DIY, Home Decor

How to Design Custom Furniture

Like a tailored suit jacket, custom furniture is made to fit your needs precisely. Why buy off the rack when you can create an item all your own? Whether you’re moving into a new space or simply renovating a room or two, you can bring your vision to life by designing custom furniture pieces, unique to your living room, bedroom or dining room. Don’t feel intimidated if you’re new to the process — allow yourself to feel inspired and lean into your creativity. There’s no wrong way to design your dream room.

Why customize?

Save time and stop the searching! More than likely, the exact design you’re envisioning doesn’t yet exist. Maybe you’ve imagined a twist on a sofa seen in a magazine, or you’ve seen exactly what you want in a dream. No matter the source of inspiration, the world is waiting for you to bring it to life. Instead of prowling the web or wandering through store after store, consult with a professional and create your perfect sofa, table or headboard. If your taste is more elevated than your budget, create a piece inspired by a high-end design at a lower cost than the original. Plus, your creation isn’t just a copycat — it’s sized and shaped for your space specifically, giving it unique, personal flair.

Where to begin?

Step 1: Take stock.

First and foremost, examine your space, budget and existing furniture and determine how many pieces you need. If you have the bandwidth for multiple pieces, prioritize them. Is a single accent chair in the entryway all you need to complete the space? Maybe you’ve just renovated the whole dining room and need a full furniture refresh. Ensure integral pieces you wish to customize — dining tables, sofas, beds—are covered in your plans before looking at accent and occasional furniture.

Step 2: Measure, measure, measure.

Before planning your designs or meeting with a consultant, take note of the size of the room. To design a perfect piece for your space, get as granular as you can. Designing custom furniture that fits perfectly in your space ensures that you will make the most of oddly shaped rooms or expansive urban loft spaces. Not only do you need to measure floor area, ceiling height and doorway width (remember that your furniture has to fit through an entrance!), but you should also determine the sizes of existing furniture and decor. If you’re designing a custom sofa, for instance, you should gather the dimensions of the accompanying coffee, end or side tables. Take note of the area rug underfoot to keep the new addition proportional with other accent pieces. This is especially important when designing a desk chair or set of dining chairs—assess whether they sit at the right height for their respective tables.

Step 3: Consider your lifestyle.

Does your furniture need to be pet- and kid-friendly? Do you frequently host guests, overnight visitors and impromptu gatherings? Asking yourself these types of questions can narrow your shape, design and upholstery searches. If you often have little ones running around, you probably want a custom coffee table with rounded edges rather than sharp corners. If you know your sofa is in the splash zone for spills, sticky fingers or stray dog hairs, you may choose to customize your new sectional with lived-in, easy-care leather.

Step 4: Get inspired.

Once you account for these logistics, all that’s left is design. The shape of the furniture, as determined by the frame, is the foremost indicator of style. Finally, give details such as button-tufting, nailhead trims, leg finishes and other final touches a thought.

What should you expect?

Designing furniture can be time-consuming. Make sure time is on your side. Before the actual design process begins, spend time evaluating your space constraints and needs. The total time frame from initial consult to finished furniture will vary by company, designer and manufacturer.

Also, keep in mind that when working with an expert, you may need to schedule multiple meetings. If you recently moved into a new home and are looking for more in-depth interior design guidance, you might want to arrange an in-home consultation with your designer. Understanding your timeline lets you enjoy every step of the process of creating your own unique furnishings, built with care and attention to detail.

What is semi-custom design?

If you’ve found a table, chair, sofa or rug that’s almost what you need but not quite right, consider semi-custom design. This process lets you swap out tabletop materials, base or leg finishes and fabric on existing furniture pieces. Semi-custom design ensures a look you’ll love, while reducing time spent on planning of a fully customized piece.

Another easy way to refresh your furniture and give your space a unique look is to find a custom upholstery program — perfect for sofas, armchairs, dining chair sets and even bedroom furniture such as headboards.

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Hannah Bollman writes inspirational and actionable content around home design and entertaining for Crate and Barrel, where you can customize your furniture choices. When she's not providing guidance on interior style, Hannah enjoys performing stand-up comedy and working to improve her 5K time. 

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