When the struggle of sourcing the ideal furniture piece reaches a point where you’re ready to surrender, why not just have it made? We chat to Werner Openshaw, the director of Joburg-based furniture company Rocket Design, who shares what is needed when commissioning a custom-made furniture piece.

Rocket Design

What should every home owner know before they set out to have customised furniture made?

First and foremost, custom-made furniture can be designed for specific spaces in your home. When you walk into a furniture store with a tape measure, you’re already fighting an uphill battle. Your mentality at that point is: “What will fit and hopefully look good?” If you measure something incorrectly and bring it home, you’ll either need to return it or start moving other things around in order to accommodate it. This leads to a snowball effect of inefficiencies that can not only dampen the positive vibes of a room, but deter you from buying any additional furniture in the future! Custom furniture is unique and is made to your specs and needs. Don’t expect it to cost less than mass-produced retail furniture.

How does a home owner go about having custom-made furniture made for their home?

An endeavour as simple as buying furniture should be an enjoyable experience. Unfortunately, it can quickly morph into something more stressful, and this happens for a number of reasons. When you’re looking for where or what to purchase, you should be considering custom-made furniture from a reputable seller and maker. So do some research and find the correct person for the job and talk to them on what your needs are.

Rocket Design

Which furniture pieces do you encourage home owners to have custom-made and which furniture pieces do you advise them to rather buy from a furniture retailer?

There are a surprising number of benefits that store-bought furniture simply doesn’t offer. If you’ve shopped in chain furniture stores, you’ve probably encountered the following scenario: you find something that is almost perfect except the size is off, it’s missing desired functionality, or the actual quality isn’t quite what you expect. Whatever the reason, it’s time to change the way you look at and buy furniture. Whether it’s for your living room or bedroom, there are plenty of options out there.

How does the home owner find the right maker/manufacturer?

I would say look around as there are a lot of furniture designers and makers in South Africa who are brilliant at what they do, and they generally have good, reliable reputations. I would say be cautious when approaching the smaller not-so-well-known suppliers; take all precautionary measures to ensure you get what you ask for. A good tip here is to ask for referrals if you are unsure.

Rocket Design

Tell us a few dos and don’ts when approaching a maker with a commission.

Do your homework; make sure you know what you want and make sure the maker knows exactly what you want. Sometimes you might have an image in mind but by failing to explain it might turn out horribly wrong, so have enough imagery and materials samples if possible when you are looking for a specific piece. Makers have unique styles of their own so don’t force them to do something they are not comfortable with as it might be a first for them and could be tricky. The best is trust them enough to come up with pieces and by your guidance you will end up with a masterpiece.

In terms of pricing, is there a guide that a home owner can follow?

I think start with a budget in mind of what you are willing to spend. You will soon find out if that is within spec. Keep in mind custom furniture is unique and made from premium materials so don’t expect it to cost the same as a mass-produced, pressed-wood product.

JDV Interiors

How long does it usually take for a custom-made piece to be produced?

This depends on what furniture piece it is, availability of materials and outsourced services involved. I would say probably two to eight weeks.

Interior designer Judy de Villiers of JDV Interior Designers highlights three quick tips:

• Have your sizes ready, keeping in mind your comforts. Consider which sizes work the best according to your body and your movements. This will assist in the maker advising you on big and smaller details.
• If the maker is bespoke in their style, then trust them! Hear them out and understand each other clearly before approving.
• It is important to have the room proportioned right that you’re commissioning the piece for. If needs be, get the maker to visit your home and the space you’re customising the piece for.

JDV Interiors