You are probably well-aware of interior designers that have taken the leap to furniture design. Notable ones, such as Kelly Wearstler, have made a big splash by making their furniture designs available retail. Others, such as Scottsdale’s Susie Hersker, designs one-off pieces specifically for her client’s Southwestern desert contemporary homes.
Whether it be the creation of that one perfect piece, or offering a boutique furniture line, it is all the rage for interior designers to design custom furniture. Whether getting it made locally or sourcing it from international artisans, custom furniture affords interior designers the opportunity to offer their clients absolutely bespoke interiors.
7 Reasons to Use Custom Furniture
1. Unbound Possibilities
With custom furniture, there is no duplication of design. Custom furniture allows you to perfectly implement your design vision within the given space without any compromises, making it a profoundly personal experience! When you steer your client away from cookie-cutter designs towards unique items customized to suit their personalities, they will genuinely appreciate the superior care.
2. Excellent Craftsmanship
Custom furniture is typically built by expert artisans who have years of experience and a keen eye for quality and aesthetics. They can assimilate your vision and reproduce it perfectly with the highest quality. When you order custom, you are in full control of how much is invested into each piece. You select the materials and you can opt to give the craftsmen that extra time to do everything right. This allows budget-rich projects to secure furniture that is far superior to mass-produced pieces.
With excellent craftsmanship comes quality and durability. Usually sourced from high-quality materials, custom furniture can quickly become one of those heirloom pieces that homeowners love to own, treasure, and then hand down to the next generation.
3. Promises Are Kept
If the pandemic has taught the interior design community anything, it is to try and source items from the most reliable vendors. With lead times stretching out over months and many big furniture companies making promises they cannot keep, you’ve undoubtedly dealt with anxious, or even angry, clients. With custom furniture, you always have a strong pulse on the progress of work. Dealing directly with the maker allows you to have superior accountability and communication, free of the usual corporate spin. An artisan furniture maker should be able to tell you in advance when they’ll be able to procure all of the materials to start the project.
4. Fabulous Mark-ups
Custom furniture is an excellent way to earn fabulous mark-ups as compared to buying pre-made/pre-designed furniture. By sourcing directly from workshops, you get to keep the profit usually shared with the retail furniture company (and their bloated overhead). And, the retail price is set by you!
5. The Perfect Fit
With custom designs, you can create items to suit any space. Whether it’s built-in cabinets on the fireplace wall or a cupboard in a tricky corner, custom designs allow you to create bespoke pieces that can fit the space like a glove!
6. Support Artisans
By not buying mass-produced items from giant multi-million dollar conglomerates, you can feel happy about helping small businesses thrive. Sourcing custom furniture from artisans helps distribute the dollars that you are spending and it keeps the heritage of artisans alive.
7. Friends of the Environment
Buying custom furniture often means purchasing high-quality products that last longer. Custom furniture seldom ends up in landfills, and a little bit of wear and tear can easily be fixed. This reduces wastage, thereby lending a helping hand toward a greener planet.
Things to Remember While Ordering Custom Furniture
While it is an excellent opportunity to include a custom furniture line in your design business, here are some things to keep in mind while sourcing custom furniture.
Canceling Is Not an Option
Say your client was thrilled about the custom sofa you designed and ordered. But now she has cold feet or found a cheaper option. The problem is, once ordered, you cannot cancel it. Because of the effort that goes into creating each item, it would mean disaster for the producer if the order is canceled while they are already halfway through the work. So make sure you get the client to sign off on it and collect full payment upfront before placing the order.
Good Things Take Time
Since the details of each item are handcrafted to perfection, they will often have a longer delivery time than mass-produced items. Make sure you give your clients a realistic expectation about when they can receive their custom furniture.
Costlier Than Retail
Custom furniture can be more expensive than retail, depending on the level of personalization and details requested by the clients. As a rule of thumb, if the client is working on a tight budget, custom is not for them. However, as the budget expands, custom furniture becomes a superior value. So, it all depends on what budget you are working on.
Love Thy Production Agency
It is often difficult to find local furniture makers that have the heritage, skills, and modern machinery to create the furniture that you are envisioning. Thus, many designers, such as Denver-based designer Margarita Bravo, turn to production agencies like Pulga (source) for their one-off pieces and their furniture lines. What Pulga delivers is an admirable blend of old-world artisans well versed with modern tools and methods – they are after all based in Porto, the artisan capital of Portugal. They have the skills and production capacity to produce one-off pieces or even retail furniture lines. Sourcing custom furniture internationally, such as with Pulga, gets the highest quality work and materials at the most reasonable prices. They also can facilitate your custom production of accessories, lighting, and handmade rugs.
Production agencies are your secret weapon! They receive your sketches and make technical drawings from them. Then they bring those technical drawings to their trusted network of master craftsmen and produce material samples to share with your clients. Once the drawings, materials, and budgets are approved, they manage the production process, ensuring that each atelier does its part as the piece moves from metal worker to woodworker to upholsterer. In the end, they do the final quality assurance of each piece, get them protectively wrapped, and shipped to you. Production agencies make the process super simple for you and their markup tends to be surprisingly reasonable. They are in the business of making you look great.
10 Steps to Ordering Custom Furniture
- Visualize: let your creativity take over and visualize what the space should look like.
- Design: take accurate measurements and sketch out suitable pieces.
- Research: based on the client’s budget, identify custom furniture sources that could make the items.
- Proposal: submit your design to the producer or design house and get a quote.
- Order: after getting the client’s signed approval and full payment, place the order.
- Monitor: stay in touch with the progress of the items, provide inputs if needed.
- Shipping: arrange to ship, if you don’t have a design house tending to this detail.
- Inspection: make a thorough inspection of the finished product upon delivery, and ensure that there are no issues with quality.
- Installation: supervise the installation process to ensure a perfect fit.
- Maintenance: educate the client about maintaining the product to ensure longevity and durability.
According to this report, 81% of consumers ranked quality as the top factor in furniture purchases. This means that the vast majority of homeowners would value bespoke products that will last them a lifetime. Custom furniture can not only help elevate a space but also make homeowners feel special about their possessions. With umpteen custom furniture manufacturers out there, sourcing is easy, yet we highly recommend that you look up reviews online and source only from trusted manufacturers. Or, possibly best, turn to a production agency trusted by your fellow interior designers.
When you design furniture from scratch and have it made to order, it makes all of the difference in your projects. It will separate you from the pack of interior design studios. It will give your clients a reason to be forever faithful to you. And, whenever their friends compliment the space and furniture, all of the credit will go to you, not to Holly Hunt and other big brands.
Have you designed custom furniture for your clients? What was the experience like? Do you have suggestions for other interior designers? Please let us know in the comments below.