Having trouble finding the perfect sideboard to complete your dining room or just can’t seem to find a dresser that matches your vision for your master bedroom? It may be time to stop searching online and scouring stores — and opt instead for a custom piece that is made to order for your space, functional needs, style and budget.
Dan Sullivan of Navillus Woodworks in Chicago says custom furniture is a good solution whenever you can’t find something “off the shelf” that meets your design needs. But, he says, custom pieces aren’t ideal for people in search of a quick fix. Designing a one-of-a-kind piece takes time and collaboration.
“The client intimately participates in the process, helping select materials, finish, and dimensions, as well as any other element that contributes to the whole,” Sullivan says. “If we succeed, we create an heirloom piece that helps define the life of those who live with it.”
When you commission a furniture designer to build a custom piece, you should come prepared with measurements of your space, as well as photos that will give the designer an idea of what you’re looking for. Sullivan says Pinterest boards can be helpful in communicating your vision. And, he says to be sure to show the designer where you plan to use the piece in your home.
“Knowing the context of where the piece is going is also critical,” he says. “It’s important for the piece to look good in its surroundings.”
Finding the right designer is key, says Chicago furniture maker Zak Rose. Choose someone whose design sensibility speaks to you — and then let them do their job.
“If you want a beautifully crafted piece of furniture by a designer who also builds things, let them lead you with design choices — you may be surprised that you like something you had not previously imagined,” Rose says.
Seth Deysach, creative director of Lagomorph Design in Chicago, says 10 to 16 weeks is the industry average lead time needed to make a piece of custom furniture. But, he says, complicated projects can take even longer.
“Larger millwork projects, kitchens, whole homes and such can take four to 12 months or more, depending on the scope of work,” Deysach says.
As for cost, custom-made furniture may be more or less than retail — depending on which retailer you’re comparing to. Deysach says that when you buy directly from a manufacturer, you eliminate some of the markups retailers typically pass on to customers. But, of course, he says you most likely won’t be able to commission a piece of furniture for the prices you’d pay at bargain stores like CB2.
“I always use Design Within Reach as a starting point,” he says. “If DWR is not in reach, then custom most likely will not be an option.”
Ready to take your home’s design to the next level with a one-of-a-kind piece? Check out these six custom furniture makers.
Zak Rose is a member of Dock 6, a collective of fabricators, furniture makers and designers located in Chicago’s Hermosa neighborhood. Rose specializes is wood and metal designs with clean and modern lines that highlight the natural beauty of the wood. “I love to have air and a light feeling to my work as well,” he says. “Functionally, my work spans all rooms of the home and office — beds to desks to dining room tables and case goods.” 2100 N. Major Ave., Chicago, 847-372-7309
Working in wood, metals, veneers and glass, Lagomorph Design specializes in contemporary furniture, case goods, tables, seating, cabinetry and built-ins for residential and trade clients. 2100 N. Major Ave., Chicago, 773-218-7956
Chicago mom and entrepreneur Meg Piercy gives vintage furniture new life by painting or restoring it. Choose from among hundreds of pieces in the showroom, and have it painted in any color or finish. The best part? Piercy makes beautiful custom furniture accessible. “Our prices are more than Ikea and some other box stores, but about 25-100 percent less than most other big-box stores,” she says. 2415 W. Barry Ave., Chicago, 312-636-3583
Navillus turns out custom pieces made from wood and steel, with a strong mid-century influence. The shop is equipped with a CNC router for carving, inlays and cutting unusual shapes. 2100 N. Major Ave., Chicago, 312-375-2680
This boutique shop, which specializes in furniture made from reclaimed wood and other up-cycled materials, started out in Andersonville, and recently moved to a larger space in Logan Square. 2535 W. Armitage, Chicago, 773-907-4022
Although Hearthwoods makes a variety of furniture, including beds, shelving, stools and mantels, owner Andy Brown says his specialty is tables of all kinds (dining, accent, console, coffee) made from reclaimed wood. “For the bases we use wood, welded steel and antique cast bases,” Brown says. 15310 Red Arrow Highway, Lakeside, Michigan, 269-469-5551