Thinking of commissioning a beautiful and entirely unique piece of custom made furniture but unsure what elements will determine the price? We take a look at some of the factors and key questions influencing the cost of bespoke furniture.
Clients occasionally query what a bespoke furniture piece is likely to cost. Ultimately, the cost is extremely variable and it really comes down to a question of what you want and value.
Like a custom engagement ring or made-to-measure tailored suit, purchasing a custom made piece of furniture is an adventure with a unique result that is entirely personal to you.
We’ll assume you already have a good sense of the benefits of local custom craftsmanship relative to mass-produced goods. For more insight on that topic, refer to an earlier post titled 6 Benefits to Buying Custom.
Here are six of the key variables influencing the cost of having a piece of furniture custom made:
1. Materials. What type of timber or material is desired?
The cost of different timber species varies considerably. Mass-produced furniture available at discount retailers will often use veneers over particle board (MDF) to minimise costs.
Reclaimed and recycled timbers can add a great deal of character and often contain a history and story. Yet it’s not always a cheaper option for a number of reasons, not least the additional preparation and treatment often required such as de-nailing and paint removal.
Another factor is whether the raw materials are sourced locally or from sustainable sources (ie. renewable and responsible forest management).
2. Build Quality. What specification of build are you looking for?
Bespoke production by a local furniture maker is unlikely to be based on a flat-pack design and most definitely not manufactured to be mass-produced at the lowest possible cost. Our makers specialise in creating quality products built to last a lifetime (and longer).
3. Joinery Sophistication. How much joinery is involved?
Customers are occasionally surprised to hear that a chair can often cost more to produce than a dining table. While the cost of the raw materials may be much less, the joinery effort in a typical chair will often involve a great deal more time and effort. The same can be said for the amount of joinery and effort in producing pieces containing drawers.
A simpler and lower cost design will often be one requiring less joinery and detail.
4. Design Overhead. Is it being built from an existing design?
Does the maker need to spend time on design or is it simply a customisation of one of their existing designs?
Design effort should not be underestimated and represents a fundamental step in the production of any quality product.
5. Volumes. Is the item being designed and built as a one-off?
The per unit cost of production will typically reduce when making multiples of the same design at the same time. On a per item basis, there will be less time spent sourcing raw materials, taking measurements and setting up tooling.
An entirely one-off item, therefore, should be expected to cost more than those produced at volume.
6. Labour and Rent Costs. Where is the item being produced?
It’s often easy to overlook the inappropriately low wages and unsafe working conditions of workers in overseas factories.
Factoring in a fair rate of pay for local craftspeople and recognising the higher cost of rent in local workshops will form a part of an investment in locally made custom goods.
Getting something custom made by an expert craftsperson is not an exercise in buying something at the lowest possible price. If you’ve found something available at a retailer that is mass-produced overseas, it’s very unlikely that you will find a local maker able to produce it for you at a lower cost.
The true value of getting something custom made will often exceed the price paid. You’re getting exactly what you want directly from an expert local craftsperson, and receiving a high-quality sustainably made product that is built-to-last, while also helping to preserve and support time-honoured skills. It’s an investment in something that matters.
A guideline you can use to estimate potential costs is to explore similar items listed in the portfolios of our makers.
The best way to gauge the cost involved for your project is by communicating directly with our expert craftspeople. Post a brief and we’ll connect you with the most suited makers with whom you can discuss options and pricing.