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Why Spend Extra Money On Custom Made? Part 3

Part Three: How Well Is It Designed? A critical factor of custom made cabinetry and furniture id how well it's designed. This is a much overlooked factor in choosing a piece that may or may not end up fitting your needs, or increasing the value of your home.

Part Three: How Well Is It Designed?

There are two things to consider when it comes to the design of a cabinet or piece of furniture. One is whether or not it functions in a way that meets your needs. The other is how pleasing it is to look at, and how well it blends with its environment.

Form follows function. Designers everywhere know this phrase. At the most basic level a cabinet or furniture should fit and function for its purpose. A dining table falls within fairly narrow guidelines as far as it's height and dimension, and whether or not the person sitting at it hits their knee on the leg or apron, or other support for the top, or for that matter their neighbor. The height and depth of a window seat should fall within certain guidelines in order to be comfortable to sit at. A bookshelf should be a particular depth to be practical. Also it should fit the room it will be in, especially in the case of built-in cabinets.

Not only dimensions but also proportions need to be considered in the look of the piece. Each element needs to fit with the whole, and if it's built-in, fit the room and style of architecture. The problem is that most homeowners and woodworkers have little or no design training or experience. In the case of home owners, if they have the advantage of a woodworker who is a good designer, they will receive good advice about how the piece will look based on what it's purpose is, where it will be, and how to best integrate these factors into a visually pleasing design. If neither the woodworker nor homeowner has some design sense or training, the results are potluck and are liable to be less pleasing and functional. When I'm called on to build something, the first thing I do is to find out how it's going to be used. The look of the piece is a combination of what the owners want and how it fits into its environment. Once I know that I can present some design options. Very often homeowners have great and creative design ideas. I always listen to those, and take them into consideration. Ultimately though the design needs to be what will best fit the needs of my customers, while adding value and pleasure for them.

Here is an example. A customer called me in to price a TV cabinet on the recommendation of a neighbor. They already had a definite idea of what they wanted, and they had a basic drawing of the cabinet from the other cabinetmaker they had consulted. They had a size that the TV opening needed to be based on the flat screen TV they were purchasing. They wanted the cabinet to come within a few inches of the outside corner one passed entering the room. They wanted all of the doors in the base of the cabinet to be the same size without regard to the proportions of the case above. This is the drawing I gave them based on that design. I also gave them a design drawing that would work better in the space, and be more pleasing to the eye. The difference may not be dramatic or obvious to everyone, but consider the fact that what shows up in a drawing is twice as pronounced in real life. A balanced design doesn't necessarily mean one that is symmetrical in all its parts. They wound up hiring the first cabinetmaker because he would give them what they wanted without question. I heard from my former customers, their neighbors, that they wished that we had done the work for them. In fact when they moved and sold the house, the buyers had them deduct part of the cost of removing the cabinet. A built-in cabinet should increase the value of the house it's added to. It is also then a part of the house, and if it's not well thought out and properly executed, it may prove to be a liability.