miscellaneous by 79

custom is the new vintage


Yesterday was unseasonably warm and gorgeous in Brooklyn. The temperature topped 75 degrees, and there wasn’t a gray cloud in the sky. We spent a good chunk of our Sunday at the Brooklyn Flea, scarfing down pork-ragu pasta and bubble tea (I know that’s an odd combo, but both were delicious) while watching the boats go by the Williamsburg waterfront. While we were walking around the flea, I noticed a vendor, Fat Dog Fabrication, with a clever sign on its tables. The sign said, “Custom is the New Vintage,” and it immediately struck me as spot on. I’m not sure why it made me stop in my tracks, but it did.

When I started D*S, buying “new” things (particularly things that were shiny, smooth and made of some sort of innovative plastic-type material) was all the rage. Then slowly over the past five years, shiny newness was replaced with a passion for and rediscovery of all things vintage. Buying vintage has been a badge of pride for a while now — I’ve seen “I Buy Vintage!” bumper stickers, blog headers and ads all over the place, and even at D*S, we seem to rarely feature a home tour, makeover or DIY project that doesn’t involve something vintage. As much as buying vintage is a way of life for many (and hopefully many more as the years go on), it is most definitely considered a “trend” for others. While I hope that most of us will continue to love and support vintage sellers, I know that it’s human nature to keep looking for something that feels fresh and new. And lately, I’ve started to feel like that trend is “custom.”

I remember having a conversation in 2004, when I started D*S, with a Pratt student about how custom work seemed elitist. We both associated it with astronomical price tags and penthouse apartments. But as I get older, I’ve started to realize that it’s not (at least, not always) elitist, and it is, more often than not, about investing in a great local artist and working with your budget and style to create something so special and functional that you’ll keep it for years to come. And I think that’s an idea we can all get behind as a worthwhile new interest or “trend.”

But I wonder whether this feeling has permeated the community as a whole. As such, I thought I’d ask you guys how you feel. I’d love to get your opinions on these custom-related ideas:

  • Have you ever considered custom design for your home (furniture, artwork, etc.)?
  • Do you think you could afford custom work (on any scale) for your home?
  • Do you think custom furniture is a good option, or would you prefer to customize things on your own (DIY-style)?

I’m curious to see how you all feel about this topic, and whether or not custom still has a “pricey” stigma attached to it. I’ve been thrilled to find custom furniture listed under $500 all over Brooklyn, so I have high hopes that affordable custom work is something we can all look forward to in the next few years. Not only does it let you get something that works for your style and your life, but it also gives you the rare opportunity to work hand-in-hand with a local artist and get to see that artist’s process (and talent) in action — something that’s really hard to do when you’re just ordering a chair online. xo, grace

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79 Comments

Erika Sews

I would definitely buy custom furniture, home accessories, or have custom remodel work done on our home if it was well-crafted by a local artisan. The cost would be a factor for us, but we do see the value in paying more for hand-crafted and custom work.

susan

custom — by up and coming artisans can be affordable and exciting. our favorite pieces in our home are the ones we had a “hand” in designing and helping the making process along. interestingly, parts of them often are vintage pieces being repurposed. (such as legs on a table) it’s much more interesting to have less and love each piece more. great post!

Catherine

I have a custom painting in my home that I bought a few years back. We are a single income family, so it was “pricey” for me…but I got EXACTLY what I wanted and will hang it in my home for many years.

Becky D @ KingsDownRoad

Hmm – well I certainly hope that vintage is not on its way out!! :)

Not sure how I feel about the idea that custom might be trendy. I definitely still associate a high price with custom work. Rightly so, I believe, with the extra time and craftsmanship.

Amy

I would consider going custom for a reasonable price for something that needs to be fit in order to utilize the space well.

Junker Newbie Stephanie

I love custom items but agree I would normally think of that as a pricey option. However, I recently found someone to make a custom farm house table for me at what I believe to be a very reasonable price. I’m beyond thrilled & it’s made me realize not all custom items are expensive.

notabilia

Yes, I have bought and would buy custom furniture and art work (and clothes and accessories). I can’t afford to fill my home and closet with one-of-a-kind pieces, but I like knowing that I have one or two pieces made by artists I know and love.

Sprout

Not being from Brooklyn, I find affordable and custom to still be mutually exclusive.

And I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. When we’re talking custom, made from scratch, one of a kind, we’re talking about time and talent, and a proportionate price tag doesn’t seem out of line.

