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Back to the Future: 1963

David Sutphen Design > Blog > Back to the Future: 1963

“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

In 2012, I remember sitting in the examination chair and my dentist asked how my business was doing. I responded “things are okay – the glass is half full.” At that time, I had been in business for 22 years and I added “we’re still doing what we love.” He then asked “so why did you start your business?”

I thought about it and realized in 1989 I had over ten years of carpentry and cabinet making experience behind me and telling the builder I was subcontracting to – “If I’m going to do what you’re doing, I better get started.”

So, in 1990, with no business plan, a box of tools, a small shop and a 1985 Toyota truck, I incorporated and Southfen Inc was born.

In 1963, my family was building our new home in Long Green and I found a carpenter’s pencil on the construction site and began to draw houses. I have to believe my parents suggested that my interest in houses would be a good topic for a school report.

Last year, as I was transitioning from the company and while cleaning up my office, I came across a folder marked DCS Personal. As I leafed through the papers I found a 60-year old school report from my 3rd grade class at Carroll Manor School.

To my amazement, at age 8, the story I wrote and pictures I drew were about the importance of the home and specifically log homes.

When the Sutphen family home was completed, my father built a small barn and set up a woodworking shop. It was there that I learned woodworking and in high school excelled in mechanical drawing.

It is hard to explain that at the same age of my now grandson, I was forecasting my career path, 27 years ahead of starting my own business.

From such an innocent and isolated school project, a passion was formed and it must have had a profound influence on why I became a carpenter, builder, business owner and designer. Ironic as it may be, among all of the projects I have had the privilege to complete, I look fondly, and proudly, on the reno-restoring of three log homes.

Today, my wife and I live in an 18th-century log home in Butler that the company I founded renovated and restored in 1996. The home was originally a tenant house for a large farm, and during the renovation, from under layers of plaster and vinyl we discovered the origin log cabin which became the focus of my design.

Whether destiny or decision, while writing this blog I looked up at a quote on my office wall by William James

“The greatest use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.”

I believe that my work will indeed do just that.