A Custom Furniture Scheme

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Blog entry by Stephen Mines posted 11-13-2013 12:58 PM 1865 reads 1 time favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch

My furniture business (Stephen Mines Custom, No. Hollywood, CA,) did routinely build totally custom furniture, but the mainstay that paid the bills and made the business a financial success was a LINE of custom furniture. Yeah, I know, sounds like a contradiction, but really wasn’t. Averaging round 30-40 pieces (Country French, English, Early American) my catalog allowed the customer or their designer/decorator to order to their specific dimensions, distress preference (including none) and finsih as well as, in some cases, material/species. They could look at showroom samples, fall in love, and then order to fit their den/bedroom/dining room, etc spaces. I had a formula for pricing: (L + W + H X $ amount = Retail Price. Each salesperson in each showroom had a handheld calculator with the formula list)..they could quote prices for custom size(s) on the spot, never letting the sale op grow cold. This maketing approach was aimed at freeing my time. . . the constant interruption for figuring quotes (and then losing the sales opportunity due to the time lag between the request and the quote!) It was ‘build the fire while the customer is in the store’, and fan the flames by allowing the customer(s) to visit their order in progress, in the shop It wasn’t just salesmanship…it was showmanship (could have cast a blockbuster major motion picture at any given time with my customers!) I reckoned, like Henry Ford, that I could stockpile popular size parts (aprons, stretchers, etc) so my shop was always busy/active building inventory even without sales. And the inventory was UNassembled, didn’t take much space. I didn’t do case work, only real furniture, but chairs (even windsors) were often ordered in custom seat sizes and back heights. In the country French line we’d carve initials in the front apron salute, an option constantly requested. It helped that I was selling out of the Pacific Design Center in West L.A. and that our customers were the Beverly Hills/Bel Air/Malibu crowd. It constantly amazed me that an order would be sized 1” different than the mean/floor sample size, (at a nearly outrageous “custom” premium) to ensure the customer that the pieces were built just for them. Ka Ching! Point is it worked wonderfully. Interchangeable parts, prepared ahead of time AND marketing with a four to six week delivery guarantee did for my business what the assembly line did for Henry Ford. And these parts were bench made, individually crafted and assembled by my crew of skilled makers. I’ve often wondered why others didn’t use this stratagy.

-- Stephen Mines ([email protected])

5 comments so far

View BigAL4160's profile


8 posts in 2638 days

#1 posted 11-13-2013 03:17 PM

I’m just a hobbyist but I found your story very interesting. Do you have any pictures of your showroom and furniture line?
Thank you for sharing.

View Stephen Mines's profile

Stephen Mines

226 posts in 3665 days

#2 posted 11-13-2013 03:36 PM

Hi, Thanks for your interest. I didn’t have my own showroom…I left the public contact to the pros and was ‘represented’ by various ‘to the trade’ showrooms over the years. To see some of the pieces in my ‘line’ of furniture just click the projects button next to my picture to the left. That will take you to the project postings I’ve made here on Lumberjocks. Some of the Black and White photos are from actual pages from my catalog that the showroom salespersons would work from and show interested buyers. Of course they also had a full line of samples on their showroom floor for show and tell.

-- Stephen Mines ([email protected])

View pintodeluxe's profile


6298 posts in 3788 days

#3 posted 11-13-2013 04:43 PM

I love that concept. Interesting read, thanks for sharing.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View natenaaron's profile


442 posts in 2772 days

#4 posted 11-13-2013 04:55 PM

Good post. I like the below comment

“‘build the fire while the customer is in the store’, and fan the flames by allowing the customer(s) to visit their order in progress,”

View Billp's profile


804 posts in 5174 days

#5 posted 11-13-2013 07:53 PM

I’ve been in Stevens current shop and you would be amazed at work he has turned out.

-- Billp

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