Or is Brooklyn using a different definition of custom?

grace

sprout

i dont think brooklyn is using a different definition, but rather a different style and set of materials. custom tables can easily be fashioned from reclaimed wooden tops and rebar legs. those materials are dirt cheap and when you factor in labor time the cost actually really isn’t as scary as people think. i think brooklyn as a community really embraces inexpensive/found materials so that does a lot to drop price points.

grace

martha

As an architect I find this topic quite interesting since architecture has for the most part always been “custom” and I think the public’s perception is that it is expensive to hire a designer because of this.
When Prefab homes became all the rage one of the selling factors was “affordability”. I started doing the math and realized that often the price of a prefab home was the same or in some cases more than a custom home when you factored in the purchase of the site. If you want to “customize” your prefab then you need to pay extra.
By hiring a designer up front, you can get exactly what you want, designed for the actual site and you can work w/ the designer to keep costs down.

When presented like this it seems custom would be the preferable option but I think the perception of custom design being expensive stops people from even investigating this option.

Maria

Awesome post! Custom certainly doesn’t have to mean pricey. In fact- our entire house is custom and because of this we were able to build it for a tiny fraction of the cost of a “regular” house and with cash. It was so inexpensive because most of the custom work we planned and did ourselves. We consulted with builder friends as needed and paid them to do work we simply weren’t qualified to do on our own, but acted as their laborers to save even more money. We repurposed materials when we could as well. DIY is custom :) Of course their are compromises to be made when doing things this way- mainly it takes a lot of vision and time as the process can be frustrating. We have been living in our half finished custom house for nearly a year now and when we get another paycheck, we do another project. I have also had custom upholstery and cabinet work done- I am a potter and was able to barter some of the price. If you own a business or are a craftsman yourself, this is another great way to do custom work that can be fun to!

Bradford

My husband custom makes furniture and, yes, it does seem pricy until you break it down into an hourly wage and then you realize he’s not really getting paid much. Just think of how much you get paid an hour….how much would you like to be paid for 2weeks work?

Margaret

Hmmm. At first I was thinking that custom is elitist, like you said. Then I remembered that we’re considering having someone build a dining room table for our house, since our breakfast nook is square and we want a specific size that isn’t easily bought. Sooo maybe custom is about finding a unique solution, too. And it might be a little more highly priced (in the case of the dining room table), but it’s not insanely expensive and would be worth it to us.

Leigh Ann Tennant

Whether purchasing vintage or custom pieces, the beauty in both is that, along with the price tag, there is a story attached. The only difference is that with vintage your purchasing someone else’s story and with custom, you get to create your own. How wonderful when we can get our hands on a fabulous vintage piece and fashion it into something that fits into our own story as well, like re-covering a classic novel in a modern fabric- echoing both the creator’s vision and our own personality.

Brenda Watts

I LOVE this topic, I make custom furniture and it certainly is not a ‘pricey’ option. Any good artisan will work within your budget, you just have to tell them upfront, what you desire and what you are able to spend. Many options exist from the wood chosen to the joinery used…You would be surprised at the great ‘one of a kind’ pieces you could have made..just for you. Any great artisan will also stand behind their work……….I love the fact that what i make today will still be around when i am long gone.

Jamie

Totally agree. It’s just too bad that broke isn’t the new wealthy. Custom modular pieces–particularly for workspace–really appeal to me. But while I do see the occasional affordable custom option popping up, it’s seems far below average for now.

Jeanie

I think that is spot on. Custom does seem more accessible now. One of my jewellery pieces was unexpectedly promoted recently. It grabbed the imagination of one person in the middle of a kitchen reno. My resin ring has inspired something relating to kitchens! I love the idea of working with them to see their vision come true.

Jen

We are considering buying custom cabinets for our new apartment, and having a carpenter make some other custom items for our house. I expect that it will be super expensive, but it’s worth a shot. Even if we have to scrape by for a little while – there is something so much more meaningful about having something made by hand vs what you can buy and assemble from home depot.

Grace – where can you find this ‘custom furniture’ for under $500 in Brooklyn?

Donna

Expensive? Probably, a bit. Worth it? Yes…sometimes. We have a combination of vintage, scratch and dent, new and custom. I think at some point, all of those special finds need to be customized to make a cohesive look. I have many vintage pieces of furniture, 50′s slipper chairs, mission style rocking chair, black wooden chairs, all of which have been professionally reupolstered. Custom drapes were a splurge. But when the green department store sofa lost it’s ability to keep humans at acceptable seating levels, we had a sofa made. We combined leather, cloth and even down. It took so long to arrive that I forgot what it was going to look like. When it did…perfection. The final piece to complete a room nearly twenty years in the making.

