical rocking chair of California walnut and fiddleback maple, a meticulously crafted tansu cabinet of cherry and black acacia woods, or a dining table of quilted maple found only on the Pacific Coast.

 

These are the kinds of wooden confections to be found at Gallery M in Half Moon Bay, one of only a handful of stores on the West Coast specializing in original fine woodwork. It's where Stark -- a husband and father -- also works as a salesman, a job that's giving him the business and marketing skills he'll need to become an independent master craftsman down the road. Meeting the public inside the amazing shop on Main Street makes Stark both a throwback and a forward thinker in his chosen profession.

 

As a young boy in Vermont he built toys of wood and later became a carpenter on custom homes. Part of what drove Stark west was an invitation by a woodworking uncle in California, Larry Dern, to apprentice with him. That learning experience led to an apprenticeship with Anthony Kahn, one of California's most renowned masters, and then to a job as a designer and craftsman for the Berkeley Mills fine-furniture company.

 

Stark's own designs are inspired by Japanese and Chinese traditions he saw for the first time in California.

 

''An artist here could be very expressive with his design concepts. There were no restrictions,'' he said. And at the same time, ''I'm just blown away by the Japanese aesthetic. They can make a straight line look elegant.''

 

Premium prices

 

Inside Gallery M, a breath-taking collective, Stark had one piece of his own for sale. It was a Japanese-inspired cabinet of walnut, sycamore and bamboo. Priced at $7,500, the gorgeous piece illustrates the predicament of modern master craftsmen. Given the premium prices for fine wood, the cost of equipment and the reluctance of art lovers and ordinary homeowners to invest in fine woodwork -- why bother?

 

Figure in the $1,500 Stark paid in materials for the cabinet and 200 hours of labor, he ends up working for $30 an hour. In pricey Silicon Valley, that's barely cutting it.

 

''I'm telling you,'' Stark says with a laugh, ''if I didn't have this sales job I'd be banging nails at a subdivision, and this would be a hobby.''

 

Yet, there is hope for master wood-chippers in the valley of microchips.

 

David Gregory, a high-tech entrepreneur with two successful start-ups to his record, is a regular customer at Gallery M. He sees a ''synergy'' between technology and the art of fine woodworking.

 

''I work with a lot of engineers of software and chips,'' he said. ''They have a mutual appreciation of architecture, woodworking and music, of what artists can do with their hands and minds in creating a beautiful thing like a fine piece of furniture, plus it's functional use.''

 

Nor does Stark feel like odd-man out in Silicon Valley. Just as marketing savvy has become as crucial to high-tech companies as the talent of their engineers, he's learning what sells, how to negotiate prices with galleries and how to market himself to the broadest possible customer base.

 

''I once thought that if I could make good furniture I could go anywhere,'' he said. ''But I discovered the business part of it takes the starving out of it.''

 

And then there are all those folks rushing to buy trendy but veneered fiberboard furniture at huge, low-price Ikea stores. Back home in Santa Cruz, Stark held his 2-year-old daughter, Sophia, and asked, the central question.

 

''I wonder if our daughter's generation is even going to buy fine furniture,'' he said.