Commissioning a piece of handmade fine furniture is a very personal, enjoyable and rewarding experience in which the client, if they wish, can take an active role at all stages of the journey from concept/drawing board, to workshop and finally to installation in their home.
If you have not previously commissioned furniture, you may be unsure where to start. These notes are intended as a guide, although the details of the process may vary for different makers and different pieces.
What do you want? You should have a reasonably clear idea of the size, functionality and colour of the piece.
How much do you wish to pay? A piece hand made to your particular requirements will, inevitably, be more expensive than one that is factory made. The price of a piece will be determined to some extent by the materials used. More important however, will be how complicated the design is, how long it takes to make and the finish required. If you have a reasonable budget, the design can be tailored according to that budget. In some cases, perhaps for more complex proposals or where the design is selected through a competitive process, a design fee may be charged.
Selecting a maker. Devon Furniture Makers is an association of independent designer-makers so you will need to decide who to approach. The best way to do this is to look at the pages on this website of the makers whose furniture most appeals to you. Look also at their own websites if they have them. Most designer-makers have a recognisable style: choose one whose style suits you and the environment where the furniture will sit. If you ask two or more makers to prepare designs, please tell them that you are doing so.
Initial consultation. The initial consultation will normally take place in your home or office and will establish your exact functional requirements, particular features and dimensions for the piece. At this stage if you have particular likes or dislikes they can be discussed and highlighted. Wood samples and different finishes can be perused. The intended location of the furniture will also be viewed.
The design. The design is the collation of all your preferences and requirements, resulting in a piece that is unique to you. As the design evolves, sketches and drawings will be provided and an estimate of the likely cost. It will fulfil your practical needs. More importantly, a personal piece will be created that you enjoy using, looking at, and just being near. You will understand what is special about its construction.
The proposal. Once a final design, price and time scale is agreed, a written proposal will be drawn up, including:
Production. On receipt of a deposit, normally up to 50% of the overall price, the production can be booked into the work schedule. The balance of the price will be paid on delivery. For larger projects a staged payment schedule may be negotiated.
Workshop visits. Designer-makers will often welcome clients to visit the workshops by arrangement whilst the piece is being made. You will be able to see first hand the great care and craftsmanship that goes into the making of your furniture, and some details, which may be hidden within the finished piece.