Finding furniture that fits

When considering new pieces, custom-made may be the way to go

By Chelle Cordero

This side table, designed by David Rasmussen, is composed of a solid form that has split open to reveal the cross section of an artichoke. ( photo courtesy of CustomMade)

The room you spend your time in — the one you relax in, entertain in or run your business from — should be a reflection of you, the owner. Filling your space with custom-made pieces will help make the room more personal and unique.

You can spend hours searching through store inventory and still not find that special piece that speaks to you or fits your space properly, and if you’re shopping for stock furniture, you’ll always get something that’s mass-produced. But many stores carry furniture that can be bought ready-made and die-cut in prescribed sizes and designs. Custom-made furniture is unique and crafted to your specifications, however exacting.

Sometimes the need or desire for custom pieces is practical; maybe the area needs a specific size or a match is needed for another existing piece. Awkward spaces require customized pieces to fit comfortably. Personalization can also be a compilation of hobbies, special interests or individual necessities. Current design and fashion trends often factor into what you’ll find available in the stores.

“As far as furniture goes,” says Michael Salguero, CEO and co-founder of, “the bedroom (beds, dressers, lighting, bedside tables) seems to be a place where people want high levels of customization.” Those levels of personalization can differ. “There are items that are more on the personalization side, other items are what we call blank-page customization. This is where the customer and artisan work together to co-create something out of the client’s needs/wants/tastes.”

The most common materials used in North American furniture are metal and wood; some mass manufacturers may specialize in one specific type of material. Other materials such as plastic covers, metal hinges and glass panels may be used as accents. Custom designers will also find ways to use specialty woods; merge woods and textures; use carvings; and combine wood and metal sculptures. If you can dream it, a designer can make it happen.

Salguero also explains that custom pieces are “more affordable than you would think. Custom is certainly on par with mid- to high-end retail stores, such as Restoration Hardware and others. Plus, you can get something locally made and handcrafted to your exact specifications. When a consumer transacts through CustomMade, they are able to correspond with the artisan right on the site, compare different bids for their project and accept a bid with the knowledge that CustomMade has their back in the event that they have a problem.”

Kitchen cabinetry is another area where custom pieces often come in handy. Stock cabinets, doors and shelves will fit stand sizes. Custom-manufactured cabinets are made to the buyer’s specific needs and dimensions. This may be a perfect solution to fit a corner or to accommodate different sized appliances than the original. Custom cabinets also offer more options in terms of shelving, accessibility and storage spaces.

Unless you’re purchasing a stock piece from a floor display, the time between ordering and delivery is often no different, even if you order a custom piece. Since retailers often order from the manufacturer, it may take weeks until the customer has the furniture in place in his home. According to Salguero, ordering custom furniture typically takes about four to eight weeks until delivery. No matter what you decide to order, make sure that the entry path for delivery will accommodate the furniture to avoid damage to your walls or the furniture; it’s suggested that you measure staircase widths, corners and doorways.

When you’re thinking of choosing custom furniture, start by scouring stores, magazines or the Internet for ideas and designs. Visit a custom manufacturer and ask to see some of their previous designs for inspiration, if need be. Once you have a concept in mind, choose two or three local and reputable artisans; describe your ideas and see what they can suggest. If someone’s design doesn’t sing for you, then she’s not the designer for you. Ask designers whether they have a 3-D visualization program for major projects to help you decide whether the finished project is really what you want.