Designers Weigh in on Custom Furniture Trends

Furniture design

Custom furniture pieces are one of the biggest architectural trends in the design community but relatively new to some areas of the hospitality sector. Designers are starting to customize furniture and lighting fixtures as opposed to using mass-produced copies of typical furniture pieces. Guests wanting an authentic stay at a hotel look for architecture and design that is unique to the property, and custom-designed furniture helps hoteliers create that distinctive environment.

Five successful designers weighed in on the custom design trend: Lesley Hughes Wyman, principal and co-founder, MatchLine Design Group; Reggi Nichols, founding principal and president, waldrop+nichols studio; Jeremy Levitt, co-founder, Parts and Labor Design; Ken Lam, principal, Navigate Design; and Asher Rodriguez Dunn, founder and owner, Studio DUNN.

Is the custom-design trend occurring across all hospitality segments or is it more concentrated in a few?

Lesley Hughes Wyman: “We’re certainly seeing the trend across all segments–upscale full-service to smaller select-service to independent properties. Our upscale properties always have custom-designed elements, but many of our select-service properties want to stand out from the rest of that particular segment.”


Reggi Nichols: “From our perspective, custom furniture remains concentrated within boutique, upscale, and luxury hotel properties. Other hospitality segments based on budget parameters, project schedules, and lead times may find running one line of furniture the better option.”

Ken Lam: “More in boutique or higher budget properties. Boutique properties typically ask for more unique designs to separate themselves from their competitors. Higher budget properties–in most cases, also upscale–have more money to spend and the liberty to separate themselves from other upscale brands.”

Is custom-designed furniture more popular because designers and hotels are willing to invest more in unique pieces? Or have custom pieces become more affordable?

Lesley Hughes Wyman: “Custom doesn’t always have to mean expensive, though sometimes it’s tough to explain that during the design process. If you stick with more classic and tailored styles while in the design process, the goal is to have longevity vested into those pieces, making them last through the next renovation cycle. This will save the property money down the road.”

Jeremy Levitt: “The short answer is that overseas manufacturing enables people to buy in bulk at lower price points. However, we do find that clients are definitely willing to go that extra mile to ensure high quality, uniqueness, and longevity.”

Asher Rodriguez Dunn: “Custom designer furniture has become more popular and businesses have adapted their models–and new businesses have built their models–around meeting these needs. And, we see a trend now to design a hybrid between producing multiples and producing custom made to help keep costs down but still be able to customize the work within the product.”

What has ultimately prompted this shift away from mass produced furniture in hotels?

Reggi Nichols: “Modern travelers’ quest to experience authentic, local culture during their hotel stay is a key factor prompting the shift to more custom furniture. Mass-produced furniture may not always offer specific characteristics or a specific style tailored to achieve a locally inspired design aesthetic.”

Ken Lam: “It’s uniqueness and curated experience. Every room can be different in a hotel, or every floor can have a different theme. Keeping customers refreshed and ensuring their return for another experience is key to the engaged return customer. Cost has become less of a constraint compared to mass production.”

Asher Rodriguez Dunn: “Hotels were just next in line to embrace this shift. Residential embraced it right away, commercial jumped on board soon after, and because of the usually higher quantities that hospitality orders, it was the most difficult segment of the industry to adapt to.”

What are the benefits of custom designed furniture versus mass produced?

Lesley Hughes Wyman: “Custom designed furniture certainly has more appeal due to its uniqueness, but mass produced furniture may be more practical, depending on the space. Ultimately, it comes down to what the client truly wants and how to stand out from their competition.”

Jeremy Levitt: “The benefit is that you can include something in your projects that no one else has or has seen before. From a technical aspect, you can also perfect things like the ergonomics of a chair to be exactly how you or your client would like, if time allows.”

Ken Lam: “Custom-based furniture are basically tailored pieces for a specific client. The chair will be prototyped, tested, refined, and tested again before fabrication. This allows pieces to be 100 percent perfect for a particular project or client. It’s perfectly detailed and fitted for the hotel or restaurant. Mass produced furniture is limited to set selections and minimum quantities due to the nature of how suppliers need to control their financial bottom lines.”

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Robin McLaughlin is digital editor of LODGING.