THE BEAUTY OF BESPOKE: COMMISSIONING BESPOKE FURNITURE
It’s official – we’re bringing back bespoke!
Not that bespoke (furniture, fashion or art) ever really left. Commissions and patronage have, after all, shaped our creative canon. And there has always been something extra special about that one-off piece, specifically made-to-order. It’s just that for a long time now, low price points paired with the shiny appeal of ‘new’ had us totally and utterly entranced.
An Arts and Crafts revival (of-sorts) is surfacing. In true 1900s style, we’re rediscovering the appeal of the ‘one-off’ and the hand-made. It’s undeniable that fast-fashion/interiors still provide a buzz but single-season appeal is waning.
THE BEAUTY OF BESPOKE FURNITURE: WORKING WITH THE SOFA & CHAIR COMPANY
This beautiful curved sofa in a deep, moss-green velvet by The Sofa & Chair Company is the ultimate entertaining space centerpiece. It can be made bespoke to any size and in any combination of fabrics and colours
Commissioning something totally new, which is lovingly made-to-order for you alone, is pretty special. When I was approached by The Sofa & Chair Company to attend their showroom relaunch and collaborate with them on this blog post, I was delighted. They are, after all, masters of luxury and bespoke.
This little swivel accent chair takes pride of place in this largely monochromatic roomset at The Sofa and Chair Company’s showroom. It can be modified to suit any interior scheme
The Sofa & Chair Company is noted as ‘the UK’s leading designer and manufacturer of luxury upholstery and bespoke furniture’. Catering to both commercial and retail clients, after almost 20 years they remain dedicated to true British craftsmanship and quality design, the use of authentic materials alongside the finest manufacturing practices.
Their West London showroom, which boasts over 140 room-sets, showcases an extensive yet curated collection of beautiful pieces with bespoke furniture at the very core.
HOW TO COMMISSION A BESPOKE PIECE
The possibilities are endless with bespoke furniture. Choose any colour or fabric to suit you and your scheme
Have you ever commissioned anything bespoke?
It can feel a little scary – all that time and money invested in something that you’ve never actually seen in full, exactly as you would want it. There are different levels, from modifying an existing design and changing elements such as the fabric, finish or dimensions, to instructing something entirely new.
Interior design studios are attuned to the process, working with trusted suppliers to realise their concepts. As an individual, it may feel beyond your remit but many companies also work directly with the consumer to produce something truly special and unique.
Play around with different combinations of materials – I love the combination of mock-croc and lacquered finish here at The Sofa & Chair Company
CONSIDERATIONS WHEN GOING BESPOKE
Commissioning bespoke furniture varies significantly from ordering something ‘off-the-peg’. Every element has the potential for alteration – the world is your oyster! Rather than ‘making do’, if planned correctly, a bespoke piece can meet – or surpass – all needs and expectations.
There are certain considerations to identify and digest when going bespoke. The aim of this post is to enable you to prepare appropriately and guide you through the process.
A formal lounge completed at Sarah Mailer Design. All pieces were designed and made bespoke, including these Sofa & Chair Company sofas and armchairs
You can’t pay Primark and expect Prada
This is the analogy I like to use when discussing the cost of bespoke furniture. Much like haute couture, bespoke pieces are one-off, personalised works of art rather than mass-produced replicas. The level of work involved – from conception to completion – alongside the specialist skill and artistry is always going to be reflected in the price of a bespoke piece. You really do get what you pay for.
At the Sofa & Chair Company’s showroom event, guests were invited to view the intricate upholstery process of a bespoke order first hand. It was amazing to watch the sheer skill of their specialist upholsterer.
A master upholsterer deeply engrossed in his work at The Sofa & Chair Company’s showroom event
It’s important to note that bespoke furniture is an investment rather than a seasonal flurry, so try to avoid being shaped entirely by fads. Instead, commission something with more longevity in mind – something that you really love.
#2: LEAD TIME
Image: The Sofa & Chair Company. Champion slip-covers or deep-buttoned fixed upholstery – the choice is yours!
When ordering standard, ‘in-stock’ items, lead times are generally very clear – ‘collect in store’ or ‘5 working days’. These are items which have already been manufactured – often on mass – and are waiting to be bought.
When ordering bespoke, beyond the design and sign-off period, the lead time on your item will likely be considerably longer. For upholstery, fabric will need to be treated to meet compulsory fire and safety regulations which can slow the process. 12 weeks is not unusual for something totally made-to-order (although The Sofa & Chair Company’s usual lead time is usually around 6 from the final drawing sign-off).
The beautiful combination of woven linen fabric and velvet piping sings on this bespoke armchair at The Sofa and Chair Company’s Showroom
Whilst long lead times can feel frustrating, it’s crucial to remember that your item is being made from scratch, often using complicated and time-intensive processes. Good things really do come to those who wait.
#3: DESIGN DETAILS
Image: The Sofa and Chair Company’s Serra Bed
Matte, gloss, eggshell, solid wood or veneer, piping or studs – the options are limitless when you go bespoke. The key is to lock down the concept before making decisions. Allow yourself time to explore and experiment (more on the process below). This is where working with an interior designer is really useful as they will be able to consolidate ideas and make targeted recommendations.
