General consensus is there are three types of furniture buying you are likely to do in your lifetime – Necessity Purchase, Custom Build and Must-Have. But I’m championing a new way to buy furniture.
The first way, a necessity driven purchase. Your new home needs a kitchen table, your budget is limited, and it must be functional and look the part. Your choice of large international retailers who bulk buy or mass produce, can easily accommodate your needs, with plenty of styles and price points to choose from. These places are great, there’s a lot of people in the world, and we all need furniture (as long as it’s sustainable). You don’t see this as lifetime or a statement piece, but it must work for you and your home. A fairly uninspiring process, but relatively painless – delivery time pending.
The second type of purchase is having something custom designed and built to fit in a specific spot in your home. Perhaps there’s a space that has laid dormant or misused for years, and now is the time to put in a bespoke storage solution, for instance. Usually, this will lead you down the enjoyable path of finding a local carpenter or joiner who will come to your house and create a design solution for your request, then build and install it. I have done a multitude of this kind of job, and my customers have been thrilled to get exactly what they needed and happy to have shopped locally.
The third type is the Must-Have piece. That beautiful chair by a designer that you’ve been coveting for years. Now the kids are old enough not to draw all over it, you can finally have that statement piece take centre stage in your sitting room. It’s a fairly easy process, as there will probably be just one licensed manufacturer of the ‘original’ design to go for. (Cheaper imitations can be available, but we all know they are not the real thing.)
But I’m working on a new way to buy furniture:
This is for when you want a statement, designer piece. Something that you see as a family purchase, maybe for a wedding present or a celebration of a major life event and definitely furniture you can hand down to future generations. A piece, not just beautiful and functional, but handcrafted personally for you, something that you know only one set of hands has touched from start to finish. There’s an increasing number of designer-makers in small workshops across the country, gradually promoting their own designs and eager to demonstrate the traditional values of craftsmanship and respect for the materials.
It’s a personal and unique purchase journey. I understand that buying such a statement piece online can be a little daunting, however as I’m the designer and maker I’m able to speak to all my customers about their particular purchase, advising with material choice, or any changes they may want. As soon as I start making, I’ll send photos of the work in progress, from wood delivery to jigs, to sanding and oiling and I invite my customers in to the workshop where they’re able to see their furniture in progress, meet the maker and see where it’s made. Although I do deliver, customers can pop in and collect their piece if they’d like to. Just today, a couple from Liverpool came to beautiful Bradford on Avon, where I’m based, for a long weekend and collected their Iford Library Step Chair personally from my workshop. It’s uplifting for me to see the joy in someone’s face when they see the final piece, and they get to see where the furniture was made, and by whom. Increasingly, I find myself making and packing up a piece to send over to a customer in Europe or the US, and this is where the photographs and phone calls can really reassure the longer distance customer. This new way to buy furniture is all about personal service.
The desire for intricate, specially designed and handcrafted generational pieces of furniture is growing, keeping the small workshops across the UK buzzing away. The challenge is, of course, to get our small voices heard in amongst the loud voices of the big manufacturers and retailers, but it is happening. The customer is always right and they will find what they want. My workshop is always open to visitors, and I’m only a phone call away, so please do get in touch and I can help you get that long-desired statement piece of furniture specially made for you.