Ready-made vs. custom furniture

Our identity extends to the space we live in—the color of our walls, the décor on our coffee table, even the sheets covering our bed. In this design-conscious age, it is no surprise that even for our furniture, there are a number of factors to consider before deciding on the pieces we would eventually sit, dine or sleep on. With the plethora of off-the-floor furniture brought by retail giants in the market, shopping for pieces can be an exciting endeavor as the options seem limitless. On the other side of the spectrum, the industry of contract furniture continues to flourish as well, and this adds an even broader array of choices to those already existing. This begs the question of whether one should purchase ready-made furniture or customized pieces instead. Here are some points to ponder on before making a choice:

Quality. No side has the upper hand on this factor. Ready-made furniture may have a bit of an inferior reputation when it comes to quality, but this is no guarantee that one cannot find high-quality pieces. The discernment lies within the consumer; be vigilant when it comes to the materials used and the craftsmanship done with the furniture. The same goes for custom pieces. Despite being in the loop throughout the whole process of constructing the furniture, make sure the raw materials are specified and that working drawings are followed, especially the joineries and substrates. It is also best to inspect the furniture maker’s previous products to ensure the quality of their workmanship.

Design. Store-bought furniture, at least those that are mass-produced, would indeed fall short on the uniqueness department. However, this should not discourage a consumer because at the end of the day, how one styles and personalizes the furniture would make the piece unique. It is also important to know that there are stores which carry quite a limited amount of stock per furniture style, so getting pieces from these would still deliver the individuality the buyer may be looking for. For customized furniture, there is no doubt of having liberty of designing a piece that would perfectly suit any taste and space. It can also accommodate the functional needs that store-bought furniture are limited with. This flexibility ultimately gives the consumer the exclusivity of their design.

Size. Off-the-floor furniture usually follow the standard minimum dimensions for proper ergonomics. If one’s space is adequately planned, this would post no problem on the sizes available in the market. However, if the area is too small (such as in condominium living) or too big, it would be ideal to have furniture pieces custom-made so that the space is maximized well in terms of function and aesthetics.

Cost. Unless buying a designer piece, ready-made furniture usually costs less. Payment schemes, especially from big retailers, can be flexible, and buying at the right time of the year may also mean striking discounts. Custom-made pieces, however, could be tagged with a steeper price since the item is made to one’s preferences. This should not discourage anyone from getting contract furniture, though, since one can still have control over the cost by specifying materials and finishes that would bring down the total price. It is also helpful to remember that furniture makers are open to negotiations.

Time. This is the most obvious advantage of store-bought furniture over customized ones. Right off the floor, one can purchase furniture pieces without having to wait weeks before having the item. Furniture makers normally take four to six weeks to produce a made-to-order item, and complex designs can take longer than that. The design process and sourcing of materials prior to production should also be considered in one’s timeline.
These factors may be a lot to consider, but the idea is to narrow down options that would answer to one’s needs—functionally, economically and aesthetically. After all, the furniture pieces we have in our homes become part of our daily lives, so a little work and effort before setting a permanent piece in the house would indeed help make the right choice.

*Appeared in the The Philippine April 29, 2017