If you are buying custom furniture from a furniture store you may get to choose the style, the type of wood, and the fabric. If you want a piece of custom furniture which is a piece of art as well as functional, the rules change. There are many more choices and things to consider.
1: Research the artist and company!
Find out who they are and where they show their furniture. Art shows and galleries? Or the back of their pick-up?! Today, anyone can build a good website, so make sure you are dealing with a respected artist. What awards, if any, have they won? How long have they been in business? Do they have a showroom or gallery where you could view their furniture if you chose to? You don’t want to find out too late that they have imported the furniture from Mexico or Asia. A good artist’s name will also appear in magazine articles, newspapers, blogs, etc.
2: Research the product and ask lots of questions!
In our career we have noticed that the producer is counting on the consumer to not know the difference and to not ask. For example, no one suspects the turquoise in their furniture to be plastic. However, sometimes it is. Green plastic can look just like real turquoise. If you’re buying a $3,200 coffee table with turquoise inlays you better ask the question before you put that pen down. Ask about the leather, the wood, the stones, and don’t forget to ask where it was made (We’ve got a lot of “copy cats” in Mexico). Find out how the wood is cured especially if you are buying slab live-edge furniture. If the wood has been cut green, it WILL crack if not cured correctly and completely.
3: Use your computer to get exactly what you want and COMMUNICATE!
If you want to find exactly what you want you really don’t need to go any farther than your computer. This is where you can do some research and find out where your furniture is really coming from and what the value is.
Online stores can be a great tool for you and the artist. If they are using high-resolution images, inspect the wood and details close-up. If you browse through the artist’s website you can often find out exactly what they can do and then use their descriptions to describe exactly what you want. “Rustic” can mean many different things so make sure you are on the same page with the builder. If our customer is not sure or not clear we will blog pictures as we build to be sure they are delighted with the project we are building.
4: Keep all documents with custom jobs.
This might be a no-brainier, but still warrants a mention. A classic mistake in an order is the dimensions. For example, you need some chairs but the seat of the chair needs to be at 18 inches or less so that your knees don’t bang into the table. If you have an e-mail that has that description you’ll want to bring that up when you get your 20 inch high chair and don’t want to pay for the shipping. Find out what the guarantees and return polices are and get them put into writing.
5: Use a “Blanket Shipper”
Most furniture stores use freight companies. The quote below from “The Consumerist” is startling!
“40% of freight delivered using any trucking company arrives damaged in-box. That means 2 out of 5 people will have to reorder their freight a second time (total process taking 42 business days- 2 months). 4 out of 25 will have to order a third time (total process taking 63 business days- 3 months).” http://consumerist.com/2007/02/20-online-furniture-buying-tips-from-an-industry-insider.html
With a blanket shipper the furniture is not crated and stacked and loaded and unloaded, but rather wrapped with blankets, secured using straps, and usually left in the same spot it is packed into until unloading. A crater will drop the box on your driveway (often literally!). Good Luck! A blanket shipper will carry your furniture into your home and place it where ever you ask them to. (Be aware: They may charge extra for stairs.) We have found blanket shippers to usually cost less than craters probably because a crate does not need to be built. It may take a little longer to find one that is going in the right direction but it takes a lot less time that it would if there is damage to your furniture.
Find out the policies of your company if there is any damage. We have occasionally needed to fly out to fix a slightly damaged piece. It costs us less and is much quicker than shipping the piece back to us.
6. Don’t forget to ask about maintenance.
An oil finish is the easiest to repair. Minor scratches will disappear with a good quality furniture oil. If the worst happens, most repairs to an oil finish can be completed in minutes. Really!
(Our most extreme example) One of our customers had a bear break through their dining room window and claw his way across their table. The repairs only took Andy about an hour.
A varnish or plastic resin finish will have to be stripped and refinished to repair. The shinier the varnish the more any scratches will show up.