When I make the suggestion to a client that we consider creating a custom piece of furniture for their home, their first reaction is usually concern that it would be too expensive. However, in my experience, that is almost never the case. I’m going to share my experience with the benefits of designing locally made custom furniture, and a few examples of work I have created.
When I design a custom piece, it’s usually because I have shopped and the right piece just doesn’t exist yet to suit my clients’ needs. If that means there is something that is almost right, sometimes it can be customized by the manufacturer. However, when a furniture piece is made by a national manufacturer, there is usually an upcharge to customize it. This is because they need to adjust their production system to accommodate the change, and often national furniture makers aren’t set up to do so easily. The cost may be more to customize through the manufacturer, but you will definitely get the exact look.
To avoid this cost, when I create a custom furniture piece I prefer to have it locally made, and be an original design. I draw inspiration from other pieces, kind of like making a new recipe. I might take a leg here and a finish there, but the final result is totally new and unique. I find almost 100% of the time the price is about 40% less when going local. You also get the added benefits of supporting local businesses, and having a direct discussion with the person who is working on your piece. The teamwork is wonderful and energizing. The final result is a piece that fits perfectly in scale, proportion and style in my client’s home. It’s completely unique, and truly their very own furniture.
A word of caution about copyright laws: it is important that you are producing something that is uniquely your own design. If you remember the first season of Ellen’s Design Challenge, the winner created a piece that we later found out was almost an exact knock off of another designers existing piece. So while it’s important to have inspiration, I challenge you to be creative. To be in compliance with copyright laws, you need to have at least three points of difference between your furniture piece and other items like it on the market. This can be the dimensions, materials, finishes, or lines, it’s easy to do if you give it some thought.
So let your imagination go, and think about what you could design. Anything you can design, there is someone out there who can make it for you.