Messen’s four “M’s” to create the ultimate furniture.

From idea to conception, Messen has morphed quite a bit to become the company that recently launched here in Kelowna. What hasn’t changed, however are the four goals we’ve had since the beginning and that have motivated everything our brand is about:

  • Made in Canada
  • Made Custom
  • Made Sustainably
  • Made Better

These 4 M’s are the base-pairs of our corporate DNA, and we don’t think there’s anyone else as committed to them as we are.

Made in Canada

Although it had become a growing trend long before COVID-19, the recent pandemic has done a lot to highlight the importance of supporting made-in-Canada products. When established global trade routes shut down in early 2020 it became very apparent that large-scale outsourcing was could be detrimental to our wellbeing because it diminished our ability to produce important products like personal protective equipment that we desperately needed.

Non-essential businesses (like furniture stores) adapting to COVID-19 also quickly discovered that they would face challenges caused by trade disruption. For instance, I was recently speaking to an interior designer here in Kelowna, and she mentioned that finding furniture for her clients has become incredibly difficult due to the pandemic. Perhaps not surprisingly, when people were stuck at home all day one of the things they wanted to do was improve the quality of their living spaces. Unfortunately the complexities of fulfilling this increased demand were further exacerbated by the fact that important logistics networks and manufacturing processes had become constrained due to shut downs and other disruptions. This meant that lead times for many pieces of furniture jumped from weeks to months.

Here at Messen we won’t pretend to have foreseen a life-changing global event like the spread of COVID-19, and our made-in-Canada philosophy was established well before the pandemic began. What we can safely say, however, is that we were in tune early on with the importance of buying Canadian products whenever practicable. In particular, and perhaps more importantly, we realized that making furniture in Canada wouldn’t just have the effect of bolstering our own important industries, but it is also what allows us to offer so much variety in our furniture.

I'm a little made in Canada too - hiking the Rockwall Trail in late Summer 2020

One of the reasons it is economical to manufacture items overseas is because low input costs and sophisticated distribution networks for bulk goods can leverage the benefits of economies of scale. This changes, however, when you take away the economies of scale. Ordering one-off products overseas is highly uneconomical, nor is it practical, and you would be receiving a lower quality product with incredibly long lead times, and likely at a higher price. It’s one of the reasons you won’t see many customisable products produced overseas.

So to recap, being made in Canada isn’t just a feature for customers who like to support their local communities, it’s an integral part of how we make our furniture because it allows us to provide incredible variety and quality to our customers.

Made Custom

Of equal or greater importance than the fact that our furniture is made in Canada, is that every single piece we make is customizable - at no extra charge.

The traditional paradigm in the furniture industry has been that there’s two ways to shop for furniture:

  1. The first is that you buy from a company that mass-manufactures or at the very least pre-manufactures its furniture.
  2. The alternative is to work with a custom woodworking shop to create something that’s unique for you.

When buying pre-made furniture, typically, your options are quite limited and once you have picked a style that you like, there is usually only a handful of colors and sizes to choose from. The upside often is that you can get this furniture immediately, but even that isn’t always true nowadays. Often times you’ll have to wait while your order is shipped in from the appropriate distributor.

The alternative to the mass-manufactured route is working with a local shop to have “traditional” custom furniture made. Having spent many years as a hobbyist woodworker, generally creating hand-made solid wood items for my friends and family, I share a lot of support for this approach to furniture because it is wholistic, it supports independent businesses and you receive what is usually a stunningly beautiful one-off piece. Despite my enthusiasm for beautiful hand-made furniture, there are still a few downsides. First, custom furniture is almost inevitably pricey (even if you have a substantial design budget). This is often true even if it is made using cheap materials because the cost to design and create custom pieces of furniture is quite high: you need special tools and highly skilled people to operate them, as well as time to work with each client and design their piece in the first place. Second, with this type of custom furniture you are usually looking at lead times in the time-scale of months to get your project. The last is that solid wood, which is often used in traditional custom furniture, is very sensitive to moisture and temperature of the air and can be temperamental over time, which means that some designs simply do not lend themselves to being made of solid wood, or those designs require careful maintenance.

