Bespoke, custom, tailored, one-of-a-kind, artisanal – these words have been associated with hefty price tags that would spook budget-conscious homeowners.
Design is inherently a collaborative process, and custom furniture is one of the great ways to assert your personality in the final design of your home. And there is a broad spectrum of price points for custom items, ranging from budget to bewildering.
You may associate custom furniture with couture fashion – expensive, exclusive, and aspirational – which is true, for one extreme end of the spectrum.
Think of this extreme end of the spectrum like a kinetic couture gown by, say, Iris van Herpen and on the other end, a Uniqlo T-shirt. Yes, even a Uniqlo T-shirt offers a custom element in them, albeit in a limited capacity, namely the standard sizes: XS, S, M, L and XL.
Between the couture gown and the T-shirt are items with various tailored elements, from the simple to the elaborate. Custom furniture also has a similarly broad spectrum, and you’d be surprised that most of the customisable items fall in the range of affordable, reasonably priced, and worth investing.
We quizzed custom experts from various brands and specialists, from fit-out, furniture, fabric, artwork, and accessories to give you tips on all things custom-made in Singapore and a ballpark of how much you need to set aside to acquire them.
Bespoke vs mass-produced
Is custom furniture always more expensive than commercially available pieces?
“Bespoke furniture is not as expensive as most people believe,” says Ahmad Habshee, founder of Urban Salvation. “We can deliver customers’ vision with quality materials and expert craftsmanship at competitive price point, especially when compared to mass-produced furniture of similar quality.”
One of Urban Salvation’s most complicated custom pieces is a TV console with mechanical features that can hide the TV via remote control, built for a couple who wanted to regulate their children’s screen time.
Price tag: From $300 to $500 for smaller pieces and $5,000 for larger and more complicated ones.
“It really depends,” says Cherin Tan, founder of interior design firm LAANK. “For example, if you’re comparing customising a sofa versus buying a commercially-available sofa from a renowned European brand, the latter would be more expensive.” Cherin is a huge fan of repurposing and upcycling.
For her own home, she transformed giant planters into sculptural free-standing washbasins with the help of a local craftsman.
Her new furniture label LAAT was founded to breathe a new life into leftover materials and unwanted items by turning them into limited-edition furniture. In the future, it will take requests to up-cycle old furniture.
Price tag: From low hundreds to high thousands, depending on the factors such as material choice, size, lead time, production methods.
Shorter lead time
“Not necessarily,” says Xin Lin Woo, designer at interior fit-out specialist 4 Plus 8. She gives an example:
“If we compare imported kitchens and wardrobes versus local-made bespoke, the bespoke pieces can work out to have better price point with similar finishes, systems and fitting, with significantly shorter lead time. Bespoke also allows a personalised touch and flexibility to cater to on-site conditions.”
Price tag: From $20,000 for a fully kitted kitchen for an apartment, up to $300,000 for a full interior fit-out for a landed home.
Don’t forget the 2D elements, permanent or otherwise.
While exclusive custom-designed tiles may only make sense at the scale of commercial projects, some tile brands are founded solely to provide custom-designs, like Appiani.
The Italian brand offers a myriad of mosaic tiles to build unique designs on your wall. The brand can practically recreate any image with mosaic tiles, transforming that feature wall in your home into a work of art.
Price tag: Depends on the size of the covered area and the specs of the mosaic. For quotes, contact Appiani’s Singapore distributor, Rice Fields.
Glass artwork has long been a revered medium of storytelling. At once fragile and resilient, it can last for centuries with a proper care. Local glass art company Synergraphic offers custom glass artworks, with a free consultation to determine the optimum glass working technique and design style.
“You can also come to us with a budget, as this is helpful to shortlist glass techniques to be used,” says Synergraphic founder Florence Ng. “You can also come to us with a budget, as this is helpful to shortlist glass techniques to be used,” says Synergraphic founder Florence Ng.
Price tag: From $10,000 for a custom feature wall, and $15,000 for bespoke sculptures, installations and chandeliers. Don’t be spooked though; in addition to this couture price,
Synergraphic also offers a ready-to-wear catalogue of reasonably-priced artwork that can be reworked to fit a client’s budget.
Rugs to riches
A custom rug is the best bet when you prefer a more portable 2D bespoke design. Local rug atelier The Rug Maker offers bespoke rugs made of (in ascending price point): acrylic, New Zealand wool, viscose, bamboo, Tencel and pure silk that can serve as artwork on both horizontal and vertical surfaces.
All you need to do is come in with the desired dimension, picture of your space, preferred colour scheme and design theme. “There is no minimum order,” says Melvyn Khong, sales manager The Rug Maker. “However, the rug should be at least 3.5sqm in size so the clients won’t have to pay an additional premium for the wastage.”
Price tag: From $1,500 to $5,400 for 2mx3m rug for acrylic, wool, viscose, bamboo and Tencel, and from $7,800 for a pure silk rug.
Invest in custom made pieces where they matter.
Go big or go small
“A custom-made item is tailored to your life and your personality – no one else will have that exact same item,” says Morgan Yeo, one of the titular sons in woodworking studio Roger & Sons.
He advises investing in custom-made key pieces in your home, like dining tables and consoles that you can take with you as you move houses.
Are you still figuring out your style and not ready to commit yet? Start small with everyday objects like tableware and accessories. No object is too small for Roger & Sons to craft from timber. The company’s small fine objects include tableware and grooming kits.
Price Tag: From $10 (for a pair of chopsticks, with minimum order) all the way to thousands, depending on the the design and materials.
New skin, who dis?
A two-seater sofa or an armchair from a high-end furniture brand like, say, Maison Christian Lacroix, can retail up to a five-digit price. But you can spend way less to add a couture element to an existing sofa.
Soft furnishing specialist Romanez offers a wide selection of designer fabrics, including from the aforementioned fashion house Maison Christian Lacroix, to breathe new life to your old Ikea sofa.
“For example, you spent $1,000 for a sofa from Ikea with standard finishes, and you’d like to upgrade it after a few years,” says Romanez owner and managing director Jennifer Hu, “You can customise that with designer fabric with superb craftsmanship for roughly the same price.”
Some of the textile brands also offer bespoke, specially designed exclusive fabrics for clients, with a minimum order of 200 to 300 metres of fabric (one roll of fabric is about 50-metre-long), the price varies according to materials, lead time and production methods.
Price tag: Around $1,500 to $2,500 for a reupholstered two-seater sofa.
Most reputable furniture brands offer customisation for their catalogue products – some advertise the service while others may not, all you have to do is ask. “Most of our pieces are customisable,” says Pamela Ting, co-founder of Scene Shang.
“We are usually quite open when customers come to us with ideas. We will see if it is something we can do within the parameters and limitations of our workshops.”
Customisation is built into Scene Shang’s price points so the brand doesn’t charge an additional design fee, though premium may apply for special materials.
Price tag: Around $400 to $2,240 for items in the catalogue, with additional premium for custom size.
Don't discount the departmental store
Fancy an Australian-made bespoke sofa? Harvey Norman’s furniture department offers a wide range of customisation, ranging from its structural materials (a variety of metal and certified hardwood), upholstery (over 2,000 fabric options from Warwick) and cushions.
Prices range from $699 to $8,879.
This article was first published in Home & Decor.