Why are we custom furniture makers in Canberra? As the old saying goes, “everyone has to be somewhere, and we’re here”. Because of the nature of our work, it wouldn’t matter much where we’re based, as long as it had a transport hub. Our client base is national rather than just regional.
That said, Canberra has been very kind to us. From 2009 to 2014 we had a showroom in Fyshwick, before combining our workshop and showroom under the one roof in Queanbeyan. Our typical clients are a tertiary educated professional couple who are approaching retirement. They love nature, travel and the arts. They are either empty nesters or are going through a downsize. Canberra has a lot of people who fit this description, and we are easy to find (although our workshop is in Queanbeyan, not Canberra).
There’s a rabbit-hole of definitions to go down when it comes to descriptions of furniture. Commonly used terms are “custom furniture”, “bespoke furniture”, “heirloom quality furniture”, “handmade furniture”, “fine furniture” “designer/maker” and “studio furniture”.
“Custom Furniture” means that the workshop builds-to-order, rather than makes set designs. There is an implication that the company works business-to-business a lot, through architects, interior designers etc.
“Bespoke furniture” refers to furniture that is being made to meet the specific parameters set by a private client. A bespoke piece can be of a set design in a specified timber or some other changed parameter, or it might be a unique one-off piece. There is generally an implication of quality, and there is a subtle distinction between “custom built” and “bespoke”. To be used meaningfully, the term “bespoke” would have other qualifiers with it, such as “Bespoke Art Deco Style Furniture”.
“Heirloom quality furniture” is a rather meaningless term employed by marketers. The phrase doesn’t mean anything tangible. It’s supposed to imply quality, but few serious makers would describe their furniture as “heirloom quality” because it’s such cliché.
In Australia, the term “handmade” is usually code for badly made furniture (it’s only one step up from the dreaded “rustic”, which is definitely code for bad!). The term is typically employed by someone who is self-taught and doesn’t have the language to express what they do. “Handmade furniture” should imply a level of care and sensitivity, but it’s often misused.
The term “fine furniture” means something tangible. Fine furniture implies excellence in materials, design and craftsmanship. Fine furniture does not imply a particular style, period or origin. You can have a rustic piece of Edwardian furniture, or a fine piece of Edwardian furniture. Craftspeople who work in their own style would usually describe their work as “contemporary fine furniture”, to distinguish their work from reproductions or a particular style.
The term “designer/maker” is probably the one that we are most comfortable with. This is not a term most clients would recognize, but it simply implies that the business or individual designs everything they make.
“Studio furniture” is a term that originated in the USA to imply a level of artistic merit in the craftsperson’s work. “Studio Furniture” does not necessarily imply an emphasis on practicality, but it does imply fine materials and excellent craftsmanship. The term “Studio Furniture Maker” is common amongst woodworkers, but it is not widely understood by the Australian market. Our own William Bayliss does exhibition work in his private time, and it most definitely falls into the Studio Furniture category.
So, if you see a furniture business with a sign that says “Handmade Heirloom Quality Furniture” you can be confident that the marketing department has been busy. The terms are far too vague for a serious craftsman to have used. It’s as vague as a restaurant with a sign reading “Tasty Food Like Your Mother Made”. If you see a sign that says “Contemporary Fine Furniture” you can be equally confident that the maker is honestly trying to convey what it is they make.
Our sign reads “Contemporary Fine Furniture, Chairmakers”. We do what it says on the sign; we make contemporary fine furniture, including chairs.