Most custom furniture begins with an inspiration image. You may even use that image in your mood board or design presentation. And then your client falls in love with it and wants exactly that. But you want to design!
I’ve seen a lot of fun, and sometimes minor, details added by designers over the years that truly made a design their own. These little flourishes are often the thing that catches your eye when you see a piece of furniture, “Hmmm, I’ve never seen something like that before.”
Here is my list of small details that you can incorporate in your own designs to take them to the next level.
1. Shape Change
When you’re sitting at your drafting table you realize, furniture is nothing but shapes afterall. A great way to interject some uniqueness is to take an element from your inspiration and simply change the shape.
For sectionals, we often find ourselves making footprint patterns to fit into tight spaces. But if you take that idea of a sofas footprint (think overhead view), you can start to draw shapes and make any standard sectional begin to flow like water.
Changing square legs to round legs is great, why not triangle?
And of course you can really have fun making a simple ottoman a shape that expresses your client’s hobby.
2. Make it a Swivel
We can make any club chair swivel – and trust me, our designers have pushed the envelope here. I’m not out in the field so I don’t really understand design trends but at some point in time it was decided that club chairs were no longer allowed to sit still.
For a double tip you can also get creative on what object you use to hide the swivel mechanism. A nice high finished wood base is great, metal as well. Or there is always a skirt.
3. Swap the Wood for Exotic Veneer
This is still one of my favorite pieces from Mohindroo Interiors. It started with a simple console from RH. But from that basic shape they added some burl veneer and custom pulls. And while exotic veneer is not cheap, when it is specified custom its is much more reasonable then those burl console’s you’ve had your eye on at 1st Dibs.
Plus, the largest veneer shop in Los Angeles maintains a fantastic website that includes all of their exotic veneers with photos, GL Veneer.
4. Cover Case Goods in Leather or Fabric
We can wrap pretty much any solid surface with leather or fabric. You see this a lot with grasscloth, but as long as the fabric isn’t too stretchy we could do it with just about anything. Wallpaper is great too!
Here is a stunning example from Indigo and Poppy. Keep in mind this looks simple enough but you have to do some planning to make sure you have a repeat that works with the size door you’re needing. But when it goes right, it goes very right.
5. Transfigure an Idea Onto a New Furniture Type
The idea here is simple enough but requires quite a lot of imagination. You take a concept seen in one medium and adapt it to a new medium. I find this example below genius from Andrew Flesher Interiors. An uneven mix of fabrics on a sofa becomes the same thing on a bed. The channel directions is the cherry on top.
6. Use Fancy Hardware
Often when designing a dresser or nightstand you have to think of function more than form. Your client needs to be able to store clothes or whatever in their drawers and are looking to maximize the space. This often leads to rectangles. Molding and inset details are great, but with so many hardware manufacturers out there the way to really make a statement is with the hardware. Below is an example from DC Interiors. The client gets maximum storage space but with a dresser that truly looks custom.
7. Use Multiple Fabrics
These technique is mostly utilized in chairs, but you can do it for any upholstery. Simply use a different fabric for the front and the back. Or do the frame in one thing and the cushions in something else. I think this works best in an example like below from Design Loft Company, the part of the furniture that is most visible gets a normal fabric. But peaking out from the sides is the patterned fabric. Makes for such a stunning combo.
8. Add a Tray
Can we be honest for one second? People are lazy and will put their glass of water or plate filled with spaghetti on the closest piece of furniture to them. You’ve spent hours considering the coffee table and the only thing it will ever hold is novelty books.
What ends up happening is people will place their items on an upholstered piece of furniture, which, isn’t flat. And whatever they put there will fall.
A great way to solve this problem is trays. Plus, trays are a great way to incorporate the finish you’ve been using elsewhere in the room. Here are some inventive examples from Denton House, Hawk & Co, and KRID Studio.
9. Play With Veneer or Fabric Pattern Direction
I have examples from B3 Design and another one from Andrew Flesher Interiors. Many times when you are working with our Design Team on your shop drawing you will be asked which direction you want the wood grain or fabric pattern to run. The idea here is to make that decision the focal point of your entire design. The piece becomes interesting not because of the wood species or fabric selection, but in the way it is put together. You’re able to make pleasing geometric shapes out of the seams themselves!
10. Paint It Any Color You Want
For case goods if you’re looking for a piece to really pop just remember, you can paint it any color you want. We’ll match any wood finish you send us, but for paint, all you need to tell us is the Benjamin Moore or Sherwin Williams color code and what level sheen you want.
These fun color pieces tend to find themselves in offices or playrooms, but really any room can use a little color right?