Norine

Great post and so many great comments. Like Bradford, my husband is a custom artisan (venetian plaster walls), and though some may consider that technique pricey, going lower with the cost means we don’t make a living at all. But the value for what you get! Working with any artisan and getting exactly what you want is beyond satisfying. I think it is a matter of investing in what is important to you, what speaks to you, and I think that working with creative people to come up with something tailored to your space or needs or wants is an incredible experience all in itself even without the end product. I think that before anyone rules out custom anything, they should check in with a few artisans and see what is possible for your budget. I mean we are all trying to create the home we see in our minds eye, and custom is the fastest way to get there.

grace

jen

i’ve found it from countless furniture vendors at the flea. i see things i like and email them (not from a d*s email address, there’s no discount happening) and ask about custom pieces that are smaller/bigger/different colors, etc. i’ve been looking for custom benches and stools for a while and have been thrilled to see all estimates well under $500.

grac

Genevieve

As much as I like of finding and buying vintage pieces and refurbishing them myself, it’s not always an option with my busy schedule, work and family responsibilities. For us getting some custom pieces was a great fit. Plus it’s nice to know we are helping support local artists/craftsmen and thus the local economy and jobs even it’s a minimal contribution.

Laura

We’re about to embark on a huge renovation to our (new to us) house and I am really hoping that we are able to afford things like custom cabinetry and millwork. As designers, my H and I really see the value in these things and hope we can afford to put our money where our mouths are.

Sally

….isn’t custom or hand made or hand built what inspired ArtFire, Etsy, Instructables, and other sites?….

Stacey

My father is a carpenter (for lack of a better term), so any time we’ve usually turned to him when we need a new piece of furniture or something unique built for us. The area I live in tends to support prefab and cheaply-made/high-priced products more than the handmade goods, but we know that our pieces (like my walnut bookcase) will last for generations, where the $400 chipboard bookcase might last 5 years.

Another feature of custom I really like – the knowledge that what I’m getting is 100% one-of-a-kind. We have enough things in our lives that are replicas of replicas… it doesn’t hurt to have a bit of originality every once in a while.

Michelle

I completely agree!! Especially for larger pieces of furniture and small apartments. When I first started looking for a new dining room table, I wanted to find something vintage at The Flea – but, I realized that the space I had available for the table was extra small. So, I bought a custom made table on Etsy that was made as per my exact measurements. The seller was AMAZING! It cost a few hundered $ more than a vintage find, but it’s sturdy, solid, and fits in my apartment perfectly!

here’s the link:
http://www.etsy.com/shop/blueridgewoodworking

Sarah

my husband and i live in manhattan but LOVE brooklyn and especially the brooklyn flea. when we first moved here we bought so many custom and vintage pieces at the flea for very affordable prices. I agree with Grace, brooklyn embraces affordable found materials and thats why we’re there every week :) for people outside the nyc area, mixing DIY with custom is a great, and more afforable, way to decorate

Nat@ dear little house

Custom is great! I remember reading an a forum that someone was looking to buy some canvas art that matched their decor and they liked, and that they were having difficulty finding something. This person wanted recommendations for giant department and chain stores that may have some cheap canvas art that would suit her room. It did not occur to this person (nor and of the 20 respondents before me) that she could commission an artist to paint something for her, in many cases for little more than some mass-produced crap.

I ‘customise’ stuff all the time! I might see a piece that I like and tweak it to fit my requirements, or have someone do it for me if it is a job outside of my skill-set.

Why settle for something that doesn’t 100% suit your purpose? Just go custom baby!

Kerri

I think it’s all about combining the vintage with the new with the custom. Layers of each is what makes a home more interesting and personal. I don’t think that custom always means expensive. In fact, sometimes it can even be less! But custom requires more legwork for the buyer, more time spent…either in design decisions or sourcing an artist.

Jody

I’ve had several pieces of custom furniture made in the past year, and I will never go the retail route again. My new pieces are perfectly to scale, use coverings I love, and have just the right curve/embellishment/squishy seat, etc. And they’re original.

It’s also significantly reduced my costs, likely because I’ve eliminated the pricey logistics and overhead associated with retail. I don’t think it’s elitist at all; rather, it’s a deal. I’m lucky to live in NC where there are many skilled furniture makers who do a fantastic job.

ingrid

I love finding old pieces that are new to me at an insanely low price. part of the joy is finding it for so little, not only because it feels extra special, but because I can’t afford to purchase anything

Sprout

Well, I am entirely jealous of your affordable Brooklyn resources! It does not seem to be happening here. At $1800 PLUS fabric to reupholster a sofa, I passed on repurposing my sofa. It killed me to have it carted off.

annie c.

When I started a design business in Brooklyn 18 years ago we always made custon furniture for our projects mostly because we were asked by clients to make a dining table in a triangle space or a kitchen island that needed to go up 10 flights of stairs. I like to make sure what we make will be in the lives of people for years to come. My concern for the DIY movement and vintage phenon is that if not well made and not taken care of it will become future landfill. More often custom work becomes an heirloom.

Margie

Great article! Before I read this I definitely thought of custom as pricey and unaffordable, but now I’m curious to see how much certain pieces would cost. I’ve also been looking for a bench, and some other pieces so I’ll definitely do some research about custom options now, thanks!