If you don’t have the luxury of a designer, The Sofa & Chair Company’s diverse fabric library can be a great place to develop your own upholstered piece. The collection includes more than 400 comprehensive books of luxury fabrics and leathers from a number of leading international brands such as Donghia, Osborne & Little, Armani Casa, Rubelli and Ralph Lauren.
A detail of The Sofa & Chair Company’s Serra bed
The beauty of bespoke furniture is that you can make it entirely your own.
A little taller than average? Increase the height of your base unit kitchen cabinetry and island. Looking for a sofa to melt into? Increase the seat depth. A thousand relatives migrating to you for Christmas? Commission an extra wide, mega-extending table with additional, invisible leaves.
A formal dining room that I completed at Sarah Mailer Design. All pieces were designed and made bespoke, including these Sofa & Chair Company Charles dining chairs and carvers
Most bespoke commissions follow a simple process from conception to completion:
i) DESIGN RESEARCH:
Collate inspirational images and pictures of similar pieces. It’s important to consider the look and feel you wish to achieve – be it modern rustic, totally minimalist or something in-between. Note down any ideas, alongside functional requirements.
ii) SHOWROOM VISIT:
Choose a manufacturer who has an excellent previous track record and visit their showroom or workshop. Online presence only? Give them a call to discuss your requirements. When I’m designing bespoke, I like to to test-drive exemplar pieces which helps define how the new design will differ.
iii) DESIGN BRIEF:
Speak with either an interior designer or showroom affiliate about your intentions and requirements. It is also worth discussing budget at this stage to clarify whether this is a viable route. Create a Design Brief, which is a succinct statement outlining the functionality and look and feel of the bespoke item. This could cover size, usage, style etc.
Image: The Sofa & Chair Company
Ask for a concept drawing of your bespoke commission. Along with samples, this will help you to visualise the outcome and bring it to life in advance of manufacture. Further along, more technical drawings should follow but the concept stage is the ideal time to make updates and amendments. Once the final drawings have been signed off then any additional changes may delay the project and can increase costs.
Collect samples for all aspects of the proposed piece. A bespoke dining chair may require a number of samples, including cuttings of the main fabric, back fabric, piping fabric, alongside studs or trim. Samples of the wood veneer, metal or painted surfaces incorporated in the design would also be useful.
Layer all these elements together to ensure a winning combination. Seek advise of a professional if you are unsure at this stage – be it an interior designer or the showroom itself. Suppliers such as The Sofa & Chair Company can be a great sounding-board for ideas and will make recommendations and feed back if needed.
Detail from the formal dining room that I completed at Sarah Mailer Design. All pieces were designed and made bespoke, including these Sofa & Chair Company Charles dining chairs and carvers. The fabric and finishes selection was a careful process and we were delighted with the final outcome
Communication between yourself and the supplier or manufacturer of your bespoke item is key. As above, it’s far better to ask questions and iron out issues earlier rather than later. Discussion and development are important aspects of the process. Remember that they are the experts so never feel you can’t ask for ideas or advice. This could even come down to the type of fabric to use or how best to clean and care for your piece.
Your bespoke piece will not go into production until the drawings or final design have been signed-off. This involves you checking all the details (technical drawings to include dimensions, fabrics, finishes etc.) and stating, in writing, that you are happy to proceed. At this point, you should have a clear indication of the expected lead-time.
Image: The Sofa & Chair Company
You should be kept abreast of the status of your order. Any delays will be highlighted (this can happen when fabrics are out of stock etc.) and should be managed appropriately. With many bespoke pieces – particularly with custom artwork – you may be shown an image of the finished article to sign-off before delivery is arranged.
A delivery date will be coordinated to work for you. Many bespoke suppliers offer white glove delivery as standard . This is where the item is delivered to a room of your choice, carefully constructed on site, if required, and all packaging and rubbish removed. This is your opportunity to check and sign off your finished piece.
Image: The Sofa & Chair Company
BOWING TO BESPOKE
I’m coming clean – I live my own life in a halfway house. Whilst I champion an investment bag (The Gucci Disco is Rose Beige is still my current favourite), I also like to dabble in fast-fashion.
It isn’t a crime to take this approach with your interiors too. Whilst many private residential clients opt for everything totally custom-made (the holy grail), a mix can work equally well too. If you’re new to bespoke, consider diving in with an upholstered armchair or console table. There’s no reason why this couldn’t work alongside an ‘off-the-rack’ piece (like a coffee table here).
Detail from at upholstered bench at The Sofa & Chair Company’s showroom relaunch event. Even the direction of the stripe has been considered in the manufacturing process
If you’ve ever dabbled in something totally made-to-order and unique then I would love to hear from you in the comments below. Or perhaps you’re a pro in this field and have some tips of your own to share. As always, keep up to date with my latest musings over on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest. I hope you enjoyed this one!
Girl signing off,
*Please note that this post has been sponsored by The Sofa & Chair Company. Thank you to The Sofa & Chair Company for use of the showroom, some of the images and some incredibly inspiring pieces. I feel it important to reiterate that I only promote brands which I truly believe in and support. As always, my content is entirely original and all views expressed are my own.
** If you’re looking for more design advice, the following posts my be useful: How to Design Children’s Bedrooms | How to Choose the Perfect Paint Colour | 3 Interior Design Mistakes and How To Avoid | How to Create a Spa Bathroom | Coffee Table Book Styling