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Choosing Custom Furniture with Calico

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This post is sponsored by Calico. As always, all opinions shared here are my own.

I have a confession to make: For years, I’ve embraced into the “fast furniture” trend.

When I was younger with less disposable income, I chose this route more out of necessity. And to be honest, I still love a good bargain-priced home decor piece here and there.

But when it comes to purchasing larger upholstered items that I’m hoping to keep for decades to come, there is nothing better—and longer lasting—than well-made furniture that’s designed especially for you and your family.

If you’re sitting there thinking, “That sounds expensive …,” I get it. I once had the same reaction to the phrase “custom furniture.” And let’s be real, sometimes I still do.

While I’m not running out to replace every upholstered piece in my home with something custom (there’s no money tree in my backyard, sadly), I’m happy to tell you that custom pieces often aren’t as pricey as you might think. You also have some control over the costs based on your fabric and finish choices, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

I recently had a chance to work with Calico (formerly known as Calico Corners) to design a custom chair for my family room and got to experience their full-service design process.

Not familiar with the design process for custom furniture? I wasn’t, either! You’re in luck because I’m going to walk you through my entire experience in this post.

Spoiler alert: Calico made everything incredibly easy and fun, and I couldn’t be more thrilled with the beautiful custom chair they created for me.

Why Choose Custom-Made Furniture?

I do believe that there’s a time and place for big-box furniture and home accessories. I also fully acknowledge that not everyone has the means to invest in custom pieces. And heck, I don’t have the budget for everything in my home to be custom, either.

But when you’re ready to choose a furniture piece or two that’ll last you for decades, then selecting custom-made furniture—especially when it comes to pieces you’ll use every day like a sofa or an accent chair—makes sense for many reasons.

I can’t speak to the quality of every custom furniture brand, but I can tell you based on my experience that Calico’s custom furniture options are:

  • Constructed with quality and care. It’s not a surprise that well-made furniture will last much longer than something that’s cheaply constructed. A few hallmarks of Calico’s commitment to quality include their use of kiln-dried hardwood frames (hint: this protects against warping), double-dowel joints (translation: no wobbling), and more.
  • Available in a seemingly endless number of fabrics. Trust me when I say that Calico has nearly every fabric you could possibly want. My favorite part about their fabric assortment is that they have a wide variety of performance fabrics: think Crypton, Sunbrella, and others. This was hugely important to me when I went to design my chair—with two young kids and a rambunctious labradoodle, durable fabric options were a must.
  • Protected by a warranty. What home furnishing brand offers a warranty these days?! Not many. Although, it makes sense if you’re investing in a custom piece, doesn’t it? When you purchase a piece from Calico, the seat cushions come with a 10-year warranty, and you receive a 15-year warranty on the frame and springs.

How Does the Calico Custom Furniture Process Work?

Lucky for me, there’s a new Calico design center not too far from my home. I had the pleasure of visiting the Fairfax, Virginia store and working with one of the sweetest and most helpful designers there: Sallie.

This is just one of the many walls dedicated to fabric samples in the Fairfax, Virginia Calico store. They have larger swatches too … I just happened to snap a photo of this particular wall with smaller samples:

From start to finish, Sallie made the entire process a breeze. When I arrived in the store, she first showed me the Jaxon Chair and had me sit in it. I’d already researched this chair style online and was leaning toward purchasing it, but it’s always best to “try it on” in person. I then showed her photos of my home and shared some initial color and pattern ideas for the chair fabric.

I think this is the part that overwhelms most people—choosing a fabric and feeling confident in that choice. Calico’s designers are amazing at listening to your ideas, taking into account what decor you have in your space already, and then making great recommendations regarding fabric options. I’ll also say that Sallie helped me narrow fabrics down quite quickly. So even though Calico does an array options to choose from, their designers are extremely mindful about narrowing options as to not overwhelm you.

This is excellent news if you’re someone who gets stressed when you feel you have too many choices. On the other hand, if you’re the type of person who wants to look at anything and everything before making a decision, you have the ability to do that, too.

After we settled on the chair fabric, Sallie showed me the frame finishes and we selected one together. She then ordered fabric samples of my selections for me to keep at home, and printed out information on my chair about the brand and how it’s constructed, along with my official order form.

The best news of all is that while Sallie originally thought it would take about three months for my chair to be delivered, it barely took two—my furniture showed up on my doorstep even sooner than I’d expected (a pleasant surprise!).

It’s beautiful, right?!

How Much Does it Cost to Build a Piece of Custom Furniture?

As you can imagine, the answer to this question varies depending on a number of factors. Typically, though, the price of your furniture piece will be impacted by:

  • Its size (for example, a sofa will of course be more expensive than an upholstered ottoman)
  • The type of fabric you choose
  • Whether you wish to add finishing details (such as piping in a complementary color)
  • The frame’s finish

While there’s no “one size fits all” answer to this question, I’d encourage you to talk with a designer at your local Calico shop, as they can offer you tips for saving a little here and there without compromising the overall furniture design.

4 Essential Tips for Designing Furniture with Calico

I loved working with Calico to design my chair for our family room. Beyond custom furniture, Calico offers other home decor services as well, including custom drapes, blinds, shutters, reupholstery, and much more.

If you’re considering investing in custom home decor, here are my tips for working with Calico:

  • Browse online first. I went on the Calico website to research furniture before ever setting foot in a store—it was great to narrow down my options beforehand so that I could stay focused while working with the designer.
  • Make an in-store appointment with a Calico designer. Personally, I’m a huge fan of visiting your local Calico store to browse and place your furniture order. Sure, you could do it online, but I’m Team “Touch and Feel Those Fabrics in Person” all the way. Besides, Calico’s designers are incredibly helpful so, if given the option, I highly recommend making an in-person appointment.
  • Bring multiple photos of the space you’re looking to decorate. This is really important. Bring several clear, well-lit photos of the room that you want to furnish. Take close-ups of the textiles that are already there or, if you’re starting with a blank slate, bring “inspiration” images to help the designer get a better understanding of the look and feel you want to achieve for the room. This will help your Calico designer make the best recommendations possible as you design your item(s), which will make the overall process more fun and less stressful.
  • Order fabric samples or take samples home from the store. Your designer will likely do this for you without you asking them but, just in case, make sure to take home fabric samples for the piece you’re considering or, if you’ve already placed your order, take those samples so that you have them handy as you plan out other aspects of your room. While it’s helpful to look at fabrics online, there’s no substitute for having the actual swatches at home with you.

So there you have it: An overview of the custom furniture design process, and a glimpse into my experience with Calico.

You can book an appointment online or call your local store to set up a time to meet with a designer.

Have any other questions for me? Drop them in the comments below, or send me a DM on Instagram.

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