About Carlson Construction

Your Friendly Madison General Contractor 

What We Do

Restaurants & Cafes

You don’t make great food and then just throw it on the plate. Your space should be as exciting and inviting as your menu.

Bars & Coffee Shops

We believe that no two bars or coffee spots should ever look the same, and we can help build out a spot worthy of your brand.

Salons & Retails

Your establishment should be as fashionable and pleasing as the wares you’re selling or the services you’re offering.

About Carlson Construction


Our team has a Norwegian work ethic and decades of experience partnering with — and serving — the most upscale establishments around the Madison area.

We’re different from other companies in our field — we’re artisans as much as we’re contractors.

We have an attention-to-detail that ensures the most highly-designed and elegant plans come out looking exactly like you imagined them. We are here to make your vision a reality.

We’re problem-solvers who travel the state to buy native wood species and other local materials we can find from unique folks around Wisconsin. We find something special, buy it all, and hang onto it until we find a project worthy of the labor that went into crafting it.

Our owner/operator Chad Carlson is a self-taught woodworker. He’s the descendent of carpenters and craftspeople. He’s always had a fascination with how things work and has been creating in his own woodshop since he was five.

Our core team has over 50 years of experience building the most chic, talked-about spaces in Madison!

We take our client relationships as serious as our projects. All of us at Carlson Construction are passionate people who wake up in the morning excited about the job we’re doing. We work best with clients who are as passionate about their craft as we are about ours.

After all, this isn’t copy-and-paste design work. These are hand-crafted, highly-designed projects. We put our whole selves into every job because you deserve it, your customers and patrons deserve it, and because frankly, we don’t know any other way!

Meet Chad Carlson 


​Chad came to Madison for college in the early ‘90s and quickly knew that he had found a home. During college, he formed Carlson Construction and he’s just as passionate and excited about the work today as he was in his early 20s, looking to leave his mark on the community he loves so much.

He’s been lucky enough to get to work on bringing to life some of Madison coolest, trendsetting and chic local establishments, including both Ancora Coffees, Corpus Salon, Garth’s Brew Bar, Merci, Robin Room, Gibs, Porter, Imaginary Factory, Beauty Society, Barre District, Morris Ramen, Thorps Salon, Ritual Barber, Good Style Shop, Murramoto, Middlewest, Gotham Bagels, Underground Butcher and many, many others.

His maternal grandfather was a machinist and carpenter. His Norwegian great-grandfather was a carpenter. He has woodworking and attention-to-detail running deep in his DNA.

When he’s not working in his workshop, or developing the next first-rate Madison space, he and his partner Stefanie, along with their two-year old daughter, love to travel… especially to places with water. From Puerto Rico to Lake Mendota, if there’s water nearby, that’s where you’ll find them, swimming, fishing, boating, diving or just generally taking it all in.

Chad is proud to have helped create so many of Madison’s iconic restaurants and cafes, bars and coffee shops, salons and retail spaces.

Ready to take your space to the next level? Drop him and his team a line today.


Jobs Done Right The First Time

Our team has decades of experience completing projects on time and on budget. 


Professional Friendly Service

Our team brings a positive attitude and our clients satisfaction is our number one priority. 


High Quality Construction Management

Our project management processes are based on decades of optimization and experience.

Cost Plus Collaborative Contracts

Everybody wants their project to be perfect. But not at any cost! That’s why we believe in total transparency when it comes to our process and progress on your project.

With that in mind, we’re strong believers in the transparency of open book contracts that allow everyone to see everything related to the project. These types of contracts are ideal for complicated projects typical of construction and help keep costs down and timelines moving forward.

Over the years, we’ve found that these types of contracts are ideal for complicated projects typical of construction. Ultimately, they help keep costs down and timelines moving forward. It also allows us to keep the build-out process from becoming secretive and adversarial.

What’s a cost-plus collaborative contract?

A cost-plus contract is a contract where the contractor is paid based on the actual expenses, plus an additional amount to allow for overhead and profit. We start with budget estimates and a discussion of workflow. When the scope is defined, we transfer these numbers into a cost-plus contract. Should we encounter the need to deviate during a complicated build-out, we’ll have a framework in place that ensures it’s easy and seamless to make changes and decisions quickly. This helps our customers keep costs down and ensures we can remain on schedule– even when things don’t go exactly as planned.

How do I know what the actual expenses are?

We provide access to a shared spreadsheet that lays out the actual costs of everything from our team’s labor to the cost of a box of screws. This lets our clients track costs in real time. No surprises for you, no unneeded headaches for us. After all, we are all on the same team.

“Chad and his crew were simply outstanding to work with. This was my first commercial build-out, and Chad made it easy for me. He was patient, responsive and willing to walk me through all of the decisions. I had fun completing the project and love the results (stop by and see my studio!). I will absolutely use Carlson Construction again and would recommend him without reservation for your project!”

Margo Plant
Barre District Madison

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