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Custom Furniture Designers: 5 Red Flags to Watch Out For

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Getting the perfect custom piece takes a little work. First, you will have to choose the right designer. In "How to Shop for and Buy Custom Furniture You Love," we discussed how to find the right designer. So let's take it a step further and talk about signs that would tell you if a designer was NOT a good choice for you.

Here are 5 signs that will indicate someone you wouldn't want to work with.

1. They Can’t Provide a Portfolio

Everyone has to start somewhere, but it doesn’t have to be on your furniture. Most of the time when a designer is just starting out, he or she will work on pieces they own — or that belong to friends or family members — until he/she is comfortable and confident enough to begin doing custom work. That may not always the case, but you will want to be certain they have the skill you’re looking for to do the job.

It is also important to make sure that it's their own work, and not just a picture found on Pinterest, etc. You can also ask them for an initial appointment in order to meet them and see some of their work in person. If you are concerned about their experience or skill level, this is a great way to confirm whether they are up for the job.

2. They Don't Have a Standard Process

Although every piece is different, experience eventually settles on some kind of basic process. It's good to know how the process will work and what to expect.

A person who has a set of policies and collects a deposit, for example, shows they have taken the time to assess the process and have a structure for the business they are conducting.

Ask about how the process works. The key here is that they have an answer. It matters less what the answer actually is.

3. They Don't Communicate Often

Custom furniture design always involves at least two people: the designer and you. It's important to know how and when, or how much communication will take place.

Any working relationship needs timely and clear communication - especially when you’re also the paying customer! You should feel comfortable and confident that you can reach out to your designer and get a response.

We all get busy and experience unforeseen circumstances, but a good, organized business person will make time for emails and phone calls.

4. Their Catchphrase Seems to Be, “Trust Me”

Again, custom furniture is a two person job. If you know him/her very well and you really do trust them, fine. But if this is your first time working with a designer, he or she should be asking for your feedback fairly frequently.

Your designer should be working closely with you (unless you have stated that you don’t want them to) to ensure you get the perfect custom piece. Considerations like colors, stains, finishes, and hardware should come back to you for decisions and approvals. A really good designer will give advice while allowing you to determine what's best. They will present options, gently guide you, and help you feel confident in your choices.

Most designers will not develop a design plan prior to booking their services, however be sure they are thorough in answering your questions and that you feel they are listening to you.

5. They Don't Break Into a Cold Sweat When Someone Forgets a Coaster

It's true! A good designer is a avid supporter of the coaster. No but in all honestly I sort of cringe when I see a glass on a beautiful piece of furniture without a coaster. And designers who dedicate countless hours to their craft of refinishing furniture tear up at the thought of not protecting a fine finish properly. Plus when you work with a good designer they will provide you with the proper care information to ensure a long-lasting finish.

Don’t Get Stuck with the Wrong Furniture Designer

Buying custom furniture is fun and exciting when you know how to choose the right designer. And it's important to know what to look for in the process. Be sure to do your homework and review portfolios and testimonials. Ask questions about their process.

Now that you have the tools to choose the best person for the job, it's time to do a Google search for local designers and make an appointment to meet with him or her about your custom furniture redesign.



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