When you hear the word "custom furniture," what do you immediately think? I bet the first thought drifts above your head in a thought bubble and is either a cash register making a cha-ching sound or is just a bunch of dollar signs. The second thought might be either "expensive" or "I can't afford it." Was I right?
For interior designers, custom means something completely different. When we specify something custom for a project, we are simply using something in our design that is made to fit the needs or requirements of our clients (that's the official dictionary definition by the way). Using custom pieces in our designs allows us to create rooms that unique to our clients - no two rooms should look the same since no two clients are the same. Isn't that why someone hires a designer in the first place? To create a room that isn't the same as their neighbor's? So, let's talk about the different types of "custom" to help dispel any misconceptions.
Their frame, your fabric (or finish). If you go into a furniture store and purchase something off the floor (just as you see it), you are not buying a custom piece of furniture. However, if you order the furniture with a different fabric, then you officially are buying custom furniture. Most upholstered furniture purchased these days fits in this category. Even many of the popular online retail websites allow for customization like this. Additionally, many designers work with manufacturers that allow for customization beyond just the fabric selection. We have the ability to change the finish color on legs or even entire pieces (like dining tables, etc.). This most basic level of customization gives you so many options from which to put together the perfect look.
Their frame, your fabric, your size. The next level of customization is a little more rare, but still available. And, again, this is something to which designers have access, but rarely consumers. Sometimes we might need a piece of furniture to be longer, shorter, taller, etc. The modifications always start with a manufacturer's frame style and are then altered to our specifications.
Something completely new just for you. For any interior designer, this is where real design happens. The ability to design a piece of furniture and have it produced for a client is an extremely rewarding experience. And, this isn't just reserved to furniture. Custom lighting, commissioned artwork, one-of-a-kind custom rugs all provide us the opportunity to truly personalize a space for our clients.
The big question now is what does all this mean for your decorating budget. In reality, the first level of customization is well within the reach of most people who either purchasing mid-level quality furniture or have hired an interior designer. There are distinct cost implications for the second and third levels. However, if custom pieces are mixed in with "off the shelf" pieces, you can still achieve a look unique to your particular style. The room below is a great example. The table, chairs and sideboard are all "off the shelf" pieces. But, combined with original artwork and you have a truly unique room.
The big take away - custom doesn't have to be scary or expensive. It just gives you (or your designer) an opportunity to put together a room that is you - all you.