David

I think that custom is definitely what is being sought after more and more in the marketplace today. More and more we are seeing companies reaching out to their customers to find out what it is that they want, instead of trying to tell the customer that they want that particular product. I have seen this in everything from cars to grocery stores. I think it’s particularly profound in decor and home furnishings. Personally, I have found that it can be very hard to find that piece of furniture or artwork that is exactly what I am for. I have held off buying certain items for years, until I found the right piece. The advantage of trending toward custom is that buying custom no longer has to mean breaking the bank. Certainly custom items will still cost more than anything mass produced, but nonetheless there are affordable options out there. I think it’s great that so many people are able to put their own personal touch into designing their homes, making those places more comfortable to live and full of sentimental value and memories.

ingrid

i love finding old pieces that are new to me at an insanely low price. part of the joy is finding it for so little, not only because it then feels extra special (and unlike purchasing from a manufacturer, it is reused and therefore is green), but also because i can’t afford to purchase much of anything these days living in brooklyn.
the other element here is that i try to be environmentally conscious, and know from my work in supply chains that even repurposed things can consume a lot of nasty chemicals and processing materials that a found vintage item would not.
while i understand the pricing of custom projects (and am thankful to those commenters who could shed more light on that topic, re: hourly wage), when i pass by the custom stands at brooklyn flea and otherwise, i usually take a brief glance and move on, especially because of price.

Pam

40 odd years ago I purchased a sofa and two chairs from a company called Hickory Chair. They have been reupholstered a myriad of times over the years-all to great effect. I found another sofa-huge-at Salvation Army about ten years ago that is awesome-spent a paltry $250 for it-great investment! So, yes I guess we can all agree that custom is the new vintage….to refurbish a well made item seems a no brainer to me!

Emily Lindberg

My husband and I have recently gotten into bringing more plant-life and greenness into our apartment. Just today I mentioned to him that I’d like to talk with a local ceramic artist I know about making custom windowsill-sized plant pots. I have no idea what something like this will cost, but I like the idea of designing products to fit our lives, rather than [always] designing our lives around products that already exist. Plus, as a maker myself, I recognize the importance of patronizing other makers so as to promote more choice in what we buy. If makers are unable to make a living off of what they do, they will simply stop doing it, thus creating a homogenous culture where there is relatively little choice. Perhaps custom window planters will be more expensive than something I can find at Target, but it’s important to realize that price shouldn’t always be the deciding factor when it comes to buying new products. We also need to consider quality, aesthetics, and the sustainability of or culture.

Karen E

I decorated my nursery by breathing new life into antique (and very tired) baby furniture from my/my mother’s/my grandmother’s childhood. The lovely people @chromalab created a (somewhat) matched set for me out of a couple higgledy-piggeldy pieces! It was fun for me to support talented, hardworking artists and see a bit of my own creative input come to life. It was also very satisfying to make manifest my love of offbeat colors. We used the beloved Ben Moore paint color deck as a common reference.

Brooke

I love the idea of custom pieces. Having discovered Ana-White.com, the website of a woman providing not only free furniture plans to build, but teaching you the know-how and giving you the confidence to do it, I’ve started building my own custom furniture. I built a console table that doubles as a quilt display, a kitchen island that is the perfect size for my space (not to mention the cherry color!) and so much more. Over 90% of the furniture in my house has been built, custom, by myself. And that is an awesome feeling!

Karen E

I have another story about custom work. Also while pregnant last year (one gets a lot done while waiting for baby’s arrival), we hired an up-and-coming carpenter (i.e. not very expensive) to create a custom wall unit for books/TV. The trick was that our reference was pulled from a fancy British mag, and we never would have been able to succeed if it weren’t for an interior designer friend coming over and ‘sketching’ the wall unit with blue tape. Quite frankly, it was a tough job in terms of proportion and balance and if we had just simply trusted this fairly junior carpenter, it probably wouldn’t have worked out, yet if we’d paid the designer his fair wage, it would have been prohibitively expensive. So, custom can be pricey, and/or it pays to have designer/artist friends – that’s my takeaway! Keep your friends, feed them well!

shelley

Isn’t so much of today’s vintage a combination of actual vintage and custom? So many items are being repurposed and updated in some way so that they can be used and enjoyed the way we live today that I don’t necessarily think the two are mutually exclusive. We are currently remodeling a 1910 bungalow and it’s a combination of vintage thrift store finds…inherited antiques…Ikea…and yes, custom made pieces for those odd shaped rooms when nothing else would fit!

Erin

Vintage is a lifestyle for us. I guess I’ve never thought of it as being a trend, but you’re really right. It’s not something we will ever move on from, though, I think. (We meaning my household.) I love it too much. I love the idea that something has had a whole other life before coming to me. I love that items are found in unexpected places with unique people. Everything in our house has a story.

