NAVIGATING CUSTOM VS. TRADE VS. RETAIL
If you’ve been around here for any length of time, you know I have a passion for providing education around interior design. Over the past several months, I’ve even rolled out two new series detailing my own design process plus a “meet the maker” series, which turns the spotlight on incredible artists I’ve come to know and love. My hope is that these resources can help provide a better understanding of the industry as a whole and make the design space feel a tad less intimidating.
In the spirit of education, I’m so excited to cover a topic that’s a bit more under the radar. It deals with the basic question of where interior designers source furniture, decor, accessories, and all the pieces that go into a residential project. If you’re new to the world of interiors, terms like custom, trade, and retail may be completely foreign concepts, but rest assured I’ll walk you through the list. Today on the blog, I’m breaking down these three main sourcing avenues, plus how and when I utilize each one.
Best for: one-of-a-kind investment pieces.
Most often, I turn to custom for the forever pieces — the items you want in your home for the long haul. Here at the studio, I absolutely love sourcing custom work for my clients because it allows us to collaborate directly with the talented craftspeople in the community. From local furniture designers to window covering workrooms to commissioned artwork made especially for your space, custom pieces create one-of-a-kind moments that tell a story within your home. Of course, sourcing custom pieces not only adds a layer of character, but it’s also a great option whenever I’m working with unusual dimensions or need to design a very particular look.
I love custom so much, I've actually teamed up with Faithful Roots furniture makers for a custom line of tables. This line of bespoke tables can be entirely customized, from the finish to the details. Faithful Roots did such a beautiful job bringing my sketches to life, I have a few pieces in my own home. If you're looking to dip your toes in custom furniture, this is the perfect way.
Best for: anything and everything.
One of the significant benefits of working with a designer comes down to this: we’re able to source high-quality pieces from a trusted network of trade vendors. In other words, designers have access to an incredible world of inventory that’s not available to the general public. When working with my clients, the vast majority of pieces I specify come directly from trade sources who provide beautiful, top-quality inventory I can’t find anywhere else. Sourcing from trade vendors means I have a whole world of options to help achieve the aesthetic and function I’m going for at a range of price points to fit within my clients’ budget. Also worth noting — many trade pieces are semi-custom, which means we’re able to adjust the fabric, dimensions, or details as needed.
Best for: small accessories — the odds and ends.
Sourcing from the big box retailers often gets a bad rap within design circles, but I believe there’s a time and place for everything. While I’ll always turn to trade or custom options for the key pieces within my projects, retail sourcing can be a good option in a couple of different scenarios.
First, I like to utilize retail sourcing for those smaller one-off accessories that help complete the styling of a space. I like to think of them as fun pieces that aren’t necessarily worthy of a splurge. It could be a vase, throw blanket, coffee table book, or any decorative object that might shift around depending on the season. Second, sourcing from retailers is useful whenever I’m working with budget constraints that don't allow for custom or semi-custom selections in every area. Shopping retail feels more custom when you shop small. I am very intentional about where my pieces come from and Etsy shops, local boutiques, and vintage all fall under the category of "retail". Supporting local and supporting small business is the foundation to my design studio, so I am 100% pro retail shopping.
Additionally - hardware is a great item to source retail! I love Rejuvenations collection of high-quality, heavyweight hardware. The unlaquered brass and polished nickel finishes blend beautifully together while the oil rubbed bronze is the perfect matte black. Lighting from retailers like School House Electric can be customized quite a bit, which make them a great retail option as well.
I hope this helps dispel the mystery of sourcing and gives you a better understanding of how, when, and why designers use each option. Thanks for coming along and keep an eye out for more design education content that will be hitting the blog in the weeks ahead!