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Out Of The Ordinary: How To Commission Bespoke Furniture

To furnish our homes with bespoke and original furniture is a desire harboured by many of us. The process can require a significant investment of time and money, but the key to realising your vision as smoothly as possible is knowing what you want and what you are getting into from the outset. To help you out, here is our six-step guide on how to commission bespoke furniture, the right way.

Step 1: The Brief

It all starts with articulating your requirements into a design brief. The clearer you can be about the style, colours, material feel, function, size and position of the furniture in your house, the easier the process will be. You might want to produce a sketch of what you envisage or use Pinterest to create an inspiration board, that can help to make clear your preferences and ideas to the designer.

Step 2: Commissioning The Designer

One of the common pitfalls made when commissioning bespoke furniture is that the design fails to be separated from the construction. Commissioning a craftsmen with the wrong skills for the job might leave you with you something you asked for, but not what you really wanted. Equally, expecting a designer to have the craftsmanship skills to bring a design to life is unrealistic. Success first lies in commissioning a skilled designer, followed by appointing the right maker for the job.

Any good designer should be able: i) to turn your brief into a maker’s specification, ii) to draw detailed concept sketches and iii) to be able to recommend makers capable of working with the materials and in the style you have settled on. This is exactly what Janine Stone & Co. offers our clients as part of our wider interior design services.

Step 3: Commissioning The Maker

Any good designer should be able to recommend to you craftspeople, who are suitable to work on your project. Gilder, restorer and furniture maker, Rupert Bevan who has created bespoke furniture for over twenty years says:

“I feel strongly that commissioning furniture is a journey and should be enjoyable from start to finish. The more involved and informed my clients are, the happier they are with the results.”

Bevan’s tips for telling whether your maker is up to the job include looking out for the following signs:

• The will want to visit and photograph your space
• They will study you. (E.g. Are you left or right-handed? Tall or Short?)
• They will produce very detailed working drawings.
(E.g. How joints fit together and materials layered upon each other).
• They will always offer you options and variations of what is possible.
• They should be able to advise on the best use of materials, space and functionality.
• They should always be asking questions and be able to explain the technical design aspects.
• They should be transparent about the process and be able to advise on how to take care of your furniture post-construction.

Step 4: Approving The Design

Given the investment of time and money involved in commissioning a bespoke piece of furniture, the worst thing that can happen is that you don’t like the finished product. Before the design is approved and manufacture begins, you should always ask the designer-maker to explain themselves, show you material samples, drawings or examples that help to bring what’s on paper to life. Rupert Bevan says;

“There should never be a surprise when presented with the final result!”

Step 5: Visiting The Workshop

Part of the joy of having bespoke furniture made is being able to go and see it come to life. Witnessing the craft at work and being able to share those details with friends and family once it’s installed at home, makes it all the more special – that just isn’t possible for furniture that is designed and built off-the-shelf.

These visits are a good opportunity to be updated on the delivery schedule and if you are in the middle of a home renovation, you and your interior designer will want to know about any obstacles to meeting this schedule.

“When delays occur, a good maker will be transparent about this with you. Small delays can be forgiven, but quality should never be compromised for something you’ll have for the rest of your life”, Rupert Bevan.

Step 6: Receiving The Finished Article

After a few months, the finished article should be ready for delivery. Your designer-maker should always supply care instructions and want to spend time explaining how to take care of the furniture item properly. You are officially a patron of the arts and proud owner of a completely original furniture piece that may well endure into future legacies.

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