I guess a custom piece could have the same feel, the story and all, but not made by someone else. We are in the process of remodeling our house (going on four years) and we have added many “custom” features, but we’ve done it ourselves. I don’t like the idea of paying someone else to do it, but maybe that’s because we probably couldn’t pay someone else to do it. XD

jenni o

I’m not rich by any means, but I like quality over quantity, so have gone custom several times. When I made four stained glass panels, I contacted a local woodmaker to make me the perfect coffee table to have them inset into. (pricey, but worth it). The design sketches alone are worthy of framing! When I became engaged (before the days of etsy) our wedding rings were very important to us. I sketched out my ideas and brought them to a local jeweler, who worked with us to design the perfect set. It doesn’t get better than custom art worn every day. And the ultimate, working with a local cabinetmaker to get the best “custom” fit for our kitchen space. It’s awesome and no inch went unused. Not to say I don’t DIY it when I can or buy/update a vintage piece when appropriate. All avenues are good.

Katie

Hm…
Custom can tend to be a little elitist, but it really depends on what you’re looking at as “custom.” I guess you mean something built specifically for you? In my opinion, it’s elitist if it’s got some fancy name attached to it that screams money louder than the piece demonstrates quality and care.

Diane

Yes. Custom shelving is great.

In my last apartment there was the funny little three foot wide nook that had one of the radiators tucked into it. It was in the “office”, also known as the end of the dining room table furthest from the kitchen. So I got three shelves put in that could hold bankers boxes (attractive ones – this was in the “dining room”) and it gave me my floor space back.

The apartment that my boyfriend and I moved into now has really high ceilings, and so once again I’m thinking about going the custom route. We both have a lot of books and it would be great to have a floor to ceiling built-out for them. This is going to be expensive for us, and we’ve put it off for three months already. But neither of us want to put four ikea book shelves in a row either. And we’re planning on living here for the next five plus years… so it seems like it’ll be money well spent.

Michelle

I have a handmade leather handbag business, and I do custom work for clients. I think the most important thing is that the artist and client have a solid working relationship and a somewhat similar aesthetic. Just because someone can do custom work, doesn’t mean they should do custom work for you. The final piece should be something both people are proud to have their name on, so to speak. Shop around for an artist you feel a connection to, it might take more time and effort, but it will pay off in the end. Having this open dialogue also helps where price is a concern. If you are upfront about your budget, then we can work together to control costs. It will probably cost more than something pre-fab from a big box store, but you’ll get exactly what you want, and you’ll be supporting a real person who you know, not some faceless corporation. I’m glad that more people are choosing custom work for their home, furniture, and clothing, because it makes people more aware of the true “cost” (environmental, social) of producing and buying goods. As a consumer you should know how many trees had to be cut down for your coffee table, and I take the opportunity to show people the hide I use, still in cow shape, because I think I have a responsibility to explain to people exactly what it is they are buying. I think the move towards custom is a reflection of the modern consumer wanting to know more about what it is they are filling their home with, and walking away from a culture of blind, mass consumption.

McKelvie

As a custom furniture designer, painter and vintage etsy tinkerer, I think custom made pieces from reclaimed materials and repurposed items is the next logical step. Not only should custom embody a special need/function it’s simple materiality should be special, one of a kind or dictated by a clients needs and aesthetic inclinations.

Heather Frazier

I never would have thought of custom design as a trend but maybe you are on to something Grace. Custom orders have always been a significant part of my business. I offer this service sometimes at no charge if it is a simple color customization and often for a very small up-charge for more complex customizations. I have been thinking about discontinuing customization, but now that you have declared it a trend….I might have to rethink this!!

cherade9

I think it really depends on where you live. Here in the UK, there seems to be a definate line between affordable custom, usually made by local craftspeople, and anything made in London. Here in Edinburgh I know many local woodworkers, carpenters and general crafty people I can turn to, to get quality pieces made, even at a price my family can afford <– disabled and living on benefits.

Most of the art and soft furnishings we have are custom. I’m lucky enough to be able to knit, sew, crochet, embroider, do simple upholstery and paint. It’s wonderful to be able to put my own ideas into my home.

We also like to buy art work from individual artists. We can usually only afford prints, but we have some lovely pieces. Cards are also an affordable source. Picture frames and mounting are often much more expensive than the art! We’re buying a mitre saw this summer to start making our own picture frames.

I have two cheap pine lidded boxes that I’ve had over a decade, to pad, drill and upolster in vintage 70′s prints. I’m hoping to be able to make and sell custom pieces for other local people at affordable pieces using furniture from car boot sales and charity shops. It means we can all enjoy custom!

Rachael

I think it’s important for people to have ‘custom’ pieces in their home, whether it is made professionally or done in DIY fashion, so they feel like their home isn’t straight out of any catalog. Myself, I’m more inclined to DIY something, because I feel like paying for a custom piece is too expensive, but I haven’t really done my homework on it either. I would rather use my own two hands to make an item custom for my own home than pay someone else to do it for me. Plus, if it doesn’t turn out the way I want it, then I don’t have anyone else to pay (or blame) but myself!

