Confessions of an Interior Designer
A Clear Breakdown of the pros and cons when buying Designer Furniture including; custom pieces, quality levels, and pricing. This is an exclusive ‘behind the scenes’ look of how an interior designer makes a well-educated choice uniquely customized to your design-build plan, home decor, commercial or office renovation.
Step 1- Learning Designer Speak
If wars could start over simple misunderstandings, Designer Furniture might just start world war three. It is definitely one of the most common aspects of design that mistakenly [and quite frankly unfairly] gets a terrible rap.
There’s a very BIG difference between Designed, Custom, and Designer Brand-Name Furniture.
To be honest, Interior Design in general get’s a bad rap. Interior design services are often seen as indulgent, materialistic, and a luxurious commodity. The truth is that design has so much more depth to it than the superficial labels it’s been given for so long. So let’s dig in a little to understand and re-define what interior design really is so that we can make a proper well-educated decision, without any misunderstandings.
After-all, knowledge is power.
What Wikipedia Can’t Tell You About Types of Designer Furniture
Buying Brand-Name, Designer Furniture VS. Buying Designed Furniture. Oh, and what about custom furniture, isn’t it the same?
First, Let’s define:
Designed / Designer Furniture- To be clear, all furniture is Designed by a Furniture Designer. However, when Interior Designers speak of ‘Designed’ or ‘Designer’ Furniture, we are specifically referring to furniture that includes an added level of detail and finesse.
Brand-Name, Designer Furniture- Specifically refers to furniture designed by a well-known Designer or Company.
Custom Furniture- This basically refers to ANY kind of furniture, even mass-produced, low-quality furniture, that is customizable. So, to be clear, ‘Custom’ is not a quality reference, but an indication that it is adjustable in size, color, etc.
I can see why you'd be confused! But I think it's clear that just because furniture may come with a brand name, doesn't mean it's good. After all, do you want to spend your hard-earned cash on the name of some brand or Designer, or would you rather invest in quality, well-designed furniture?
On the other hand, just because it's 'designed furniture' doesn't mean it's made to last either.
To make choosing the right furniture even more confusing, in a world where we’ve become increasingly dependent on online reviewers to guide us through the jungle of online shopping, you will quickly find yourself misinformed by fake reviews and shoppers who can only assess a piece based on its comfortability, style, and perceived affordability. The general reviews are limited by their level of education regarding what's beneath the surface, affecting long-term durability.
In short, unless you have vetted the manufacturer, understand the product, construction, design elements, and the overall makeup of the furniture piece, you can't determine quality.
But no worries, this is where I come in! I will give you a crash course, and my behind the scenes confessions of how I work my magic. ok? Let's do this!
Step 2- Understanding Quality
The first Question we must address is how do we define QUALITY? Does $$$= Quality?
The simple answer is no, the price is not a reliable measure of quality.
Quality really comes down to two things:
The first and more obvious is the materials. Cheap furniture, while often looking nearly identical, can be made from light “wood” that resembles cardboard more than anything in nature. Good furniture will usually use more genuine materials like actual solid wood.
Equally and often more important is the construction of your piece of furniture. That is by far the most important measure of quality, PERIOD!
“Shopping For a Sofa Can Be Daunting. How does one make an educated decision when two sofas that look almost exactly alike are priced thousands of dollars apart? We can only compare it to buying a car. The real difference between Mercedes and Hyundai is not on the outside but what's under the hood. Check out this little diagram to explain the difference between what makes a sofa luxury and not. Then it's your call.” - Global Home
What Wikipedia Can’t Tell You About Custom Designer Furniture
Step 3- Understanding Cost
Aren’t Custom, Designed, and Brand-Name Furniture Super Expensive?
Well, now that we understand Designer Speak, we can have a better view of where our money goes.
Brand-Name Furniture- While you generally do pay a premium for the name of the designer or brand associated, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as often those brands build their reputation on quality. Beware, not all brands were created equal, neither do they have a monopoly on quality. Often you may find comparable quality for lower prices in smaller, less known manufacturers.
Designed Furniture- Paying more for generally nicer, more refined pieces.
Custom Furniture- May cost a bit more to adjust to personal preferences, especially for more expensive material selection or unusual sizes. However, Custom options are often available at little to no additional cost.
But don’t be fooled by the added costs associated with the types of furniture above.
There are a couple of super important elements that can have even greater implications on cost:
Retail VS Wholesale- Due to massive overheads, retailers often may charge as much as 200%-300% markups or more. On the other hand, due to the personal relationships with the smaller wholesale manufacturers, Designers may frequently sell you a similar or higher quality piece through them and extend a portion of the savings to you (making it available to you at a comparable or lower price). But if you need your designer to source your furniture from a retailer, you can expect an additional charge attached for handling fees and the related services rendered. Which leads me to the next key element...
DIY VS Full Service- Though going at it yourself may be “free”, procuring, sourcing the furniture, making sure you get the proper finish or other required elements, coordinating with shipping and installation, and return of damaged or wrong items, is hard work and is a liability assumed by your designer that can become very time consuming, as well. This is why there can be so many costs associated with the services (and furniture).
Procuring furniture is hard work, and while this should go without saying, Designers need to be compensated for that work and the service they provide. It’s Kinda like buying a steak in a nice restaurant. Sure you could've gone to the store, bought the steak for less and cooked it yourself. But if you went to dine in a quality restaurant, would you dream of asking to pay the supermarket price for the steak or not tipping your waiter? Of course not!
By having an Interior Designer procure custom/designed furniture for you, you often receive privileged access to deep discounts, full service, coordination, handling, and all in exchange for better Designed, quality furniture. Plus, you get to rest easy knowing your Designer will be compensated for their hard work. Now that’s what I call a win-win!
COMING UP NEXT: FURNITURE CONSTRUCTION
Here's a prelude to our next blog post about whats beneath the surface.
"TO THE TRADE"
A trade vendor uses kiln-dried wood for construction. Kiln drying removes all the moisture in the wood. Then they block the corners and use wood glue and nails.
THE GOLD STANDARD: sinuous coil instead of an eight-way hand tied spring system
TO BE CONTINUED...