The process: Custom furniture, start to finish

In designing our surroundings, we – consciously or not – do a great deal of measuring.

Yes, there’s figuring out what will fit where, but this isn’t the only kind of measuring I’m talking about.

When it comes to designing our surroundings, we measure with many different yardsticks.

We measure cost in relation to our budget. We measure efficiency in relation to our time frame; quality in relation to our standards; aesthetic according to our taste. We measure with the yardsticks of our values, beliefs and goals.

Last week, we finished a big project for one of our long-time clients: a mahogany desk to match the rest of the furniture in her new office. Celia wanted a desk that would not only compliment her existing furniture, but that would look as if they were all part of a single set.

So, Gabe studied Celia’s pieces. He made a few drawings and brought a drawer back to the studio so he could match the finish, establishing the yardstick he’d use in building a new desk: the existing furniture pieces, and a high standard of quality.

Custom furniture start to finish

Now, as he tells it, the process of bringing a custom piece of furniture to life is one of measure, measure, measure again. For someone who’s dedicated his creative life to building purposeful art, this isn’t exactly a surprising rule of thumb.

But while the measuring is crucial, equally vital is the ability to adapt, to go with your gut and intuition – to create.

The process, as told by the slightly sarcastic Gabe Sheker

This short segment will bring to light the inner workings of how custom furnitures are born. We’ll take a voyage where few dare to go, exposing the dusty world of woodworkers and their creations. So sit back and hold on, it’s really boring.

Custom furniture start to finish

  1. Meet with the client to truly understand their needs. Listen. Dance their dance.
  2. Step 2, sometimes called the Second Step, consists of thoughtfully drawing the piece that you and the client have built in your minds. Pull together all the available resources: materials you have access to, machinery you have and what more you might need, timeframe, hardware, the final finishes – See the process as a whole with the mind’s eye, all the way through to the final step: delivery.
  3. Assuming the client’s approved the drawings, we’re off the wood store. Here, we hope the people working the yard are in good moods, as they skillfully drive forklifts moving huge bunks of wood. Time to hand-select your planks. There’s a lot to consider from grain to thickness to colors and price – the budget remains a constant yardstick.
  4. Wood selected – good. Back in your shop, and it’s time to plan again. Spread the wood across the floor and measure once, twice, ok 6 times the charm. Now cut. As sawdust flies about, we’re always modifying our plans, keeping colors and grains consistent and trying to remember our modifications throughout. (A few “oh yeah, I changed that plan!” moments are to be expected.)
    You will find that some problems you’d thought about earlier (in Step 2, perhaps) are really not as bad as previously thought. Sometimes, new problems have risen to replace them. Don’t worry, this is called woodworking, and it turns out, you’re a woodworker. Perfect!
  5. Whew, the piece is built… you’re done! Nope, you’re not. This step is called “The party’s over and all your friends have gone home. Time to clean up”. Or, Preparing for Finish. It’s a long, tough trip though this step, but we definitely can’t cut corners, or your mom will know you had the party.
    Finish magnifies everything, so make sure the piece is sanded completely and the physical distressing is just right. Sand again. Check again, then sand.
  6. The final step, time to buck up! It’s Finishing Time. Make sure each of the 5 layers of the color formula is dead on, and go for it. Again, no cutting corners… Do we want to be just another piece, or a national treasure? Just accept that it’s a long road, knowing that you’re almost there.
  7. Awww, Delivery.
  8. And this one’s a bonus step: Gratitude. While the comes in waves throughout the entire process, seeing a finished piece brings a clear sense of gratitude. I’m so grateful for everything and everyone that gives me the opportunity to do the work I do. From the people who care about curating their home interiors – in this case, Thank you, Celia – to all the designers and craftsmen dedicated to bringing purposeful art to life.
    They say you’re doing the right work if it doesn’t feel like work. And while it’s surely hard work, it feels a whole lot more like art.

    Gabe uses a unique yardstick in everything he creates. It’s a yardstick based on a feeling he’s known – The feeling that comes from taking a step back after working hard, knowing that you did your best work.

Many great artists have this ability, of course.

Great (intentional, committed) artists spend as much time crafting their yardsticks as they do crafting their art!

For this reason, process matters. The creative process sheds light on the values and intentions of a maker. And in designing our surroundings, each of us has the power to decide what matters to us and ensure that our yardstick measure up.


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