Allison

I think Etsy might be making custom seem a lot more doable to a lot of people. I’ve never had anything large made custom (except a bookcase made by a friend), but I’ve often contacted Etsy sellers with requests to modify smaller things, and I think they’ve always been happy to comply. It’s made me feel a lot more confident about even asking (if you don’t ask, the answer’s always no!), and someday I can imagine purchasing something larger and more expensive custom, if I felt like that was the right choice for my home.

Christina

Very interesting topic. I have never considered custom work for my home. At least not to date. This is absolutely a result of the “pricey” stigma. The thought has never even crossed my mind because I’m just a young, single gal who only recently reached past “paycheck-to-paycheck” living. The people I imagine getting custom work are married couples in their 50s+ or the occasional obnoxiously well-paid young person.

That being said, I think my mind has opened up ever so slightly to the idea. And even more so after reading this post. :) I love the idea of custom, but you’re talking to a girl who’s planning to remodel an entire powder bathroom for around $500. I am REAL cheap. Haha.

I would hope that in the future I may be able to afford to punctuate my home with a few custom pieces. And I also resonate with the idea of customizing things DIY-style. As long as you can pull it off, DIY is always a fun option for the thrifty or crafty homeowner.

Thanks for encouraging such a great discussion!

Ottawa m boutique photography - melanie rebane

I love restoring old pieces for modern function and I also love complimenting this with custom photographic art that I create for both myself and clients. Using alternative photography methods and traditional canvas it is wonderful to create something that s so personal and reflective in a world that even takes the “unique” and mass produces it. A great way to work with a local artisan/photographer to create a classic hierloom…
GREAT POST
p.s. any suggestions for places to stay with secure parking in NYC? Shooting a wedding at Gramercy Park…could use some insights :)

Marque

Most of the time my husband and I buy second-hand mostly out of budget.
But for the first time we ordered a custom couch mostly because we wanted a specific couch size for our strangely spaced living room– we also had the funds, otherwise we’d still be scouring the thrift shops and trendy vintage shops.

It’s been great and hopefully will last us a really long time. Also because it was custom, nearly every detail is exactly to our wants.

Custom artwork and accessories also adorn my house, but that is my doing, I love making found art and crocheting with anything but yarn for neat rugs.

MichelleP

Coming from a family of indie carpenters & artists, I always consider custom as an option. I am surprised at the “elitist” notion, maybe custom needs to be demystified?

Yes, there is legwork. You will need to find someone you want to work with, & clearly communicate your needs, ideas, AND budget. If they are way over your budget, ask what can be changed in the design or materials to bring the price down. Maybe even check a local salvage yard for unique materials, many artisans welcome a creative challenge.

You won’t be able to get custom work for Ikea prices, but you will probably realize that the longevity of a custom piece brings far more value than something cheaply made ever could!

Laura

I’d buy custom when it looks like that beautifully colored counter top. Know anything about it? I couldn’t find it on the Fat Dog Fabrication website.

Kimberly Taylor

you know we *love* custom! a great post – especially the questions you raise. loving the comments as well! we agree — with custom comes value!

Jo

I bought a used double-ended slipper tub, a bargain with no feet. So then I needed to figure out how to support that heavy cast-iron off the bathroom floor. Enter: my carpenter, Joshua Coberly. Not only did he build me some beautiful, simple teak supports on a budget, but he also built me some simple, practical cabinets to match my vintage ones to fill out my kitchen remodel. Being newly in business, his prices were not that expensive, and he took real pride in his craftsmanship. I would not hesitate to hire Joshua again for any more work that needs to be done. And I’m a single mom with a really tight budget. Hiring Joshua seems the opposite of elitist – it’s an investment in the community and his business, as well as a way to get high-quality work that fits. If anybody needs a carpenter in Seattle, let me know, I’ll be happy to refer him.

Jessica

I think vintage and custom can still go hand in hand trend wise – because buying vintage is eco conscious and that will never go out of style. But I like that Fat Dog Fabrication sees how valuable it is to offer custom work – and so do we. Offering customers custom work allows for endless possibilities – especially for the really creative customers. Those have to be the really fun projects to work on.

How about taking a vintage object and turning it into a custom piece? I have seen quite a few small businesses take off by taking old furniture and reupholstering it. Like Spruce Home here in Austin – they have an Etsy shop, too.

Oh and speaking of something being the new somthing…. spoke with one of our artists last week, Darvin Jones, he says that Elephants are the new Bird (re: animals in art & design). I totally believe him. – Jess w/ gallery direct

Janette

Fantastic post Grace! Really exciting to read as my own business is all about customized work. I find it really exciting working with customers when they commission their own design and my prices are very reasonable. I’ve always loved vintage but I hope custom work is also here to stay!

