Here are some detailed shop drawings of a pair of custom dressers for a commercial space in New York City near 59th street and Lexington. The price range for a custom dresser of this size depending on materials, finishes and hardware, is between $2,200 and $3,600.The difference between buying a custom furniture piece like this instead of something you could find at a furniture store is the guarantee of premium quality, flexibility on the final size, finish and color. Purchasing a pair of custom dressers like these will fit the space perfectly and also have an excellent resale value. Often durability and resale are not considered when purchasing furniture but are two of the principal components separating high end furniture from poor quality/ machine made furniture.
One consideration when deciding whether or not you want a custom piece of furniture is if you have a vision for what you would like created. Often designers will come to us and have a very clear idea about the type of table or chair they would like created and the exact measurements in mind. Often they’ve wasted innumerable hours scouring the web, 1st dibs and the library trying to find something that fits the bill. Although creating a unique and original design tends to be more expensive, factoring in the amount of time trying to find something which almost matches versus paying a little more for an exact match is a no brainer. Not only will the furniture be seen nowhere else in the world and is handmade by a master craftsman, it is also enormously gratifying for clients to see their vision come to life. Every client who takes a hands on approach to coordinating with an interior designer usually has dreamed about designing their own style of furniture. Perhaps it is a combination of eras, a table with Japanese carving along the edges, art deco style legs and a smooth contemporary top or a reincarnation/ reinterpretation of that priceless dresser owned by King Louis XVI. This unique furniture will appreciate and last for generations and adds personality which is impossible to match from mass produced or machine made pieces which depreciate the moment they leave the store.
Often rare and exotic woods such as ebony are not used in large pieces of furniture due to the cost and availability. Usually using ebony veneer outlay and a combination of woods can bring down the cost somewhat while giving a one of a kind original look. Here we can see a custom desk and clean shelves covered with Macassar ebony which goes from dark brown to black with an accent of yellow-brown bands. This exceptional hardwood is one of the finest hardwoods in the world and has become a highly desired for its aesthetic appeal and characteristics.
If you have been an interior designer or architect for any length of time you’ve seen the entire process of deconstructing, reconstructing, designing and then redesigning a space. Often there are many items left in the wake of this process, most of which will be sold or discarded, and those precious few treasures which must remain and be built around. These treasures are almost always the work of a specific craftsman, not a mass produced machine made element. Perhaps it’s those delicate stairway railings that were hand carved 150 years in a Brooklyn brownstone, or the etched moldings lining the ceiling of a pre-war Upper West Side townhouse, or the wood carved gargoyles above the mantle. These are the intangibles which preserve the history and originality of a space, and increase it’s value. Furniture is the same way- the reason why the re-sale value on machine made furniture from stores like West Elm or Design Within Reach is so low is that we as humans don’t have any connection to furniture which exists in so many other spaces. It doesn’t feel unique, but is still on the expensive side considering the quality. It’s the disappointment one has when they see the same credenza they paid $4500 for sitting in the atrium of a Marriot hotel while on vacation. The flip side is that certain custom furniture and antiques retain their value and often increase over time, because it’s often the case that a particular piece of furniture does not exist anywhere else in the world or if it does, is very rare. So when you are assessing the cost of a seemingly pricey piece of furniture in a chain store, ask yourself if it’s something you feel really strongly about, does it feel original and unique and would you pass it down to future generations in addition to being absolutely perfect (size, wood, finish, etc) for the space? If you are unsure it’s worth considering a custom option, one that you can tailor to your needs and will become an heirloom.
Master furniture craftsman vs. master cabinet makers were not distinguished years ago by their respective specialties and there was a crossover. Master furniture makers are now known for their extraordinary ability to translate clients’ designs into furniture with a high level of detail and carving. Master cabinet makers are used to working with larger pieces of furniture and bigger chunks of wood, specializing in storage type pieces. Today, as machines have entered the forefront and the proliferation of stores selling every imaginable price point of furniture, it has become increasingly difficult to tell how the price correlates to the quality. West Elm is selling machine made credenzas for $2500 but then you have 60 year old “antique” credenzas selling for $15000 and up. In between these price points there is a huge gap, with cabinet makers crossing over into furniture making, and while the furniture is often hand made, it is certainly not at a master furniture craftsman’s level. So if you are a designer and you are seeking out a furniture maker to translate your custom design into reality, how can you tell the difference? One of the first, most telling examples that you are actually hiring a cabinet maker in the guise of a furniture maker is the type of furniture he or she has created or sells. Is it dominated by cabinet- type furniture? Dressers, armoires, credenzas, etc. Or by simple dining, coffee or side tables? This is often the most telling sign because most often cabinet makers cannot carve or create intricate detail the way a master craftsman furniture can, so chances are you won’t see any custom antique chair interpretations, or a headboard with an elaborate carving along the top edge for example. Another telling example the types of wood used, furniture master craftsman generally have experience working with a wider range of wood types than cabinet makers simply because many rarer types of wood are not available in large quantities. Black ebony for example, is extremely expensive and only used on higher end smaller sized furniture.The chair to the right is the perfect example of the type of furniture you would never see in a cabinet makers studio.