A step-by-step process for designing your own custom furniture

When we first moved into our “Forever Home”, we didn’t have much budget left over to actually furnish the place! For the first 2 years, our formal dining room and living room were basically empty. Don’t get me wrong, we did use these rooms, but not for the conventional things. I hosted a small group yoga class once a week for 6 friends, my sons built block towers, race ride-on cars and played a hilarious makeshift game called “corners”, in which we would all pick a corner to stand in, and then when someone yelled “Go” we all ran into the centre of the room and then back out to a different corner. It was hilarious and simple, which is basically the only way to play with a 2 year old.

After the first 2 years of settling in and investing in some very sexy household stuff like 2 new furnaces, 2 AC units and a new chimney, we finally turned our attention to the dining room. We were planning to host Christmas in 2015 and we all know how helpful a deadline can be!

Similar to the process I take with my clients, I first gathered inspiration photos and presented them to my husband for his feedback. We settled on this as our ideal dining room; we loved the subtle monochromatic colour scheme, classic chairs, modern art and a fun light fixture.  Most of all though, I was totally obsessed with the marble table! 

After quickly discovering that I couldn’t find a table like that in Canada, I set out to find a marble fabricator and furniture company that would help me create it.

 

Step 1: Decide on the size required for the room.

When creating a custom piece, you can pick the exact measurements for your room.  The dining room was 13’ x 15’ with a bay window, and entrance on 2 sides.  A good rule of thumb is to leave 3’ on all sides of the table to allow for people to comfortably move their chairs back. Therefore I decided on a table that was 8’L and 40”W.

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Step 2: Find a furniture company to build the base.

I explored a variety of lower cost options, such as buying a prefabricated iron base, using an existing table base from a 2nd hand table, buying 2 pedestals, but after much discussion with furniture makers, I decided that the weight of the marble slab necessitated a custom base that was built specifically with the slab requirements in mind.  Using the table base of the inspiration photo as out guide, I sat down with the head carpenter at Sharon O’Dowd Furniture to draw up the plans. Each pedestal was constructed of walnut, with a 1.5” plywood top that would be designed to attached to a plywood backing on the slab. This helps distribute the weight of the slab across both pedastals and prevents the risk of cracking.

 

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Step 3: Selecting the Marble. 

This wasn’t hard… it was just a reminder that I have expensive taste! Have you ever been to a marble fabricator? It’s like walking through aisle after aisle of slabs of fudge made from diamonds!  The classic colouring of Calacutta marble was exactly what I was looking for. It has a slight golden veining that tied in the wood tones of my table base and the classic elements of our 100 year old home.

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Step 4: Finishing the Marble.

I chose a honed and leathered finish, which gives the surface of the marble a soft, suede like feel. Without a high gloss, it also helps blend in any marks or etches in the stone that happen over time. The marble was then sealed with the below product.

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Step 5: The Rug.

It was pretty crucial that a rug was installed before the table was ready for delivery.  At over 400lbs, once the table was put in place, it wasn’t going anywhere! I chose a simple rug with a fairly low pile in a warm silvery tone.

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Step 6: Pricing the Chairs and Sideboard.

The table was a big investment, I’ll be honest with you. But we made this decision because we plan on using the dining table for the rest of our lives.  When it comes to choosing where to invest in your home, a dining table is a staple. The general shape and dimensions of a dining table don’t change. You need a flat surface, clean edges and 30” off the ground. Unlike upholstered furniture where the size, shape and design change with each passing trend, a dining table is a pretty safe bet.  So, because of this, I wanted to find a dining chair that was in the lower end of the budget range, but still maintained a good level of quality and design.  I came across the Palisades collection by Hooker Furniture and loved the herringbone design of both the chair backs and sideboard doors.

Voila, Phase 1 of the dining room was complete!  It was starting to look a bit less like a games room and a little more like our inspiration photo. Stay tuned for the next blog post on Phase 2: the décor!

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Simple design tips for a family home

When designing your home you don’t have to order from the kid’s menu.

“I have to admit. I dream of owning furniture that isn’t allowed for people with kids, pets or a husband”.   Has this thought ever crossed your mind? As an Interior Decorator and a mom of 2 young boys, I am the receiver of many whispered confessions; the secret desire to decorate your home in velvet, high gloss surfaces and pure pure white.  I get it. I’ve been there. I am there.   

But don’t let go of those dreams!  Your children are going to be living, eating and playing (aka jumping, spilling and destroying) under your roof for at least another 18 years. Enjoy your home now and make it work for your lifestyle as it is defined today.  It is possible to create a home you can all enjoy.  It would be stifling for your children to live in a home where they can’t touch the furniture, but similarly, its stifling for you to live in a world of foam and primary colours, even after bedtime.  

 

Here are a few simple tips when trying to create your family friendly home.  

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Variety

Variety in texture, colour of fabric and materials will help hide a multitude of sins.  Velvet is actually a decent option if it’s a washable fiber such as cotton.   Try to avoid sofas or chairs with a flat single colour of thread in the fabric.  This also applies to wood finishes; The rustic or weathered look will age gracefully.  Avoid a veneered wood, once they lose the layer of veneer, there is no going back.  Variety is especially important in floor coverings; consider a rug with a pattern, hardwood floors with some texture or tonal variations in the wood colour. 

 

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Washable walls

When buying wallpaper or paint, ask about the washability. You want a surface that will come clean with a little soap and water. The Benjamin Moore Regal collection has been formulated for easy cleaning.  

 

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Protect your investments

Consider having your furniture treated with an eco-friendly stain treatment. 

 

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Focal Pieces

Indulge in something awesome. Whether it’s a feminine blush velvet toss cushion or a cobalt and gold enamel lamp, consider a few items as the custom jewellery of the room. Choose a piece that highlights a fun aspect of your personality for added charm.

 

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Storage Baskets

Portable, mature looking storage; I’m a big fan of wicker or canvas storage bins in adult friendly patterns.   If you don’t have anywhere to shove them at the end of the day, top each bin with a decorative throw blanket or cushion and voila, ‘cabin chic’.  

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