Dee

By using the phrase “Custom is the New Vintage” the seller was likening custom being a trend in the same way you’ll hear the phrase “white is the new black” in the fashion industry. Black in fashions a classic and never goes out of style. For some people though, I worry that vintage is and will continue to be a fad. Goodness knows mid-century items are hot right now and entire stores of products can be listed under the category of Eames-era. I think craftsman who do custom work deserve more credit than assuming they’re somehow connected with the next fad. Custom work has been a part if all design history look back and take note of how great families commissioned custom work from great artisans across all price ranges. All the wonderful benefits of getting custom work include the basic knowledge that your work was done for you to suit your needs, style, and tastes. That in my mind is the complete opposite of trends which by nature have a shelf life. It was a cute attempt at creating a witty phrase but if the seller had thought it thru, maybe they’d have used something different. If they’re a custom builder of some great product, I don’t think they meant to relegate themselves to merely trend status.

nichole

Lately, I’ve been bookmarking indie clothing design shops that offer custom made dresses.

After frustrating searches for the right fit, I’ve come to realize that the only way I am going to get what I want is to have it made for me.

I was talking to my husband about how beautiful women–even fuller figured–women looked in the 50s. It’s because their clothes fit them. The dresses were made for them. I can’t help but think of Mad Men here.

I’m not after a vintage style, per se, but rather a dress that fits me impeccably and made of fabrics that will last.

Okay, that wasn’t about decor or design, but I think custom and tailored clothing has a future. :)

Kat

Custom is quite the norm for me and my family. My grandparents live on a farm and have a lot of resources for custom furniture. The beds that we have, and the doors of our house were all custom built (all now more than 30 years old). Even the beds and the shelves I have at home are custom made by a friend of my parents (we provided the wood). It costs less for us than going to the shop to buy the pieces we need. Plus, since my home is somewhat small & has odd corners, having custom furniture maximizes everything.

Chris

So what makes a vintage object so appealing? For me it can be that the style or aesthetic of the vintage object is no longer made, that is more unique or rare, that the object was made to endure- an heirloom. If a maker of custom objects can educate the client about the process and provide options, the object will hold more meaning to the buyer. To have custom is to have choice, tailored to fit. We are very disconnected to how objects are made and their sustainability.
Great Post Grace !

Erica

I have considered custom furniture for my home and as soon as I move, I plan on having several pieces created to fit the space and vibe. I like to support local designers as well as friends that are talented furniture designers, and having them create a piece for my home or office is ideal!
I am an artist myself and I love to create just about everything, however, I find it much more special when I can support a friend or local designer.

Anastasia

Working as an interior design consultant I always encourage my client’s to go custom. Who would you rather support, a local artisan/ craftsperson or a corporation like pottery barn? My back ground is as a fine artist so I always try to offer creative and unique design ideas to client’s that support local talent!
Thanks for this great post.

Esther Coombs

I do custom work within my drawn on ceramic range and find it so rewarding, i generally charge a additional fee for the extra time it takes me to make an item individually but everyone i have done this for seems made up with the outcome, i love the challenge of working with a customer to produce something they love and I’m proud to make, having that customer interaction is lovely…

Working on custom items myself has made me a lot more keen to ask others at craft shows and trade fairs etc if i see work i like, (like i did at last years Origin in London) I’ll politely ask if the maker is open to custom work, how they do it, and how much it might be for the kind of thing i’m after, ill go away and think about it but several times i’ve decided to go for it, to get just the right thing, that fits perfectly, made as i wanted it is worth the few bucks more especially in a room where the item is a real centrepiece…

I don’t know if custom is the new vintage, i use vintage and up-cycle it often as custom work, so i’m doing both together, maybe its just about making things people really want, need and love in thier homes and if we can do a bit more of that then trend or no trend its worth doing…!

Retroverse Vintage

I had a custom rug made from farm-raised alpaca fleece from Colorado. It was made in Texas by hand on turn-of-the century equipment. I’ve had custom paintings done by up-coming artists in Oregon, too.

I never thought I could afford anything custom until I bought my first piece. The level of craftsmanship, quality of work and love put into a custom piece is astounding–and the price tag? Same or not much more than off-the-shelf, imported goods. It’s well worth it to support local artists and craftsmen. And who can put a price tag on something that is uniquely yours?

For my own home, it’s a mix of custom, vintage and new. I’ve diy-ed or “customized” a lot of it myself. Except for the things better left to the professionals, like upholstery.

I don’t think vintage is going away. But the new trend, as already mentioned, will be customized vintage pieces. Heck, we see it every week on to-die-for before & afters.