A keepsake box I made - those dovetails & inlay courtesy of yours truly!

At Messen, we took the best aspects of both mass-manufactured and solid-wood furniture and combined them together to give our customers beautifully designed furniture in a completely custom configuration - at what we think is a very reasonable price. To do this, we painstakingly design every piece using sophisticated software and mathematical models such that we can modify all of our designs very quickly and tailor them to each customer’s needs. This process also allows us to offer a huge variety of colors for all of our furniture – as of writing, we offer 11 beautiful colors. This leads to relatively quick turnaround times and a completely custom look for your home.

The Galaxy Shelf getting some tweaks. 

Made Sustainably

At Messen, there’s two ways that we believe our furniture beats out other companies to offer a more sustainable product*.

  1. It’s manufactured right in your community.
  2. It’s made from recycled materials sourced from responsibly harvested forests.

*Messen has not yet undergone an independent or third party verification of our sustainability claims – we hope to do so in the future as our company grows. It is not our intention to make misleading statements, and any claims made here are made solely as observations and reflect only our own belief.

As discussed above, many mass-manufacturers have a fairly familiar or ‘old-school’ approach to manufacturing and distribution. Here’s what the supply chain often looks like:

The typical international supply chain. 

What this means is that your furniture has accumulated a long history of transportation before arriving at your home. Beyond this, because many of the raw materials are sourced in countries with poorer environmental standards than we do in Canada, the actual inputs into the furniture (even if they are wood) are likely less sustainably harvested than they are here.  

 

For Messen, we have a distribution model more like this:

 

Messen's supply chain. 

While we haven’t yet quantitatively measured the emissions and other environmental considerations related to our furniture, we do feel it is fair to make what we feel is the intuitive observation that our simplified production chain is less impactful on the environment than the traditional mass-distribution model. In the future we’ll be writing a blog post that explores this consideration in more detail so that hopefully we can put a precise figure to our hypothesis.

The second part of our sustainability plan is that all of our furniture is manufactured from recycled wood. In other words, it is effectively a by-product of other wood products. Plus, and as alluded to earlier, this wood originally found its home in a forest that is harvested using leading industry practices. The panels we manufacture our furniture from are certified by the Forest Stewardship Counsel, as well as by other independent bodies that have been recognized by the government of Canada as reflecting a high standard of sustainable wood production.

Made Better

The last ingredient in our secret furniture sauce is that we make a great product. Here’s just a few of the features:

  • It’s made from thicker materials than many similar products: ¾” thick panels instead of 5/8” or even ½” thick.
  • We use veneers from leading Canadian suppliers that are realistic both in look and feel, and which have captivating color tones.
  • It’s made custom, which means we can cut a notch to fit your specific floorboards, giving you furniture that sits perfectly flush against the wall.
  • The engineered wood core used in our products is of a higher grade and quality than that used by many of our ‘competitors’.

At the end of the day, there is nothing more important to us than to make sure our customers feel absolutely elated and excited to have a piece of Messen furniture in their house, and this always starts with quality.

Messen quality is on the bottom - big box store is up top. 

Our designs are simple but elegant pieces that provide incredible flexibility for designing a room, and they have a polished look and feel to them that similar mass-produced alternatives lack. We think that the nature of our manufacturing and design process gives each piece a special look – whether it’s the dimensions, the grain of the veneer or the ultra-flush fit, there’s just something about simple, custom furniture that we think is great, which is why Messen was started in the first place.

Conclusion

In future blogs, we’re looking forward to elaborating on all of the above. We’re going to walk you through what “Made in Canada” means, we want to explore in significantly more detail how much more sustainable buying local furniture is rather than imported furniture, and we want to tell you a whole lot more about the special way that our furniture is made. For now, however, we hope that this little glimpse into our “Four M’s” have helped tell you about what makes Messen so special, and why we think we’re a unique company in an important industry.

Until next week!

Nicholas Terry  

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