Why shopping for custom furniture is a mindset shift.

I started Messen for one simple reason: when we moved into our new apartment, we couldn’t find furniture that fit. I was frustrated because as I talked about last week, I had the skills to make the furniture I needed, but not the time or the workshop. Despite this, I also knew that with some creativity and ingenuity, there were techniques and manufacturing methods out there that could be used to economically create custom furniture for everyone, and so here Messen is.

Unfortunately, however, most people simply aren’t accustomed to thinking about furniture in a “custom” way. Simply put, as decorators we aren’t used to the idea that we can look at something, like it, and have it made to the size we need. Instead, to find the right pieces most of us peruse the internet, humming and hawing over the different sizes and options that might exist. We might like a particular style, but it’s just a little too big for where it needs to go. We might like a particular price, but it’s small for what it is. We might have found something online (e.g. on Wayfair.com), but after shipping and handling it will be too expensive or take too long to arrive.

Although it’s less than ideal, this is the norm for most people who are shopping for furniture - at least until Messen hit the scene. In this post, I’m going to talk about the benefits of custom furniture and how it’s a different way of thinking about furniture shopping and home décor than most of us are used to. 

Backdrop

In the United States, the rental price for an apartment has increased by 28% but the average size has dropped by more than 5%[1], a trend that I’m sure is replicated in Canada. For instance, In British Columbia, especially the Lower Mainland and the Okanagan where housing prices are notoriously increasing year over year, more and more people are forced into difficult compromises between size and location. This means that when my fiancee and I moved in together into a small apartment we had to make sure to maximized the use of each square meter of space we had.

Our first trip to Ikea as a couple!

Our apartment in Vancouver (before moving to Kelowna) was approximately 550 square feet with one bedroom. For this privilege, we paid $1,950 per month! Having spent most of our money on rent, the idea of furnishing the apartment was daunting, and so we did what many Canadians do when starting out: we visited everyone’s favorite Scandinavian furniture store. Truth be told, I love Ikea and generally think they provide an incredible service. Notwithstanding, even with their cleverly engineered modular designs, it was tough to find the right things and (truth be told) not all of their products are of the highest quality.  

So, we’ve established that living spaces are often getting smaller while rents are increasing, and often times it’s tough to find the right piece of furniture even when you have access to online shopping.

So what’s so great about the custom mindset?

Size

The first benefit is obvious. When you order custom furniture, you can get the size that you need. Let’s say you have an awkward nook in your house... sometimes, it’s not even the case that you get to choose from multiple styles” you’re left at the mercy of finding the one piece anywhere that might fit your space.

With little time and few tools, I ended up making this to fit in this awkward nook in our apartment. If only Messen had been around at the time...

Similarly, sometimes finding a piece that meets certain proportions, leaves room for a particular accessory or doesn’t get in the way of a painting is difficult. Alternatively, and in our situation at the old apartment, the furniture might come in a “modular” form, but when you add the height or width extenders the entire unit looks like a big Lego piece. When you order your furniture in a custom size, you avoid these problems.

Style

In solidarity with the size consideration, there’s the simple fact that sometimes you find a style that you love, and you want it to be consistent throughout the home. Bookcases, for example, are a good example of this. As more and more people work from home and build up their home offices, finding storage space for all the new stuff you need is difficult. This means that many people will have different bookcases throughout their house but, unfortunately, because so many styles only come in a handful of sizes, you might be limited in the styles that you work with. With custom furniture like Messen, you can find a style you like and tailor it to fit each room so that you can have a uniform look throughout your home and across multiple different rooms. This is even better when you want to highlight a special accent piece are a particular area of the home – by having a consistent look in a room, you can create the decorative effect and feel that you want where it matters most, regardless of the size that your furniture comes in.

 

It's tough to decorate on a budget, but we did what we could. Note the tall baseboards by the bookcase - the shelf just never looked like it would belong there.

Color

Even the most luxurious and high-end design or furniture studios usually only offer furniture in a handful of colors. This is because they, like any other company that mass-manufactures furniture, has to decided what color to make their pieces in before their customer even orders it. Perhaps somewhat ironically, during the COVID-19 pandemic there have been serious shortages in furniture, which means that if you order something that is backlogged, it’s not unlikely that you’re waiting for someone to manufacture your piece and so, presumably, you could ask for it in the color you really want, but instead have to pick from one of the couple they offer you.

All Messen furniture comes in 11 colors!

With custom furniture, you can get exactly the color you want. Here at Messen, we love the look of wood, and so we offer our furniture in 11 different textures or colors, which is about 3 or 4 times more variety than you can expect from most other furniture makers. Plus, we hope to offer even more down the road and have some really cool plans for how to get more colors offered in the future.

Flushness

My biggest quip with the furniture we bought for our first apartment is that despite the apartment having some beautiful floor molding (which, unfortunately, was really was just hiding the the actual mould(ing) going on as we later learned), it also meant that our furniture didn’t sit properly. Because it was cheaply made, it didn’t stand perfectly vertical on its own but we also couldn't lean it up against the wall because the baseboard trim got in the way. This was annoying for at least three reasons:

  1. Things could fall of the shelf into a pit of doom behind (think pens, business cards, anything small).
  2. The furniture was tilting because of how it was design and because of how large the molding was.
  3. Perhaps worst of all, despite the fact that we bought a modular piece so we could try to get a nice aesthetic look in our room, because the furniture didn’t fit it had an unfinished, unimpressive look to it that was really far from spectacular.  

Check out that gap between our bookcase and the wall!

With custom furniture like Messen, it’s easy to accommodate your baseboard, and once you see how your furniture can sit flush the wall, you’ll realize how big of a difference this makes on the look of your room.

Conclusion

Unlike shopping for “normal” furniture, shoping for custom furniture requires a different mindset. You’ll start looking at your room in different ways, and seeing imperfections and possibilities that you never have before.

One of the nice things about starting a furniture company that makes custom furniture is I now have a great business case for building some custom pieces demonstrating exactly this principle. In the coming weeks I’ll be blogging, Instagraming and generally sharing some of the cool things coming down the pipe and showing you how big of a difference stepping up to some custom furniture really is.

 

Sources:

[1] https://www.rentcafe.com/blog/rental-market/real-estate-news/us-average-apartment-size-trends-downward/

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