Thinking about having a piece of furniture custom made for your home? We talk to an expert craftsman on how to get the best results.
Ben Purchase grew up around wood and has always had a love of making things - on his fridge he has an old photo of himself helping his dad build a brick fence when we was about 18 months old.
Now with Ingrain Designs - a booming business of his own, he creates custom timber furniture from recycled, reclaimed or sustainably farmed timber. We ask his advice on the best way to approach having a piece custom made for your home.
How do you find the right maker?
It’s important to do your research to not only find a reputable maker, but one who is the right fit for the furniture piece you have in mind. Makers offer different styles, work with different materials and have different design approaches. Consider making an appointment at the maker’s showroom or workshop to see furniture in different stages, view timber samples, and see finished products.
“People are becoming more conscious about quality, and want to know where their products come from,” says Ben.
What information should you take to your maker?
Measurements - the most important info to have on hand and knowing the physical space you have to work with. You could bring along house plans or measure out the space at home for your piece using masking tape.
Style – think about the style you want and what other finishes and colours you have in the room. Show photos of your space to your maker so they can get a sense of your aesthetic.
Purpose – consider what your piece will be used for ie display, storage, everyday use, is it going in a wet area etc. This can help with considerations when it comes to design, finishes, and materials used.
Timeframe – be clear on your timings when chatting to your maker to ensure you allow enough time for your piece to be created. Each maker works to different timeframes and they'll be able to tell you the lead time from the outset.
A guide to pricing – is there a formula to know what you can expect to pay for a piece?
This varies from maker to maker. Pricing depends on the piece of furniture, what material it's made from, and the labour involved. Once you’ve provided specifications to a maker they can come back to you with a detailed quote.
How long does a custom piece take?
It generally depends on the maker, the type of piece, and timber availability. The lead time could be anywhere between 4 – 12 weeks, but this is dependent on the piece of furniture. For example, if it’s a larger piece like a bed frame or dining table the lead time will be longer.
“By choosing custom-made, there’s less furniture going to landfill and you’re supporting smaller makers”Ben Purchase
The best thing about having a custom made piece in your home?
The options are endless with custom made. You get to play a role in the design process and have it made to your specifications, style, dimensions, choice of timber. Custom is also a great option if you have a specific design in mind and can't find what you're looking for. You might want unique storage options, an out-of-the-ordinary table height, shape or length, or you might be specific about the timber type, colour tone and finish you want. By choosing custom made you’re also supporting Australian makers and small businesses.
How can you get an affordable piece when you’re on a budget?
It’s never been easier to order a custom piece of furniture. When comparing off-the-shelf, you'll be surprised that it's less of a cost difference than you might think. Be upfront with the amount you have available to spend. Good makers will be able to work with you and offer some ideas based on your budget, or refer you to another maker who might be better suited.
What are your favourite timbers to use?
We try to work with Australian native species as we have so many great varieties right in our own backyard. Some of the timbers we use include Messmate, Blackbutt and Spotted Gum. We also use reclaimed Hydrowood timbers that have been dredged from the bottom of Lake Pieman in Tasmania which offer a unique but consistent colouring, including Blackwood, Celery Top Pine, Tasmanian Oak and the precious Huon Pine.
Tell us a few “Dos and Don’ts” when approaching a maker with a commission
DO – come prepared with measurements, ideas and the style/look you want to achieve
DON’T – be close minded, so you can be open to options and suggestions from your maker. They are the experts when it comes to timber and what you have in mind might not be the best choice for your piece or space.
When ordering a custom piece and you’re worried about the final colour or tone, always try and see a sample with oil on it. Don’t make a decision based on a natural, unoiled piece of timber. Ask to see your furniture in progress, before it’s finished, and not too late to change your mind. Once the furniture piece is built and oil is applied, there’s no going back