All designers have been there. You’ve been searching websites, flipping through catalogs, emailing reps and still that elusive furniture piece that is just the perfect height, the perfect shape and the perfect material for your current project cannot be found. What is a designer to do in that occasion? Design.
Some designers shy away from creating custom pieces, but here at SR/A, I get excited whenever that opportunity arrives. The first step in designing a custom piece is fully exploring its function and end use. That’s easy, some may say. A table is a table. A desk is a desk. Ah – but not always so. In the multifamily world, a table may be used by leasing staff for meetings but by residents for dinner parties. A concierge desk might also be used a resident laptop touch-down spot during off hours or a counter to package or sort mail. Investigating the full gamut of potential end uses for a custom piece of furniture is half the fun, and if you are going to go through the exercise of creating something custom why not make it completely individualized to the project?
Next, we create a model in Sketch-Up of the piece. This allows us to play around with details. Viewing the custom piece in 3D enables us to think through necessary details, such as venting for computer hard-drives stored in cabinets or storage for community flyers. The image to the left is a mock-up of a custom concierge desk for a clubhouse renovation at Lakeside Apartments, a Bozzuto property in Centreville, Va. The multiple functions called for in this piece, including a removable transaction counter, lockable staff storage, waste receptacle, counter space for residents and racks for collateral material, just would not have been feasible to find in an in-stock furniture piece.
After ensuring the client is happy with the overall design, we bring in our fabricator to work out the final details. This includes reviewing shop drawings, finalizing materials and making any tweaks needed to ensure constructability of the piece. We’re fortunate to partner with The Cabinet Shop out of Shelbyville, Del. who always do an excellent job of bringing our design from paper (or these days screen!) to real life. As you can see when comparing the mock-up above to the final concierge desk for Lakeside Apartments, some small tweaks were made during this review process.
As a designer, I am always thrilled when we are able to create a solution that solves a design challenge, or in the case of this concierge desk, several design challenges. And, even better, it’s wonderful to see a client happy to have a custom piece built just for their unique needs (without breaking the budget!).
Jennie Crouch is a Certified Interior Designer & Brand Coordinator at SR/A. She resides in Maryland with her husband and two rescue dogs, Lander and Angus.