How to buy fitted furniture

Transform your home with built-in storage, which will save you space and give your rooms a smart, streamlined look

However spacious your home, creating perfect storage systems for tvs, media centres, computers and an ever-growing collection of possessions is a challenge.

Fitted furniture will make the most of the space and is ideal for awkward corners, such as alcoves, eaves and rooms too small for standard fittings.

Bespoke companies can also produce sleek, cohesive design and offer internal storage solutions, such as revolving trouser rails, pull-out shoe racks and specialist forms of storage, to get even the most extreme hoarder organised.

Why choose a specialist design?
There is a good choice of specialist companies, from wardrobe and home office suppliers who fit modular pieces to your specification to truly bespoke companies, and this is reflected in the price. Personal recommendation is often the best way to find your supplier but, in the absence of that, don’t be afraid to grill the showroom staff on the products and services a company offers. Find out whether the furniture is made in the company’s own workshops or assembled from components, as this will affect design flexibility.

*Truly bespoke fitted furniture

You can ask to visit the workshop to see the quality of build and check the sometimes loose interpretation of “bespoke”. Penny Coaker at Aldenham outlines what it should mean: “A bespoke company can design furniture to any size and work around odd shapes. Look for the designer who can make any size of cupboard and cope with unusual spaces or dimensions.”

*Solutions for your home
A good specialist company will send a designer to your home to assess both your lifestyle and your specific storage needs. Be honest if you are untidy, as the more information they have, the better the resulting design will be. If you don’t feel you have a good rapport with the designer before the work begins, go elsewhere. Ask a lot of questions at this point, including the proposed starting date and what happens if something goes wrong.

*Approving a design
The designer will produce initial drawings for your approval, and should show you different materials; final scale drawings will follow once the details are agreed. You may have to pay for those, but this should be refunded if the project goes ahead. Ask about lead times too.

Commission a professional

Choose a joiner or carpenter based on recommendations, and/or ask to see a portfolio of their work

If you have a small, straightforward project or feel confident about your own design abilities, you may want to entrust your scheme to a local carpenter, or put together your own team of professionals. Independent designers offer one-off designs and total flexibility, while a carpenter is likely to look to you for the specification. As joiners rarely have showrooms, it is important to see a portfolio of their work or some of their installations first. Personal recommendation is very valuable; in its absence, trade associations can help.

*Creating a brief
Put together as detailed a brief as possible, with pictures from magazines or the internet and samples of materials you like. Ask questions, such as whether the furniture is made of solid wood or veneered, and keep an open mind about the craftsperson’s ideas as well.

*Agreeing terms
Make sure that you are absolutely clear about payment terms, such as when the deposit is needed, how much it is – typically between 30 and 50 per cent of the total price – and when the balance is paid. Never pay in full upfront. Ask for a breakdown of materials and labour, and make sure you get all the payment details, together with the schedule, in writing.

Key points to consider with fitted furniture in dressing rooms

When creating a dressing area, be sure to allow a 1m-wide walkway

*Keep clothes, shoes and accessories in order.

*Rails at varying heights use the space best: full-length for dresses, half-length for shirts and trousers.

*Opt for plenty of drawers, with a secure unit for jewellery, and space for shoes.

*A walkway width of at least 1m will allow for the opening of drawers and the selection of clothes in comfort.

*Opt for his and her sides with your own mirrors, if space permits.

Key points to consider with fitted furniture in bedrooms

Here, the wood of the bathroom door matches that of the wardrobes for a smart look

*Fitted furniture makes the best use of space regardless of the size of the room.

*A bank of wardrobes frees up the remainder of the room for more decorative pieces.

*For a sleek look, hide some of the drawer units behind full-length doors.

*The entrance to an en-suite bathroom can be designed to blend in with wardrobe doors on either side.

*Fitted furniture is a safe option for children’s rooms, where free-standing units can topple

Key points to consider with fitted furniture in home offices

Get a desk made to suit your height for a truly ergonomic working environment

*Almost any corner can be transformed into a work space.

*Have the desk made to suit your height.

*Use your books and storage files to gauge space between shelves.

*A bespoke office within a living room can be designed to match your existing furniture.

*Cupboards with doors will keep paperwork out of sight. Or opt for a screen or door that hides the whole office from view when not in use.

Key points to consider with fitted furniture in living rooms

When storage is well thought out, as here, it enhances the decor of a room

*Combine display and storage with a striking designer arrangement.

*First, place key items such as the TV and fireplace at the desired height.

*Have a clear idea about how many CDs and books are to be stored.

*A combination of closed units and open shelving boosts storage and keeps the look neat.

Useful contacts

Wine rack by Benchmark Furniture Design and Build

More information

The Guild of Master Craftsmen,
(01273) 478449. Stringent entry criteria cover service, workmanship and
quality, with its members continually checked. It also runs findacraftsman.com

FIRA (Furniture Research Industry Association),
(01438) 777700. Offers guides on buying furniture, and runs the
Furniture Ombudsman service, which conciliates between its members and
consumers.

Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers, (020) 7248 1677. Body fostering excellence in design, craftsmanship and materials, and administering the Guild Mark Scheme.

DIRECTORY

Benchmark Furniture Design & Build, (0161) 283 5826. Works with people with mental health needs to make bespoke furniture.

Chamber Furniture, (01959) 532553; www.chamberfurniture.co.uk Pieces in oak, ash, cherry, walnut, maple or painted.

Clive Christian, (01270) 626869; www.clive.com. Ultra-deluxe designs; showrooms throughout the UK and abroad.

Edwin Loxley, (0115) 975 8168; www.edwinloxley.co.uk. Specialises in solid wood, including rarities such as black American walnut.

Hungerford bookcase company, (01488) 683262; www.thebookcasecompany.co.uk.
Designs and builds bespoke bookcases, studies and libraries.

Mark Wilkinson, (01380) 850007, www.mwf.com. Bespoke room design, showrooms throughout the UK.

Neil Lerner, (020) 7433 0705; www.neillerner.com. Contemporary designer offering individual commissions.

Neville Johnson, (0161) 873 8333; www.nevillejohnson.co.uk. Bespoke fitted furniture maker, specialising in home storage systems.

Poliform, (020) 7368 7600; www.poliformuk.com. Sleek Italian designer storage; a bespoke design service is available.

Ellis Design Studio, (020) 7449 4252; www.ellisdesigns.co.uk. Design and construction firm specialising in top-end projects.

Robinson & Cornish, (01271) 329300; www.robinsonandcornish.com. Bespoke kitchens in contemporary and traditional styles.

Roundhouse, (020) 7736 7362; www.roundhousedesign.co.uk. Beautiful solutions for every room in the house; handmade in the UK.

Schmidt Kitchens, (01622) 812123; www.schmidt-kitchens.com. Established French fitted furniture firm.

Sharps Bedrooms, (0800) 917 8178; www.sharps.co.uk. Nationwide specialist in dual-purpose bedroom and work areas.

Sliderobes, (0800) 454465; www.sliderobes.com. Specialist in sliding-door furniture, with showrooms all over the country.

Smallbone, (020) 7589 5998; www.smallbone.co.uk. Bespoke furniture, with storage tailored to the individual.

Thomas & Thomas, (01625) 890490; www.thomasthomas.net. Handmade traditional-style furniture, painted and solid wood.

Thos H Bretton, (01787) 462463; www.thbretton.co.uk. Fine bespoke libraries and studies.

Tim Wood, (0845) 367 6799; www.timwood.com. Designer and cabinetmaker working on high-end commissions.

For more decorating inspiration, craft ideas and cleaning hacks don’t miss our dedicated DIY guide.

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