In today’s prime residential market, owning a bespoke piece of furniture is increasingly in demand from discerning buyers and collectors. Mass production of furniture feels at saturation point, so many buyers are looking for something more meaningful and simpler in origin than a bulk produced item from a factory production line. Clients want something that evokes a response and has its own unique story.
Greater environmental awareness also encourages this desire to know the roots of design; the source and ecological sustainability of a piece of furniture, and to consider the true value of things beyond their price. As designer/makers we take our clients on that journey from the starting point of a raw piece of timber, to the finished item of furniture, designed to their exact specification.
To commission a bespoke piece and to play a part in the design of something exclusive with discreet, individual touches is a rare and special experience. For the person commissioning it, it provides a behind-the-scenes insight into the provenance of a piece of furniture – offering a unique opportunity to liaise with the craftspeople who have spent days working on your new table, to understand for yourself how the wood was chosen, where the materials were sourced and to understand the work that goes into such a project.
To make any of this possible takes a team of highly skilled craftsmen. Without a designer, craftsman, finisher and installer at any stage of the commission, it would be impossible to deliver the high standards that our clients expect. There is a cost associated with exclusivity and this relates to the amount time taken to prepare the drawings and craft the piece; we do provide guidance at the outset so that the client has an understanding of the likely price and at the completion of the design we give a fixed price. The price is worked out on a simple time and materials basis so a simple dining table may only require 5 cubic feet of timber and take 24 hours to make, whereas a complex extending table with carved embellishments and a complex veneered top may need 300 hours.
At a recent discussion at Decorex 2018 during London Design Week, I joined the President of the BIID, Susie Rumbold, interior designer Staffan Tollgard and textile designer Margo Selby to discuss our own experiences of the luxury design journey and our creative influences. We discussed the growing interest in the provenance of a piece, in the world of interiors. Clients want to know where a piece has come from, who made it and the materials used, and significantly they don’t mind paying a premium to get that high-level of exclusivity that comes with a bespoke commission.
This desire for a ‘one-off’ piece and the interest in the design story of the maker, has opened the door for clients to ask for and explore a wider range of materials. There is a fairly standard palate of timbers used for furniture and this is because they are tried and tested and available in reasonable quantity; veneers allow us to use a greater range of materials but with limited applications, so, it is quite rare to use timbers that are out of the ordinary.
So, what is the beauty of bespoke? For me, the real beauty of a finished bespoke piece is reflected in the collaboration between client and designer, by the hours spent designing and painstakingly crafting the piece from a specially chosen piece of timber – selected specifically for that commission – and the pleasure in creating something that is truly unique and will be enjoyed for years to come.