Bespoke Chinese style reproduction furniture – from concept to reality in seven simple (or not so simple) steps

chinese custom made bespoke furniture design

Its always interesting to see the progression from idea to reality. When people come to me with raw ideas, my task is to walk them through process from the initial concept to final product. Usually that’ means helping them determine on the specific requirements, narrowing down the details and deciding on the “overall look and feel” before making the final selection. This is generally step one (aside from determining their budget, delivery time etc). The rest of the “magic” then occurs on the back end – and believe me it is magic. Actually sometimes it feels like a mix of art and voodoo if anything. From controlling quality, to anticipating unknown variables to understanding materials, construction and finishes the process is exceeding more complicated then most imagine. But the final product, especially when it finds its new home with a happy customer usually makes it worth while.

antique chinese custom furniture.

In this example, the customer wanted a sideboard that while based on an antique incorporated contemporary elements. Step two is usually narrowing down the specific style or “look of the piece.” Since nothing stood out to this customer from within our existing designs, we looked through various examples of antiques from which to build upon. Eventually we selected four pieces which had elements which appealed to them. Of course, none of these antique cabinets fit their needs exactly in terms of style, design and color/finish but rather provided us with a template in which to build upon.

antique chinese sideboard designs

Eventually we decided that we like the look and proportions of B and the size and configuration and of C. We also need to have fold back doors to allow for the maximum accessibility within the lowed compartment.  Armed with this information, step three is the actual design drawing, where very specific dimensions must be worked out and checked by the carpenter. After all, carpenters work from detailed drawings specifying every measurement. They don’t work from vague ideas. While some customers do have drawings most do not. And many times when customers do have a drawing it either lacks the detail necessary for the carpenter or it does factor in specific materials and construction issues. Anyone can do a drawing but a drawing that makes sense in terms of carpentry is a different matter. Note that I have deleted the dimensions on the example below. After all, if you want to make a similar cabinet yourself, then you will need to work out the dimensions on your own. Joinery is not shown here either as it was not necessary in this case as the carpenters themselves will choose the specific joinery based on tradition construction methods.

chinese custom made bespoke furniture design

Now mixing and matching styles and/or scaling up or down is always easier said then done. Design elements that work well in one size may be too small or awkward looking in another size.  Proportions and material thickness must change according to the size and the requirements of the carpentry and sometimes this results in proportions that are less then elegant. All of these challenges which are unforeseen to the casual customer must be worked on the back-end through experience and expertise. Some of these such issues may not surface until the design or construction phase.

chinese antique furniture pulls plates and hardware

Step four is color/finish/hardware which must match both the piece and its surroundings. In this case the customer selected a lighter grey for the inside and a darker grey for the outside. Now that finally all these  details are confirmed the actual construction can begin. This is step five. Now the customer must wait as carpenters need time to select and prepare the right materials, cut to specific dimensions and work out any issues related to joinery. This may take anywhere from weeks to months depending on the construction cue and other factors.

furniture construction quality control

During this process dimensions must be reconfirmed, quality of construction must be maintained and minor details and color consistency much be checked and checked again. Quality control and avoiding chabaduo are extremely important. This is step six. Lots of potential headaches can arise during this time frame.

antique chinese custom made reproduction furniture

But if all goes as according to plan, the end result makes it all worth the trouble, which is step seven – the final piece and a happy customer.

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