Adventures in Custom Furniture

I’ve been designing specific custom upholstered pieces for my clients for years now, which is incredibly fun and usually results in JUST what the space needed… down to the millimeter.  And over the years I have found that dining tables tend to be the items that most need to be customized to fit a space and are most deserving of the attention, time and money.  But I have had many a client shy away from taking the custom route due to intimidation.  It can seem like a scary process to those who have never done it!  But when it comes down to it I always find that those who go the custom route are the happiest.  But it’s all about who you work with.  I got to meet the fabulous people from Huston & Company while on a trip to Maine at the English Meadows Inn.  One of the innkeepers suggested I swing by their studio and see the way these guys work (and by guys, I mean the father and son team who run the business!)  What a serendipitous connection, let me tell you…

When it came time time to think about dining tables for my own kitchen/dining room I decided to pair up with Huston to design something special and to show you how the process works.  Until this point in my life I have not had a dining table of my own- all previous tables have been hand me downs from my parents or Andrew’s grandparents.  That’s the thing about dining tables- they tend to be passed down generations.  If they are made well, that is.  I loved that for years we ate a table Andrew had his beloved “egg mush” at when visiting his Grandma and Grandpa.  It wouldn’t fit in our new home, and so now that table is my conference table in my office, so don’t worry, it’s still in the family. :)

In our new space, our first real “home” together as a family, Andrew and I wanted and needed something different- and something that was our own.  The new space is rather square and I just knew I wanted a round table from the get-go.  I kept the style in mind as I picked finishes and pieces for the kitchen and when it came time to get down to the table I knew what I wanted….almost.  I was going for a rustic meets modern look- kind of hard to pull off and not exactly what Huston’s signature collection of designs represents.  That is the first thing to know about designing custom- it’s all about the craftsmanship- if the furniture builders are good, they can help you design anything your brain can imagine.  You don’t need to be a designer, they can do the designing while you do the tweaking too!  The Huston fellas were up for the challenge of building something different and working with a perfectionist designer!  So I sent them some inspiration pics to work from- some more rustic than I wanted, some more modern and some too “finished” and formal.  I told them I wanted all these tables to get together and produce and offspring table blending them all!

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And they did just that- they took what I was describing and sent me some drawings! I loved the table off the bat!  Now, not everyone lucks out with a shot effort like that- sometimes it take a few rounds of drawings to get it right!  This doesn’t mean it’s not going well, it just means the conversation has to continue between the client and builder. That’s the beauty of custom- everything is up to you.  The only change I made was making it bigger- these drawings were at 54″ inches round and I went up to 60″- since it was a fixed top I wanted to make it as big as I could so maybe I could squeezer in 8 people in a pinch. Super easy.

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So next was picking the finish- the real tricky part! This is where the “rustic” came in- but not TOO rustic because unfinished raw, reclaimed wood STAINS and is super hard to clean.  I wanted the look, but not the hassle!  I described it as a white/grey washed distressed oak and waited to see what they came up with, as it’s not a typical finish they do. The first two samples were a bit too uniform:

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So I asked for a couple more after sending a sample of something similar I picked up to them to see. The next two they sent had a winner (the one on the right)! And we were off!

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They sent me images of the table in process and I loved that not only was it being made locally in Maine, but by HAND.  I mean, in a day in age when everything seems to be mechanized and mass produced it’s so nice to go back to hand-crafted goods.  Even the bottom is signed and dated by the woodworker who spent time and energy making a gorgeous piece of furniture just for me.  I absolutely love that.

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(The stamp and signature on the bottom of my table!)

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TA-DA!!!! Here she is!

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Here it is in my space- I need a rug, chandy (going up today!!!!) and chairs, obviously- the decorating continues!

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Now I know what you are going to say- “but it’s totally mind-blowingly expensive to have a table made custom!” Not true. Yes, it’s pricier than picking one up at some retail stores, but it’s not as much as you might think.  This table, a 60″ diameter solid oak piece retails for $3,275.00 (* full disclosure, I did not pay this amount).  I’ve quoted mass produced tables for clients in that size for double that price!  And when you consider this is a bespoke item that can and most likely will be passed down to your kids after many, many happy family meals around it, it’s really quite reasonable.  As I’ve said before, I am a believer in saving and buying the best you can afford when it comes to staple long term items.  Just as I did for my kitchen renovation.  I waited to buy a house and do this until I could afford to do it exactly the way I wanted so it would last a lifetime and not leave me wanting to redo it in five years.  Same goes for large long term items like a dining table.  My advice: spend your money as well as you can once, instead of three times poorly.

Huston does more than just tables- they build so many things- bookshelves, desks, chests, chairs, wine storage and one of my favorite things- this rocking horse with leather ears, a wonderful heirloom piece for new parents.  After such a wonderful experience working with them, I would highly recommend any project you might ask them to craft for you.

 

 

51 Responses to “Adventures in Custom Furniture”

  1. Kristina, once the design of a piece of furniture is worked out, our lead time is generally 8-10 weeks. The length of the design process varies. Sometimes it’s a couple of days, sometimes it’s a month or so. It really depends on the item and how quickly we come to understand of what our client wants. (sometimes they’re not sure themselves!) There is a separate delivery fee. We use a white-glove, blanket wrapped delivery service, so they bring your furniture into your home and place it for you. We can deliver anywhere. If you are headed to Maine and your order fits in your car, you’re welcomed ot pick it up as well. You can find more info on placing orders with Huston & Company on our site in the About Us and FAQ sections.
    K