When I called Marc-Antoine Desjardins, President of P+R Desjardins and Menuiseries Mont-Royal (MMR), I expected to chat about their AWMAC Quebec awards finalist project in the Corporate/Professional category: 1250 René-Lévesque West. What I got was much, much more. Without prompting, he got started by telling me what makes MMR different from other millwork companies.
“My uncles started P+R Desjardins as a general contractor in 1960 doing high-end interiors,” explained Desjardins. “And then in 1974, they founded MMR because they realized they needed an internal millwork manufacturer to be more distinctive.”
MMR is now a third-generation family business with a close-knit group of over 50 employees, many of whom have been with the company for over 20 years; some are even second-generation employees. On average, their cabinet-makers have approximately 15 years of experience. As Desjardins showed me around the 38,000 square foot manufacturing centre on the first floor of their building, he was able to greet everyone by name, smiling and joking around.
“We have flags hanging from the ceiling to represent all of the different countries that our employees come from,” he pointed out — a considerate and thoughtful touch for an industrial setting. The space is clean and incredibly organized; it’s clear that the entire operation is a well-oiled machine.
We started in the veneering department, a room filled with stock that Desjardins described as smelling like an old-fashioned cigar room. We then moved on to the solid wood department, where they make all their components in-house. In the machining department, he was quick to point out their Homag 5-axis CNC centre.
“All of our machines are custom,” he told me. “For what we’re doing, we can’t just buy something off the shelf. These are designed to do exactly what we need them to do, and we need them to do everything.”
This reminded me of an earlier part of our conversation when discussing the AWMAC finalist project.
“There are two really special things about this job,” he emphasized. “First is the ceiling.”
Inspired by the St-Lawrence River, which is part of the spectacular view from the office in downtown Montreal, the ceiling is made up of 2418 custom-made slats which dip down, projecting a wave-like motion.
“It was a big challenge because it needed to acoustically absorbent, cost-effective, fire-rated, and beautiful,” Desjardins explained. It would have been impossible to do if they didn’t have in-house millwork manufacturing services.
The second aspect that Desjardins pointed out was the reception desk. Designed to be a piece of art, the reception gives off the vibe of a water-worn stone in the river, complementing the ceiling beautifully.
“One nice thing about being the contractor and the millworker is that if we have suggestions or ideas of how to adapt something or change something, we can just speak up about it and be heard,” said Desjardins. With an educational background in architecture, he has a deep understanding of how all the puzzle pieces fit together on a job like this.
We checked in on some in-progress projects on the manufacturing facility tour, notably an open-concept closet for a residence in Old Quebec, which measures an astonishing 9’ X 12’. I was only half-joking when I told Desjardins that it was the size of my living room. He also showed me some custom rounded cabinets which were unlike anything I’d ever seen before. We moved onto the painting and staining room, where pieces and panels receive their treatments before assembly: colour samples hang on the wall to ensure matching and consistency. Finally, we arrived at assembly, packaging, and shipping.
“We have our own small trucks, so we can do our own local deliveries,” says Desjardins. “That way, a project is never waiting too long for materials. We can send a truck to a site two to three times a day if needed.”
They don’t need to book a shipment with an exterior company and wait for their shipment to arrive. This saves them time and helps keep MMR on track.
“Take doorframes for an example,” says Desjardins. “Those have to go in very early on, and if you’re waiting for them to arrive, you’re off schedule right away. Whenever we talk to external designers, and the topic of millwork comes up, they always say, ‘and you can do that? On time? And it’s sustainable? Why doesn’t everyone do this?’”
The conversation often came back to the benefits of being a general contractor who offers millwork services. It’s a game-changer in so many ways. Not just to get the job done, but also in terms of just straight up getting the job.
“When it comes to winning a bid, it’s rarely about pricing with us,” explains Desjardins. “Because so few other companies do what we do, it makes sense to go with us. That’s why we get so many interesting projects.”
“We work with big tech companies who want big open-concept workspaces with millwork detail,” says Desjardins. “It used to be banks who wanted the architectural millwork, but now each chain has a standard look. These companies just do what they want; they don’t need to follow a specific standard.”
Desjardins says that the design conversation often goes like this: “we want millwork, exclamation mark!” And so MMR delivers – everything from hanging, geometric walls made from knotty white oak to statement staircases and boardrooms.
These tech companies are also used to working with designers and contractors worldwide for their different national offices, so they know quality when they see it. And MMR’s quality is hard to miss.