Although getting bespoke furniture is a bit more involved than popping over to the nearest big-box store, with these tips, you can go custom like a pro. Plus: Five local makers.
—Illustration by Pietari Posti
1. Pinpoint your style.
Rip out pages from home magazines and browse design sites such as Houzz and Pinterest for ideas and inspiration. What catches your eye? “It doesn’t even have to be furniture—it could just be something you like the lines of, or the color,” says Ryan Dirksen, owner of Where Wood Meets Steel, a custom furniture company in Globeville.
2. Find the right designer.
“Furniture designers have specialties,” says Kristen Terjesen, owner of Studio 10, an interior design firm in Baker. “Who you choose should depend on the style or materials you’re looking for.” Translation: Do you want a sleek end table for your contemporary home in Highland or a rustic bookcase for your ski chalet in Breckenridge? Hop on furniture-makers’ websites and check out their previous work—or send emails asking for images of recent projects.
3. Have an opinion.
If you’re not quite sure what you need, don’t be afraid to ask for help—designers love coming up with solutions for your space. But once they start giving you options, you need to be decisive. “[It can be hard] when they say, ‘You’re the artist or craftsman, you figure it out,’ ” Dirksen says. “OK, great, but we’re trying to pinpoint what you like.” And no waffling: Changes in the middle of the process aren’t kosher. “Once we’ve started building it, changes are almost impossible to recover from,” says custom designer Ryan Ballard, owner of LoHi Furniture.
4. Know your budget.
The best collaborations happen when artisans know at the outset what you can spend so they can match your budget with the materials and their designs. Also be aware that trying to drive a hard bargain may not be well-received. “I would not recommend that you negotiate,” says Lane Oliver, owner of LEO Interior Design. “The craftsman has carefully considered the time and details necessary to create your special piece.” Ready to commit? You can expect to pay up to 50 to 60 percent of the total fee up front, with the rest due upon delivery.
5. Take care.
You’ve likely invested a fair amount of money in your new piece, so if the designer tells you it will require some type of maintenance, be it oiling or a particular type of cleaning, don’t let it slide. “For outdoor pieces in particular,” Ballard says, “I always stress: This is going to need to be stained and sanded once a year.” A little TLC will ensure that your custom furniture becomes the heirloom it was made to be.
Ready to get started on the perfect custom piece for your space? Try these local artisans.
Just the facts: At his studio workshop in Globeville, owner Ryan Dirksen and his small crew produce contemporary pieces that show off fine materials and careful craftsmanship. Dirksen’s artistic approach is an invaluable addition to the design process.
Go for: Tables. Among Dirksen’s impressive portfolio are to-die-for pieces with clean lines and gorgeous finishes, tables lovely enough to turn even the simplest dishware into a setting fit for a swanky party.
—Courtesy of Where Wood Meets Steel
Just the facts: With an expert in-house refinisher (who makes old, dinged-up wood pieces look beautiful again) and restoration services that can bring antiques back to life, Ablyss is a one-stop shop for furniture fanatics. Its custom division can produce just about anything you want—and offers up the services of an interior designer to make sure the piece fits perfectly in your home’s style and space.
Go for: Upholstered pieces. The company’s extensive fabric collection—thousands of choices, from affordable lines such as Robert Allen to splurges like Beacon Hill—is the first stop in your search for the perfect new upholstered chair, ottoman, bench, or headboard. And if you don’t fall in love with an option from Ablyss’ selection, you’re welcome to provide your own upholstery-grade fabric.
—Courtesy of Ablyss
Just the facts: Jim and Seth Braverman, a father-and-son duo, combine age-old techniques with modern-day designs in their Colorado Springs studio to create pretty much anything their clients dream up.
Go for: Statement-making consoles, desks, and other free-standing pieces. The Bravermans are masters of combining materials: say, walnut and Lucite or rustic and lacquered woods. Their skills show up in the details of their furnishings, which may actually make you want to get organized—or at least give you a beautiful place to hide all that clutter.
—Courtesy of Braveman Furniture
Just the facts: A favorite among Colorado’s savviest interior designers, this shop is dedicated to the finest techniques—both modern and traditional—of woodworking. The owners take seriously their roles as stewards of craftsmanship, so you’ll not only get a gorgeous custom piece, but you’ll also gain a little knowledge of design history.
Go for: Reproductions (carbon copies of antiques or iconic pieces) and replicas (similar in style to those originals). Score pieces that complement existing antiques or add a little Old World style to modern spaces.
—Courtesy of A&E Fine Woodworking