Whatever your budget for a project, it's vital to give it a level of customization that reflects your client's style perfectly. You can do it by cleverly combining custom-made and off-the-shelf items.
In every design project I do, whether the budget is big or small, I believe my clients deserve a level of customization. My rule of thumb is that at least 10 percent of a project should be custom designed or personalized with unique objects, and if I can make it 20 percent, even better! So although the entire project may not be one-of-a-kind, the end result combines pieces that represent my client's personal style perfectly. Here are my top ten favorite ways to customize a project:
Rugs: Though they can be expensive, custom rugs are often worth the investment because they add so much to a project. If your budget doesn't allow for a custom rug, find a company that will customize the colors, scale, or even the design of broadloom carpet and have it bound into a rug. Try Masland or Davis and Davis for a custom look that also has a great price tag.
Casegoods: I often custom design casegoods (tables, consoles, chests) for a specific function or size to meet my clients' needs. Sometimes, however, I'm just going for a custom look without the custom price point. In that case, I usually personalize my favorite brands by adding exciting paint detailing, a change of hardware, and maybe even altering the scale of the piece if the company allows. This is a great way to make a mass-produced piece look totally one-of-a-kind. You don't have to reinvent the wheel every time!
Cabinetry: I am a big fan of creating custom cabinetry that looks like furniture. Adding unique architectural details is one of my favorite ways to increase the wow factor. I've been known to paint or wallpaper the interiors of cabinets, and I will paint drawers an accent color and even add classic, graphic molding details such as Greek key and quatrefoil. I also like to create visual interest with geometric or fretwork grille inserts on doors, or by etching patterns on glass fronts.
Hardware: Nothing makes furniture and cabinetry more distinctive than custom hardware. I often go to my favorite metal workers or Lucite companies and create my own designs, but there are also fantastic designers such as Marjorie Skouras who can't wait to collaborate on custom pieces for cabinetry, drapery, and more. Thinking "outside the drawer" for your hardware can add pizzazz to all your projects.
Fabrics: There are so many fun ways to customize fabrics these days, including designing and digitally printing your own. You can also sew several fabrics together to create your own stripes or patterns, or simply embellish fabrics for drapery and upholstery with tapes, trims, buttons, and other accouterments. Don’t just go for ordinary fabrics when you can make yours extraordinary.
Made-to-Measure Upholstery: Whether using your own workroom or just taking liberties with the size and scale of pieces from your favorite furniture manufacturers, making your upholstery the perfect fit for a room can make all the difference in the way it functions. Next time you design, don't forget to customize your seating.
Wallcoverings: Just as with fabrics, there are many exciting ways to customize your wallcoverings. Don't hesitate to design your own patterns for your walls. If it's not your forever home, that's ok too: There are temporary wallpapers that are applied like contact paper, and they can be custom designed with your favorite colors or patterns.
Bedding: Beds have always been a place for creating custom designs. Although styles are simpler than they used to be, there are still many exciting things you can do with your bedding to make it different and dramatic. One of my favorites is to take store-bought or online-sourced bedding and enhance it with monograms or embroidery, sewn-on ribbons or similar detailing. Layer it with custom pillows and a bed skirt to create a more eclectic mix.
Lampshades: Updating the shade of even the most over-exposed lamp can give it a whole new look. By adding grosgrains or gimps, buttons or braids, a lampshade can come to life. You can go further by covering them in your favorite textiles—maybe even a fabric you designed yourself.
Lighting: It doesn't end with customizing your lampshades: Go ahead and design the whole lamp or lighting fixture. I especially love designing custom vanity bars, pendants, and other permanently installed fixtures for added punch. Don't know where to start with this process? Just ask your favorite lighting sources if they customize. You'll be surprised at how many will say, "Yes!"
Photos courtesy of Tobi Fairley.
Tobi Fairley is a nationally-acclaimed interior designer based in Little Rock, Arkansas. Named by Traditional Home Magazine as one of the Top 20 Young designers in America in 2009, Tobi's work has graced the cover of House Beautiful and been published in Traditional Home, Southern Living, and At Home in Arkansas numerous times. Tobi recently launched her own fabric line and will release several other products lines in 2012. Her DIY design service InBox Interiors and her Design Camps have been wildly successful. Tobi recently launched Tobi Fairley and Associates, a consulting group dedicated to helping firms with the business of design. She also blogs at Tobi's Blog.