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Bespoke Furniture: How to Save On Your Desired Aesthetic

For a truly unique home, bespoke furniture is your solution. However, if you're like most people, you'd assume that custom furniture is out of your price range – and that mass-produced pieces are always the more economical choice. Is that the case, though?

Since the COVID-19 pandemic struck, our homes have transitioned into makeshift workspaces, gyms, classrooms, restaurants, and even movie theatres. The increase in the number of activities happening under one roof (and the dreaded COVID-19 fatigue) has caused significant changes in how we all view and interact with our interior spaces–and you’re likely no exception. It’s increasingly clear that redecorating, especially with functional, elegant bespoke pieces that can elevate everyday experiences and potentially increase efficiency levels, is more than worth the effort. There's just one concern: does custom-made furniture cost an arm and a leg? And on a related note, are there ways you could save on the costs? We explore below.

What Influences The Cost Of A Custom-Made Furniture?

The cost of a made-to-measure furniture piece depends on a few key variables. First, materials. The quality of your preferred fabric, wood, etc. influences the cost of your custom-made furniture directly. In general, the cost of your furniture scales in proportion to the cost of the raw material. For example, a furniture made with solid wood (S$28 to S$50/psf) will be significantly more expensive compared to one crafted from engineered wood (S$6 to S$18/psf)—especially with a large piece of decor. Next would be design sophistication. The more sophisticated the design is, the more you should expect to shell out in cost (e.g. bed with multiple storage options or with intricate carvings). Lastly, labour costs, related to the furniture's country of production and skills of artisans, also influence the price of your custom-made furniture.

This table shows the cost of different materials used to create furniture.

A Comparison Of Prices Between IKEA And Local Custom Furniture Makers

Think of cheap, handy furniture, and IKEA – the Swedish furniture giant – comes to mind. The retailer currently has stores in Tampines and Alexandra (with its third, in JEM, slated to open in 2021) that attract close to 7 million visits a year. Therefore, it can serve as a reasonable comparison point to Singapore’s carpenters for custom-made furniture (assuming roughly similar designs). So, how do the prices from local custom furniture makers fare against IKEA’s? Unfortunately, here’s the truth. More often than not, custom-made furniture pieces will cost 131% to 1,344% more than mass-produced pieces. Nonetheless, this is consistent with the overall trend that anything custom-made will be more expensive than a mass-produced item.

This table shows the cost of furniture from Ikea compared to carpenters in Singapore. Typically, custom pieces from carpenters will cost 131% to 1,344% more compared to mass-produced pieces.

How To Save Money On Custom-Made Furniture

The best way to save money on custom furniture is to plan well. You should spend time thinking about the layout and colour synchronicity of your space before you even begin shopping. You don't want to cough out additional money for a minor change on your sofa’s finalised design (e.g. you want dusty pink instead of pastel pink now). Also, bear in mind that you don’t have to customise every single piece of furniture in your house. Consider only customising furniture placed in frequently-used spaces like bedrooms and dining areas. Most important of all, make sure you understand the store’s return policy. Despite your best efforts, the reality is that the final result may not be what you’re expecting. So, check if you’re able to return an unwanted piece of furniture. Whatever return fees you’ll incur on the furniture is likely small compared to the cost—and accompanying heartache—of discarding it completely unused.

Custom Furniture May Be Worth More Than Its Price

At its core, having furniture custom-made is not an exercise in buying something at the lowest price possible—the prices of furniture mass-produced at a retailer are hard to beat. However, you’ll find that the value of getting something made to your taste will often far exceed the price you’ve paid because it not only fits your lifestyle perfectly but is also more durable. Also, once you’ve gotten your house to look exactly the way you like it, you wouldn’t want to leave it unprotected against accidents (e.g. fire)—so, be sure to choose the right home insurance policy that’ll help safeguard your precious, custom-made assets. Compared to the price of your new furniture, the cost to protect it is a bargain.