Are you an interior designer who is ready to make the leap from ordering online to designing and having something made locally?  First, I am very proud of you!  You are encouraging small business growth and making something totally unique for your client.  Second, there are a few things you should know that will prevent unwanted surprises and will make your manufacturer go above and beyond for you.

If you are a seasoned Interior Designer, you may still be able to benefit from these pointers. I've been on both sides and I know I was not the model designer when it comes to doing custom work.  There's still hope for us all!


When calling your desired shop, the first thing you should do is say your name and where you are calling from.  I know it sounds silly, but it's just rude when someone calls me and starts with, "Do you make chairs?".  

Let's try this again:  "Hi, my name is Lex and I am an interior designer with Lex Lee Studio.  I found your number on Google and I think your shop is perfect for my project.  I am looking to make a Kitchen Booth for my client in Santa Monica.  In order to do a quote, would you prefer my specifications via email or with an in-person meeting?"

Ok, I know it sounds a little robotic, but you can add warmth to it when you actually speak the words out loud.  Let's review the key points of my opening statement:

  • I said my name and my title as an Interior Designer.   Many shops love designers because they know they will not have to describe every single part of the furniture in question.  The designer should already have a working knowledge of the terms used. 
  • I told them how I found them and that I knew they would be good for the job.  This shows that I did my research.  Of course it's always in your favor if you have a good referral, but if you do not, I suggest you get familiar with their portfolio.  Do not call an upholstery shop and ask them to quote you a dining table.  
  • I told them the basics of what I wanted and where I want it.  I need a Kitchen Banquette, an item that needs VERY specific dimensions taken by the person fabricating it.  That kitchen is in Santa Monica.  Your shop needs to factor in location because it will need to make one trip to measure and one trip to install.    
  • I asked them how they prefer to conduct business.  All shops are different.  If you're new to my shop, I like drawings of the item and overall dimensions emailed to me to get the ball rolling.  I will ask for an in-person meeting further along in the building process.  Other shops may require you to come and see their work as well as describe the full scope of your project. This is a good thing!  If a shop does not allow you to visit them ever.  DO NOT USE THAT SHOP. 


In our example earlier, I mentioned the word "specifications".  This word means many things to many designers.  I can tell you from my experience that there is a direction relationship between how thorough your specifications are to how much your manufacturer will love and appreciate you.  

You do not need to have an art degree and provide every fabricator with detailed drawings of your item...but it helps.  At the very least, you should have a photograph of something similar. Emphasis on the word similar.  You should not be copying anyone's work. EVER.  But you can bring multiple photographs and say things like: I want this arm style, but not that leg.  I like this skirt, but lose the tassel.   

When you are ready to email your manufacturer, don't forget to use this check list of what to include:


QUANTITY AND DESCRIPTION: Use this space to show off your amazing ideas besides just saying "chair".  Instead, try: 2 Tuxedo Lounge Chairs with Swivel Base. 2" high walnut base to conceal swivel.  (1) Loose seat cushion and tight back.  3" Wide arms.  No outside pitch.     

DIMENSIONS: The bare minimum that is required is Overall Height, Overall Width, and Overall Depth. 

If you can go beyond that, extra points for you!  These dimensions will be specific to the item in question. For our 2 Lounge Chairs with Swivel Bases, the extra dimensions could be:

Seat Height: 18"

Seat Depth: 23"

Arm Height: 28" (Tuxedo means the arms and the back are the same height, but I am including it here to make sure you don't forget to specify arm height in other situations!)


Nothing says you are serious about work like a 50% deposit check.  I suppose paying 100% is a little more serious, but 50% will do.  


If your manufacturer has given you a lead time and you have a deadline to make, do not wait until the last minute to check on progress.  Ask to come and see progress when you know that work has begun.  Again, all shops are different.  It is up to you to determine the necessary attention you must give to each.  


When the item is complete and ready for pick up and the manufacturer does NOT provide shipping or installation, please schedule your pick up ASAP.  Furniture shops are not storage units.  Moreover, your items are less likely to get damaged at said furniture shop.  


And that, my designers, is a good way to get a gold star from your custom manufacturers.  Help us help you!