Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day – Neither, Your Sofa

It never ceases to amaze me how many customers enter a furniture showroom these days with the expectation there is at least one of everything featured on display, simply lingering in an adjacent warehouse, and, in assorted colors/fabric styles/leathers, awaiting their pick-up and/or delivery.  I suspect this level of instant gratification, however unrealistic, derives from those golden epochs not so long ago when furniture styles and fabric choices were limited and customization was perhaps not an option. Herein, I am reminded, with a smile, of the ole Henry Ford adage. When asked by an inquisitive consumer about color options after the initial launch of the Model-T, Mr. Ford astutely replied, “You can have any color you want…so long as it’s black!”

Ostensibly, we all suffer from thisgenie grants me three wishes’ instant gratification. And, in a disposable society, this indulgence has been amplified all out of proportion. Consider this, if a battery or pen cartridge fails, if we need more Kleenex or shampoo, the surplus is always on tap. So, when we shop for furniture, anxious elves should be on tap to bang out a new one just for us…right? Well, not exactly. Because when it comes to furniture, generic and mass-produced is not usually the norm. A blue pen cartridge, just for comparison, comes in only one shade of blue – not fifty! And gradually, furniture manufacturing has moved away from the one-time popularized, stream-lined ‘assembly line’ to provide clientele with the utmost in specialization and options. They have placed the consumer effectively in ‘the driver’s seat’ and this means the uncorking of the proverbial – and oft temperamental genie of our expectations, indirectly leading to all sorts of dilemmas, crises and frustrations along the way.

It is human nature to simply ‘want’ the things we want because we ‘want’ them, and furthermore, to ‘want’ them now! It may be instinctual, even cultural, but it is also a very bad habit, and equally, a very tough one to break. On the flipside, it is virtually an impossible satisfaction for any furniture retailer or manufacturer to fulfill.

While a good deal of furniture showrooms do have limited stock on some of their more popular models, stored in warehouse stacks for just such an occasion, particularly when launching into an annual ‘blow out’ sales event, the likelihood of discovering any retailer carrying a customized piece of furniture in assorted fabrics and/or leather colors is highly unlikely. The advent is even rarer when dealing with furniture boutiques specializing in the unique specialization of pieces.  Because today, there are literally thousands of options available to consumers. In the natural progression of design, more and more consumers have come to anticipate – and frankly, demand – these options from manufacturers. And, prudently, manufacturers have obliged.

Today, not only can you choose from literally hundreds of fabric and leather options for body coverage of a sofa and chair, but often decided on a two-tone option in either fabric or a fabric/leather combo. You can also choose exactly the right fabrics for accent pillows and have your choice of hardware (legs, knobs, nails, etc.) from a broad variety of finishes, matte, gloss, antique in pewter, brushed nickel, black, fruitwood, brass, espresso, etc. et al. All this customization does, however, come at a premium, if rarely an upcharge.

Generally speaking, most manufacturers will charge a nominal fee for fabric choices; depending on the popularity, availability and expense they incur to either reproduce or order the bolts themselves. Most do not charge extra for hardware options. Some are even willing to help you create a distinct design with decorative nails. But all will agree, being this precise takes time. You can’t just walk into a showroom and expect a piece of furniture ordered today to be here by the following Friday.

Consumer expectations have changed over the years. But many are still surprised to learn a ‘special order’ will take approximately 9 to 11 weeks to fulfill at the factory, and possibly an additional 1 or 2 before it finds its way from the showroom warehouse into their living rooms. Remember that many furniture manufacturers do not ‘assembly line’ build anything these days. Rather, they wait for orders to come in and then assign a small group of craftsmen to custom build your order from scratch – a process known as ‘bench made’.  With this in mind, it behooves those of us shopping for new pieces of furniture to reconsider our own timelines when placing an order. If you are currently in the ‘new building’ process and know the tentative date for the completion on your home, apartment or condo, you can order with confidence in anticipation of the pending ‘move in’ date.

Most furniture retailers are more than willing to ‘hold’ an item

Most furniture retailers are more than willing to ‘hold’ an item for you if your date gets pushed back. They are also more than willing to work around your schedule. But there is also no harm coming in ahead of schedule to weigh your options, pick out your fabrics, and get the order details finalized. In fact, such foresight is preferred. So planning 9 to 11 weeks in advance of your date of possession is not only smart but practical. Also, since you have likely purchased your new abode after perusing the model, knowing your room dimensions in advance can allow you to make very educated choices in what pieces will work for you within the allotted living spaces. Also knowing the colors you intend to paint these rooms, the type of flooring, the number of windows, and your choice of lighting gives you a definite advantage when making better informed decisions about your furniture options.

Not everyone is in this situation, however. Some of us just need a new piece of furniture for an existing space (already painted/already lit) but in desperate need of a basic refresher. Even then, customization is likely preferred. So, don’t be hasty. And choose wisely. Remember that design consultants are always on hand to help you mix and match styles, fabrics and leather samples to achieve precisely the look you are after.

Finally, for those unwilling to wait the necessary period to place a custom order, shopping the showroom floor has its advantages. You can probably pick out something you like that can be delivered to your home in just a few days from your date of purchase. Just remember, you have effectively limited your choices to what’s currently available, as opposed to what is infinitely possible.

So, if you see the perfect chair but wish it came in red instead of beige, chances are it probably does. Chances are equally as good the red one is not currently in stock. You can order it in red. But it won’t magically appear at your home three days from now. As the consumer you can alleviate a lot of headache, heartache and stress about getting exactly what you want, budgeting your time and planning ahead. When ordering furniture, procrastination is decidedly not a virtue!

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