I have only once had something custom made for a clients, working as an interior designer on residential projects. This client had two bronze statutes that needed solid plinths to withhold their weight. I couldn’t find anything ready-made solid enough. So, here are my top 10 questions to ask your custom made furniture designer.
There are many reasons why I don’t usually specify or recommend custom made furniture. The main reason being because I think there are so many ready-made pieces that will work. I have a long list of suppliers and I’m confident of finding something ready-made, at a good price and good quality for my clients.
This is preferable for a few reasons. Primarily because specifying a ready-made piece ensures the project gets completed on time. The other reason I don’t often specify custom made furniture, is the expense.
It can be expensive to have something custom made. If you don’t find the right furniture designer, then this could also end up being an expensive mistake that you have waited a long time to get. Having something custom made almost always takes a long time, especially if the furniture designer is highly sought after.
Another reason I don’t specify custom made pieces often is because I think spaces are living breathing entities that should be flexible and open to changes in function and style. Changes that reflect my client’s lives more accurately.
But sometimes, after an exhaustive search you or your interior designer may not have another option other than getting custom made furniture for a space. So how do you find the right custom made furniture designer?
Get referrals for custom made furniture designers
There are several ways to find a reputable custom made furniture designer. You can seek referrals. These can be through online groups or your friends and family. And if you’re not working with an interior designer, you can always reach out to a local interior designer for a suggestion.
Research for local custom made furniture designers. This can be done through a Google search but also Instagram can be a good research tool.
Personally, I have found custom made furniture designers for my hospitality design work through; dog walking, Instagram, Facebook groups and Hipages.
It’s a good idea to talk to at least three custom made furniture designers. To ensure they are qualified, professional, communicative and a good fit.
Use an interior designer to help you brief the furniture designer of your choice
It’s a good idea to work with an interior designer when having something custom made. The reason for this is that an interior designer ‘speaks the same language’ as a furniture designer. They are both creatives.
An interior designer also understands materials and functionality. While custom made furniture is aesthetically pleasing, it also needs to serve the purpose it was intended to serve.
Your interior designer will give the furniture designer a bit of background to the piece. It’s functional purpose and aesthetic goals.
Together your interior designer and furniture designer will discuss budget, lead times, and process. To make sure the end result is perfect.
Top 10 questions to ask your custom made furniture designer
If you don’t work with an interior designer and seek to find and brief a custom made furniture designer yourself then here are some key questions to keep in mind in your discussions.
- Have they made something like the piece you have in mind before? It’s a good idea to have pictures to help the furniture designer understand what you want.
- Ask about the materials the furniture designer uses or specialises in. Make sure you understand the price difference with using different materials. And ask if the piece you have in mind can be made with an alternative material.
- Find out their processes. Do they draw? Will they draw the piece you have in mind?
- What the payment options are? Never pay full price up front.
- Lead times, how long will it take?
- Do they foresee any issues affecting timings?
- What their warranty is?
- Can you talk to a previous customer for a reference?
- Do they deliver?
- Do they install? Some delivery companies will not bring an item into the space but if you’re having something custom made it may be necessary for something to happen to the piece once it’s in position.
Having something custom made for your home is a big deal. Whether it’s purely a functional piece for your kitchen or a focal dining piece, some attention is required to get it right.
Key learnings from having furniture custom made
I once worked with a furniture designer for a hospitality design project. I asked him to make something simple – shelves. The shelves needed to withhold the weight of a ceramic pot plant.
The construction was easy enough for this furniture designer but the installation was not. He installed the shelves, my client placed the pot plants on the shelves and after a short time, the shelves collapsed.
The shelf, and the pot plant fell on a bench seat. Had my client’s customers been dining at the time, there would have been serious injury and possibly even a law suit. My client was lucky his café was empty.
I share this story because I’m a firm believer in learning from other people’s experiences. Had I not taken for granted this furniture designer was also skilled at installation as well as making the piece, the accident could have been avoided.
Importance of being discerning with custom made pieces
That’s why it’s important to be thorough with selecting a custom made furniture designer for a piece that will be used in your own home. The last thing you want is for a shelf to fall on one of your kids, or a pet, or a leg on a dining table to become loose or a trip hazard.
There are many high skilled and innovative furniture designers that can create a stunning piece for you but I would suggest exhausting your ready- made options first to eliminate all the risk factors involved with purchasing a custom piece.
Another example I want to share is when a client had a beautiful custom made dining table but it was too big for their new home and they had to cut it. This is exactly what I was referring to above about the pieces for our spaces needing to be flexible to adapt to our lifestyle changes. Good luck and if you need help finding the perfect piece ready made or referrals for furniture designers please get in touch.