How to commission bespoke joinery

Without beautiful bespoke joinery, even the grandest room will be nothing more than a box. That’s what Bruce Hodgson, founder of architectural joinery specialists Artichoke Ltd, believes.

'Beautifully crafted and conceived joinery can add drama to an interior, employing light and shade to lend depth, as well as framing openings and significant features,' he says. 'It can also play a vital role manipulating proportions.'

The art of traditional joinery in interior design – one that respects the rules of classical design detail, scale, proportion, joints and shadow to create bespoke joinery – is one that’s worth the investment, he believes.

'Period architectural joinery design is a highly skilled discipline but in the wrong hands, it can result in lacklustre and uninspiring results.

'Contemporary joinery is quicker to design and make whereas traditional detail scares many designers. Yet, as the focus on material waste grows, there is a greater emphasis on investing in aspects that are built to last. 'Following 20 years of extraordinary technological change, society is yearning to get back to working with its hands,' believes Bruce.

How to commission bespoke joinery

If you are considering built-in storage ideas, consider commissioning bespoke joinery. It is a financial commitment so it’s worth doing a bit of groundwork beforehand.

'The point about bespoke joinery is that it’s built to suit your needs – and nobody else’s,' explains interior designer Henriette von Stockhausen of VSP Interiors.

First consider the materials properly: choose a sustainable source of wood if that’s important but bear in mind that the stability of substitutes such as MDF suit some spaces, including those liable to get damp, such as bathroom vanities.

'Make sure you stipulate at the outset where you want outlets/sockets for plugs, or charging drawers as these are expensive to retrofit,' adds Henriette.

How to commission bespoke joinery

Finally, steer clear of trends. 'You could soon get bored of a scalloped edge. You’re doing this for the long term so stick with classical designs is my advice.'

Commissioning bespoke joinery for small spaces

Brilliant bathroom storage ideas are worth their weight in gold, believes interior decorator Irene Gunter of Gunter & Co.

'I love being able to design proportionate vanity units that fit the style and scale of the room and hide all else away.' She favors using discreet mirrored cabinets to achieve this set into any recesses. In a recent project they’ve used the same treatment to build in a recessed towel cabinet.

'When planning a bathroom design, making every bit of wall build-up count is worth the cost of bespoke joinery as it means that the beautiful surfaces and fittings are left clutter free which makes a bathroom a calming and restful place to be.'

Commissioning joinery for home offices

While some are averse to the idea, guest bedrooms are increasingly doubling up as vital home working spaces. This can be done neatly by including a traditional dressing table or writing desk into the space.

'But another option is to build a mid-century inspired desk, with a soft finish in leather, into a larger piece of joinery in the bedroom,' suggests interior designer Tara Bernerd.

It’s important to first understand what the priority is for the room – will it function more often as a guest room or an office? If the latter, consider building a daybed into the joinery, suggests Tara who used this approach when she recently redesigned a suite at the Four Seasons Hotel New York Downtown.

'By moving the desk to the window, this allowed us to incorporate a luxurious daybed into the joinery unit, which could on occasion double as a child’s bed, while also taking advantage of the stunning views.'

Commissioning floor-to-ceiling storage

Carefully think about storage in the planning stages of a design project and make sure to use every nook and cranny, especially in children’s bedrooms.

One trick is to use the full length of wall space so that fitted joinery and display shelves maximize the storage space on offer, recommend Katie Glaister and Henry Miller-Robinson of K&H Design.

'We encourage clients to work out beforehand the number of items that need to be stored away by measuring the linear meterage of all shoes, clothes, books etc to ensure the design will fit everything in.'

Mistakes to avoid when commissioning bespoke joinery

Scale is something that many people get wrong, believes Mark Hollis of Hollis Rouse London, a residential construction and refurbishment firm.

'It’s more often the case that the joinery ends up over-scaled rather than too small.The ambitions of trying to cram too much storage in can leave you with a towering piece of furniture making the room feel claustrophobic.'

Next, focus on details – which can make the difference between great and sublime furniture. With lit joinery, think about having the correct light intensities and color temperatures; spend a little more on the 'jewels' of joinery such as ironmongery and handles; and consider any painted finishes carefully.

'A factory finish requires very careful transportation and installation so as not to damage it. Conversely, hand painting on site can be time consuming and needs to be well executed,' adds Mark.