Loora

Is custom more expensive ? I think it is. But, as many have pointed out, it’s also more durable, so I’d better buy a more expensive piece of furniture that will last a lifetime (at least mine, let’s not push my furnitures and taste on my children). I also find it cheaper in the long run, since you are not replacing your furnitures every five years.

Better than “custom made” being a trend, I hope that “quality” is a new trend, and one that’ll stay. I includes vintage (if it’s lasted 20 years, it’s durable enough), custom made and DIY. While DIY-ing is not always about quality, but about price, I think of it as an affordable way to build things you could not afford to have custom made by a real professional, but that suit your lifestyle perfectly.

I see the trend as a new way to enjoy life by adding to its quality rather than to its quantity. Vintage, custom-made and DIY all fall in that category. It’s beautiful both on the outside and on the inside. I’m joyfully hopping onboard that trend train !

catherine_sr

I used to think custom meant having something designed and built entirely from scratch and, therefore, was completely out of my budget. But I’ve found a lot of small businesses and craftspeople in Taipei who are willing to tweak existing designs for each customer. That makes a HUGE difference (even if it’s just something like adding a few inches to a bed frame or lowering a desk to make it ergonomic) and doesn’t cost too much more. Of course, I’m more than willing to get something custom-made or custom-built. I will get more use out of it and keep it longer, which will save me money in the long run. The drawbacks are that, yes, it is a little pricier; you have to wait longer to get an item; and without a prototype it might turn out to be completely different than what you hoped it would be.

Dana Carini

Custom… its what i do and what I am trying not to do. very mixed feeelings about custom. I restore and refinish yachts and historic doors.My boyfriend builds nautical bedrooms, builtins and furniture when he is not restoring wooden boats. I have moved back to the ny area and find people want custom and do not want to pay for it. People also want everything fast and are often not intrested in picking out the woods and the top coat products. It seems some have a hard time getting inspired with the design process. I love what I do but after spending alot to much time giving estimates for door restoration and being told I was to expensive I desided to buy old well made furniture and refinish it- selling it in a vintage mall and etsy. This way I am not dealing with the public whom is use to mass produced china prices. I still love what I do but am always looking for the door owner who wants a yacht finish on there door or an old milk paint historic finish!!!!!!

Lorena

The first custom i bought was my 15 year old bed, made to accomodate lots of storage room under the main bed, a bed underneath and a few drawers on the side.
The second one was a bookcase made to fit my book collections with several specially small spaces to place other small decorative stuff. After I moved out of my house, my mom moved it to her room but it is still being used. At the time in my country, Uruguay, custom is kind of the only way you can find things that are not based on a mass product concept. Even so, it is hard to find custom that isn´t pricey unless you find a someone that is the seller and maker. Most shops here sell things made the same common source and so on.
Personally, I think that either vintage or custom are the best options. Even when buying new you should always make it yours by adding a thing or two. It adds to its character and feel. So two thumbs up for custom trend!

pascale

It’s taken me a few years (and a few good-idea-at-the-time-but-cheap purchases) to realise that investing in some custom is worth it.
Living in a small terrace, built-in cabinetry has been well worth it to maximise storage and space. We are lucky to live next door to an amazing cabinet maker which makes it easier – i was able to design a bed to fit our bedroom space, and as it was the first he’d made, he charged us what it cost him $700 (even if i spent thousands i couldn’t have found something to suit the space better).
Artwork is also a good custom investment: as a main part of our wedding present we asked an up-and-coming artist to do an artwork for our dining area. Knowing that it has been custom designed for us (along with the occasion it signifies) means it has been more than worth its price tag.

SW

Custom is DIY for those with money, or a lack of time or a really creative brain and maybe not so many relevant skills.

I discovered the affordability of custom for some situations through my career… not everyone has the same exposure in their work and therefore custom may always seem unobtainable which isn’t always the case. It’s like anything else, once you discover the resources and how they work, you start to use them.

Rose

if you think about it- the likelihood that the piece of vintage furniture that you buy once being a custom piece, is strong. It is this longevity that inspires me to have at least one or two custom pieces in my home. Today, we are striving to maintain sustainability and investing in a solid piece of wooden furniture or good art is one way of doing it. If we are to spend our hard earned money, then lets consider the quality we buy. It will also engender the practice of money saving, something which is becoming vintage as well. I would be willing to save for a good custom piece, that would even outlast me.

katherine

after searching for a million years for a rustic kitchen table that didn’t cost thousands, we found http://www.darngoodbarnwood.com at sowa market here in boston. i am in love with our table… it’s exactly what we had imagined, made just for us. it cost $800, but we’ll love it forever, i think!

Shelley Panton

It was great to read this post about ‘custom’ . I’m a melbourne based ceramic artist who has been able to make a career out producing stoneware pieces for the table, due to the shift towards supporting local craftsmen and designers.
Of course, custom wares are more expensive then those that are mass produced. But there is something special about eating or drinking from a handmade vessel.

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