The Design Train blogs are a series of articles researched and written by Andrew Knapp for submission to various publications and sites. The articles cover a wide range of topics and can be adapted and edited for use in various styles of media application.

  • The Design Train

The Benefits of Bespoke Furniture

Updated: 6 days ago

Nov 2021


We enjoy being approached to create bespoke furnishings and with over 30 years in the industry, consider ourselves experts in the field. We are dedicating this month’s blog to discussing the ‘why and wherefores’ of the topic.


As a general definition the term bespoke describes any item specially designed and manufactured for the client to their exact specifications. This can range from clothing to ocean going yachts, and each discipline has its own set of rules when it comes to bespoke design and planning.


When considering the popularity of flat pack options and the wide range of readymade choices available on the internet, one needs to ask if there is still a place for bespoke furniture in today’s decorating world. The answer is a resounding yes.



We recently completed the new wine cellar at one of Johannesburg’s top dining venues, Ethos. This oval glass room set its own challenges, but the outcome is a visual feast for the eyes. (Ethos Restaurant)


Why Bespoke?


Although a quick internet search will turn up thousands of items ready to order at the click of a button, your choice will usually be limited by available size, colour, and might (but not always) offer a few basic options. This is true whichever end of the price spectrum you are considering.


This is not to say that ‘off the peg’ furniture doesn’t have a place. There are some excellent offerings for the home and professional interior decorator in-store and online, but for various reasons what is out there sometimes doesn’t quite fit the bill. Maybe you have a very awkward space to decorate, a detailed design brief to fulfil, or just want something completely unique; this is when the bespoke furniture option starts to make sense.


There is a difference between bespoke and customised furniture that needs to be clarified. Customising entails making changes to an existing furniture item or range. We offer a customisation options for the majority of our current range of tables (as seen online). This differs from a bespoke piece which is individual, a one-off made to the specifications of the client.


This bespoke patio table was commissioned for our client's stunning Johannesburg home


Having a hand in every aspect of your bespoke creation such as design, material choice, size and colour, ensures that your personalised stamp, your DNA if you will, is an integral part of a piece destined to become a family heirloom and passed down through generations.



Bespoke Considerations:


It is easy for the design imagination to take flight when going the bespoke route but there are some practical considerations to take into account before you order your dream piece. Commissioning bespoke furniture can be an expensive exercise and, dependent on your design abilities and decorating savvy, it could be worthwhile to work with an interior décor professional to avoid the possible pitfalls and costly mistakes that could arise without the correct planning.


One of the most important considerations is that of space. What are the dimensions of the room in relation the piece you want made? No matter how jaw-dropping your design, if it doesn’t fit comfortably into the surroundings it will never have the desired effect.


54 on Bath has become one of Johannesburg’s iconic hotels since first opening its doors in 2012. Of the numerous pieces we have made for them is this elegant curved console with circle motif detailing


What other furnishings will your piece going to be set against? A bespoke item is often the focal point of a room and as such shouldn’t have to compete for the eye, but rather have your décor work around it. Are you considering introducing another bespoke piece at a later stage? If so, how will they work together?


The bespoke option is ideal when considering a multi-purpose piece like a media unit /room divider or desk/bookcase combo. When designing smart furnishings remember to plan for your electrical power points, USB charging ports, and cable management into the core design so as to prevent the curse of unsightly stray wires and cables at a later stage.


What is your budget? A bespoke piece will cost considerably more than something ready-made. Unless you are fortunate enough to have an open-ended budget, your material and finish choices could be limited by price. Discuss cost implications of various materials with the manufacturer and make sure that you have an accurate quotation in place before signing-off on any design.



A very special table for a valued client. Burled wood veneer and strengthened tinted glass in a stainless steel frame


Well made hand-crafted furnishings will always be a valuable asset and in the long term the initial cost can be offset against the need of a regular replacement. Do remember to take the replacement cost of bespoke furniture into account when insuring the contents of your home.


How will the design of your bespoke piece hold up over the years? Although it is sometimes fun to follow fads and trends it is recommended that the design of your piece should hold its own over time and be able to work in changing styles.


A series of bespoke wall units designed to perfectly compliment the strong architectural angles that are a feature of the home's architecture.


Remember that creating bespoke furniture is a time consuming process. There will be a series of meetings and concept drawings, material options and engineering decisions (stress points, load bearing capabilities etc) before your masterpiece even sees the workshop floor. Depending on the manufacturer and the specifics of the item, an item can take between 2 – 4 months to execute.


Even with the extra consideration, time and cost implications, bespoke furniture will always have the feeling of true craftsmanship and imbue an energy or sophistication into any room.


The Bespoke Process:


As with anything, knowing what you want is the first step. If you are working with an interior decorator they will help identify your requirements with you. If you are working solo or with the craftsman directly, make sure that you have covered every aspect of what your dream piece should be.



Specially designed for an upmarket eatery in Johannesburg, these tables successfully combine the sophistication of marble with hand-woven cane detailing


The interior designer or craftsperson will take your idea and conceptualise it, taking everything from final placement of the item to material suitability into account. A series of drawings or renders will follow and, once you are happy with the final result, you will be asked to ‘sign off’ on the design.


Please remember that with any bespoke or customised piece the craftsman is working to your specifications. As such, once you have signed-off on the design any changes you request will be charged for. Unless there has been an obvious mistake or extremely bad workmanship, the item will not be able to be returned or refunded.


Once everything is finalised, any special materials required can be ordered and the piece scheduled for production. If you are fortunate enough to live close to the manufacturer you can arrange for viewings of your piece during key stages of its creation. Your manufacturer or interior decorator will arrange for the delivery and installation of your new masterpiece when it is ready.



A feature wall unit commissioned by our client for the entrance to his elegant home. Various marbles, stones and veneers are combined to provide visual interest with plenty of display areas


In Conclusion:


Although the ready-made market offers far more choices than ever before, for many, the option of having a bespoke piece made to one’s specifications will always be a special indulgence. Leonardo – Tables by Design not only have an extensive collection of furnishings in a range of sizes and finishes on our website, but have been manufacturing bespoke items for some of the country’s top names for three decades. Let us bring your creative vision to life and add you to our extensive list of satisfied clients.




Wishing you a stylish month – Frank



This blog was written by Andrew Knapp of The Design Train for Leonardo - Tables by Design's monthly blog series



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