A custom-made dining table can help you find the perfect fit for your space, or just ensure a truly unique interior scheme. But how do you go about commissioning one?
Image: In this extensive refurbishment to a Victorian townhouse by architects De Rosee Sa, a bespoke table, bench and banquette are the perfect dimensions for the space.
If you've dared to extensively refurbish or even build your own home from the ground up, commissioning someone to make you a custom dining table is an idea that's unlikely to scare you.
When furnishing a home, the options for furniture that will make or break your scheme may be limited from retailers, but when working with a designer and maker to create a piece from scratch, your imagination (ignoring your budget for one moment) is the limit.
Why commission a bespoke table?
There are a variety of reasons you may want a custom-made table for your dining space. Size is one factor, whether that is to perfectly fit a certain space or you're looking to be able to seat a good number of people around a particularly large table.
Bespoke design is also available for those looking to create a table in a particular style or material to complement an interior scheme, where an alternative is not available to purchase, and for those seeking a one of a kind table to contribute to a unique home design.
How to commission a bespoke table
Commissioning begins with you setting down your requirements in a clear and detailed brief. Creating a sketch or Pinterest board can be effective ways to communicate your vision.
However, it's worth noting that design and production require very different skills. If you’re not confident in creating a final blueprint, start by finding a designer. If you’re already working with an interior designer, they may be able to conceptualise the piece or recommend a specialist furniture designer for the job. They may also be able to suggest craftspeople/makers.
How much does a bespoke table cost?
The cost of a bespoke table will depend entirely on the designer, the craftsperson and the materials used. While bespoke tables will cost more than their mass-produced counterparts, there is likely to be a bespoke option for a range of budgets.
Have a discussion about cost at the earliest stage, at which point it’s common to agree a staged payment process. 'Before work starts, make sure you see and are happy with the material samples, renderings or drawings to get a sense of the finished piece,' explains Sharon Lillywhite, co-founder of Oliver Burns.
The manufacturing process
Working closely alongside the maker, you can detail every aspect, from the materials through to colour and style. It is also worth selecting a craftsperson who is a specialist in your chosen material, whether that be wood or metal, for instance.
Sign-off is the stage when any alterations to the table need to be raised, as it is costly to make changes beyond this point.
Part of the joy of a one-off piece of furniture is being able to see your design come to life and be part of the journey. Visit the workshop to get an insight into the process.
Case study: A curvy table
Image: Brixton Home
Jacqui Walker is a freelance creative working in disciplines such as photography, styling, interiors and digital marketing. In the renovation of her London home, chronicled via Instagram account @brixtonhome, she has commissioned bespoke furniture for a custom finish. The Grand Designs magazine team spoke to Jacqui about the process behind the custom design of a beautiful, sinuous dining table, which she is now offering as a bespoke product through her website, Brixton Home.
Why did you decide on the focus on bespoke pieces for your home renovation?
'I wanted to create bespoke pieces for my home as I am always looking for something slightly different that you can't buy from mainstream retailers. I don't always want the options that are 'off the shelf' and I think if you are paying significantly for something then it's much better to have exactly what you want [within your budget]. I also feel that items such as kitchens and large pieces of furniture like dinning tables are very personal and should fit with the design and vision of the house. Buying from traditional furniture retailers doesn't always give you this option and flexibility.'
What was your process for designing and commissioning this table?
'For the dinning table, I wanted something organic in shape that fit with the flow of the kitchen. Therefore the table tapers slightly so that the thin end of the table is the end that is pointing into the busy section of the kitchen. The larger table end is in the quiet corner and takes up more space. I did a rough CAD design of the table [I used to work in fashion so I have good Illustrator skills!] marking all the dimensions on the drawing.'
Image: Brixton Home
'Due to the shape I required, I made a template by drawing the curves freehand on a board on the floor and walked around the shape to make sure it looked right in the space. The template was then cut and redelivered so I could put it on trestles to check the shape. One of my Instagram followers even suggested adding place settings on the table template which was extremely helpful and let me see how many people I could seat around the curves. Once the shape was established on the template, the template and the drawing were taken to the workshop and made up. I went to the workshop to help place the three irregular legs and then the table was complete.'
Do you have any top tips for anyone looking to commission a bespoke table?
- 'Do your research and find up-and-coming, creative trades/makers who are happy to get a little experimental with you. Call around a few and pitch your idea to see which of them might be up for it. I would also mention a rough guideline budget at this point too.'
- 'Know your measurements. Be prepared with all the info upfront. Sketch, materials, dimensions and even make paper templates for anything shaped. I found it hard to envisage the width of the table legs so I used bottles and vases around the house to sense check the diameters that I thought would look good.'
- 'Have confidence with your creativity and design. When I went to sign off my table at the workshop the makers laughed and said they'd never worked on such a crazy piece before and why on earth did I want a table shaped like an insole?! I got their point and laughed too, but at the end of the day it's your home and only you live there, not them. So you have to make it work for you. Don't let negative or disparaging comments stop you from getting the piece you envisage for your home.'