Warm, inviting, interesting decor often balances a mix of styles, colors, patterns and textures to create those lived-in yet stylish spaces where all the elements "go with" each other but don't necessarily "match."
Still, for those who want to balance a mix of furniture-store pieces with something truly unique, custom manufacturing is one solution. Antiques are also a great way to personalize a space, but finding the right piece, the right size, with the right finish, could take years.
And what if you're 6 feet 5 inches like me and can't find a sofa that's long enough to stretch out on for a nap? Or maybe you've got an awkward space to fill. Older city houses are often narrow, while new homes in the suburbs feature large, furniture-swallowing rooms.
To provide for stylistic and dimensional needs, a few area retailers offer custom services, and a handful of local furniture makers — who work mostly with design professionals — will also do business with homeowners to design and construct one-of-a-kind custom pieces.
Shoemaker Country in Ellicott City has been providing custom furniture solutions since 2002.
"People see things in magazines or catalogs and they love the concept, but it doesn't fit their space or has the wrong finish, so they get inspired to have a custom piece made," says owner John Shoemaker.
In Baltimore furniture makers and upholsters such as Bayne's Quality Custom Furniture, Fox Custom Upholstering, Gutierrez Studios, Ibello Upholstery, Luke Works, Mitchell Yanosky, Ultimate Upholstery and others offer consumers a 100 percent custom option.
Common requests include dining and occasional tables, chairs, entertainment centers, wall units, shelving and storage.
Another typical request is to replicate existing pieces. Say you inherited a set of four antique chairs but have a dining table that seats 10. A good furniture maker can build six more chairs that match the antiques right down to the finish and wear-marks.
No matter what the custom need, it's still more common for an interior designer to initiate such work, likely because the pros are more comfortable than homeowners with the process of specifying custom furnishings.
For that reason, Ed Yanosky, who runs Mitchell Yanosky with Brent Mitchell, recommends working with a design professional to help plan a custom piece.
"It is always best to work with a designer," he says. "Someone not in the design trade has a hard time verbalizing what they want. Designers will come with drawings, fabrics and renderings of the room, but with retail clients we're typically starting with a lot less information."
"Working with a designer will prevent mistakes in scale, finish, wood types, texture," says Yanosky. "Costly mistakes. With custom work, once it is finished you're stuck with it."
Still, approaching custom furniture as a consumer is not out of reach, and David Wiesand, owner of McLain Wiesand, which does custom work for designers and consumers throughout the area, even goes so far as to encourage it.
"I love having clients who are willing to take the chance to have something made," he says. "There is a definite leap of faith for them to go from a sketch of something to ordering the final piece."
For folks confident in their ability to spec out a custom piece without the go-between of an interior designer, good communication is key — the more the better. Ideas, sketches, magazine clippings, photographs of your space, fabric swatches and paint chips will all help the furniture maker understand what you want.
Shoemaker recommends making precise measurements.