Furniture design can be one of the most rewarding, albeit, deceiving parts of the interior design process. It's not as easy as one might think. You can go wrong as quickly as you can go right, but when it's right—the net result in amazingly satisfiying. It's all in the "perfect fit," like most anything. A stunning amount of time and focus goes into tailoring a piece of furniture. The eye and the hand must coordinate seamlessly, and often working in tandem with other eyes and hands to achieve a final design or product. Our world is a mob-scene of great design followed immediately by a parade of knock-offs that seem to be happening simultaneously. The noise–factor for clients is incredible, and figuring out how to understand the value feels unraveling when it's not your forte. In our studio, we have an opinion that taking on the time, energy, expense and initiative to hire an interior designer deserves the awesome reward of a beautifully personalized, well–executed and uniquely tailored space. I find that furniture design plays a very important role.
I recently designed this TV console and chair for a project on the Upper West Side in New York. The oversized chamfer detail on the console draws the eye to the integrated door hardware and leather wrapped panels. While we are still prototyping the "DMc Channel Chairs," one of the big compliments from this client is on the size, scale and comfort.
When I approach designing a piece of furniture, I pull my design ideas through four key areas of consideration:
Ergonomics–Determining overall size, scale and best function–designing the right piece for the right use with the right fit is foundational.Artisanal Quality–I like to work with artists or masters of craft–the commitment to the process is almost always more genuine and more profound, as well as understanding of materials.Material selection–I focus on sturdy materials that are beautiful and forgiving–furniture is meant to be used and needs to be produced for longevity and with the concept of patina in mind.Finish details–Be bold. Everything you design should have a voice and a level of design saturation that speaks with it's own point-of-view. Think about the details–what takes it forward?
It's hugely important to request routine shop images from your vendors. Weekly, or bi-weekly image review is the best way to manage and guarantee the quality of your end result. As the lead designer on any piece or project, minding the details needs to be at the forefront of thought at all times. Quick snapshots like the one shown here are great for detailing and helping to understand how all of the parts are coming together. The TV console and bedsides in the following slides were built by Brooklyn based KWH Furniture.
This bedside table design was inspired by three different vintage pieces. For this client, our mission was a mid-century look and feel, but we were stuck against tight dimensions in space and running up against road block after road block with sizing of existing, vintage options. I find that it's best to secure your designs in some type of inspiration. All great design needs a "seed"—where are you growing from? What are you referring back to in order to stay on course? How are you utilizing or paying attention to nuance in your designs?
Repurposing existing furniture pieces is another way to exercise your creative and win some serious applause on both design and cost-savings. Sometimes your starting place is that ratty old sofa in your living room, or basement. I'm constantly reviewing existing client furnishings and thinking about how we can shift the bases into something more interesting or fresh. It's important to find a great upholstery shop or carpenter who can interpret your designs. You need to establish a successful line of communication with your vendor, and how best they read your designs. Often detailed shop drawings are required, and hand sketches are an incredibly successful tool when trying to elevate your ideals, or communicate to a vendor your desired end result.
Take a look at this sofa and flip to the next image.
This is a great example of how one can take an existing piece and turn it around completely. In this case, there was a pair of matching sofas. The original sofas were much more traditional, but by shaving down the top of the backs, cutting down each sofa and connecting them at the center, I was able to reuse the pieces to create a beautiful 11' sofa to insert in a wall niche, expand the room and bring forward a more contemporary result. For the client, they achieved the contemporary feeling they were aiming for and saved on the cost of a new sofa by more than half the price.
One of my mantras is "Design = Collaboration" and often, my team works with vendors whose work we love, admire, and appreciate to customize a piece of furniture for the specific needs of our client. The net result is a beautiful collaboration between designers (read as: teamwork). Never be afraid to ask about customization. Great design is about growth, sharing, and evolution. We are all here to add to one another, and expand great ideas. Again, remember my other mantra: "time, energy, effort and expense…" You're worth it. Make it your own. Go for it! This Alana bench from Bright Furniture is a great example a base design from which we launched on a recent project in East Hampton, New York. Flip to the next image!
I'll leave you with this image as inspiration for your next furniture design project. Note the architectural detailing both in the room and the bench itself. In this case, we worked with Bright Furniture to add the arms and took our cue from the intersecting geometric patterning of the upholstery fabric. We tied the fabric to the bench, and gave the bench a more dynamic presence as a centerpiece in this living room by adding the additional structure to the base design. Remember, be bold and stay true to quality, comfort and function. If you can zero in on these factors when designing a piece of furniture, you'll be a success every time!