I’m sure that there are many ways to work with a customer to design a piece of custom furniture, but this is how we are doing it.
The design process is organic – how it is done significantly depends on the client. In a typical case, the client has a concept for what they want, and has a list of musts and wants. This would include functional requirements, size, some idea of finish and desired character. There is normally also a list of must nots and prefer nots. We need to get those items out in the open early. Some of this is done by email, but meeting in person or over the phone really improves the efficiency of the conversation.
Inspirations are very helpful – photos of items that you find attractive. I often ask for a list of adjectives that would apply to the piece. Although obvious to each individual, sometimes they are a surprise to us! The priority of those words is also very important – it tells us where the client is coming from. Pricing is always of interest, and I can provide an estimate range at this point.
We take all of that design information and turn it into some sketches – sometimes only one if the vision is pretty clear, sometimes more than one.We discuss it and refine the sketches. It often takes several passes to iron out the wrinkles (first) then clarify the details. Occasionally we build physical models or Sketchup models to show the piece from multiple angles.
Color(s) and finish get discussed early but are clarified once the design is set. Interior finish details are also clarified once the exterior is defined.
All of this information allows me to finalize a price. I will write up an email describing exactly what will be provided, with drawings attached and materials, hardware and finishes specified. Delivery is defined or some options listed. A timing estimate is also provided, though it is only an estimate.
Once the proposal is satisfactory, a payment of 1/3 of the final price allows me to purchase materials and holds your place in the queue.
Once your piece starts production I will send you pictures weekly and questions as they arise. There are always details that need clarification. You will see your piece turn from rough boards into a finished heirloom – always more slowly than either of us wants. Finishing in particular takes a while – there are several steps, then film finishes need to harden prior to rubbing out. The final finish has a glorious glow and feel that makes all that time worth it.
The balance of the cost is due upon completion. The piece is shipped or picked up or delivered as we have agreed.