Btailored. The word “bespoke” has become so ubiquitous in the design community that some believe its very meaning has been erased. From the point of view of craftsmen conjuring up heirlooms from tree trunks and souvenirs from metal fragments, adapting a ready-made cushion with a so-called bespoke filling in one of the five colorways available falls into an entirely separate category from the one in which they operate. Of course, custom details can still lend a sense of individuality and identity to a home as a whole, but for purists, the cushion itself can’t be considered truly bespoke. Absolute uniqueness is the determining factor in creating a piece of furniture or a work of art worthy of the adjective that divides; the uniqueness of the brief, the privileged relationship between designer and sponsor, and of course, the sheer originality of the finished piece contribute equally to its bespoke status.
Charu Gandhi, the founder of the famous interior design agency Elicyon, is quick to tell me that it is high time that the process of ordering bespoke furniture, accessories or gifts was demystified and democratized, going going so far as to say that “ordering a made-to-measure piece can sometimes cost the same price as buying brand-name furniture. Gandhi believes that commissioning bespoke furniture has too long been the preserve of the super-rich and that with the right knowledge and a nudge in the right direction, the option is open to the curious bespoke, whatever their budget. So this week, I spoke to some of the top interior designers about their approach to commissioning bespoke furniture for their clients and how newbies could get involved.
Establish your motivation
The first step in the journey to commissioning your first piece of furniture, artwork or accessory is to establish a clear motivation to do so. A number of factors can influence your decision, but the most common reasons are to create a piece that fits into an unusual room, to invest in quality craftsmanship for a gift, or to pass on to the next generation. , or to develop a piece of furniture. you need, but it doesn’t exist “off the shelf”. For Alex Holloway and Na Li, co-founders of London design studio Holloway Li, “Ordering bespoke furniture is often easier than finding something that will work or look like what you need. Without color, finish or size constraints, you can adapt a piece exactly to your needs”, instead of retrofitting a piece of furniture already in production and perhaps not quite right.
Meet your creator
“Following makers on Instagram and visiting craft and design fairs is a great way to enrich your little black book of makers,” says Gandhi, who will be part of the judging panel for this year’s Goldsmiths’ Fair, the 40th anniversary of the great contemporary silverware and fine jewelry event. “Shows such as Goldsmiths’, Made London and London Craft Week showcase some of the most amazing designers and offer insider access to workshops,” she says. For Gandhi, one of the most exciting aspects of creating a piece of furniture in collaboration with an artisan is the relationship you develop, “which in turn plays a big role in the value of the product”.
Camilla Clarke, creative director of interior design firm Albion Nord, shares the same sentiment. “Every time we order a bespoke piece of furniture for a client,” she says, “we connect them with the manufacturer to forge a relationship, which helps make the brief more meaningful. If you can meet the craftsman to see their workshop or studio, you’ll get a sense of who they are and how they work with their materials, and feel intimately connected to the genesis of the final piece. For Clarke, it’s all about process and the relationships along the way, “working collaboratively to bring something new to the world that you’ll keep and pass on.”
Time is not always money…
“One of the most important considerations to keep in mind is that you’ll need to factor in testing and allow plenty of time for trial and error and prototyping,” say Holloway and Li. really want to be taken on this journey and have the patience for the process if they feel they’re getting something unique out of it,” they add. Gandhi also cautions against the delays involved in custom commissioning, saying that “craftsmanship requires time and makers should not be rushed”. Interestingly, she notes that imposing a tight deadline can often mean that you end up spending more money without achieving the desired results. “If you have the luxury of time,” she suggests, “it might be worth waiting a little longer for your piece to allow the crafter to source rare or limited materials as you go. and as they become more readily available Ultimately it is important to be guided by the manufacturer as they know the materials best and what is available in terms of cost and time. manufacturer will result in an end product you can be happy with, because cost and materiality go hand in hand.