The Interior Design Business and Social Media Marketing Podcast: Wingnut Social

How Custom Furniture Design Could Be Your Ticket To Attracting New Design Clients, with Kelley Bishop

September 4, 2019

Many times, design projects need something special, something unique to set off the entire vibe of what you’re doing in a room. Enter custom furniture design.

Yes, it sounds intimidating and like it might require skills you don’t have, but there are ways around that. Darla and Natalie’s guest on this episode is going to explain how you can pull it off.

Kelley Bishop is the owner and designer behind Steel and Plank furnishings, a custom design furniture company that she started as a second business while she was still working as an architect (she’s still partner in an architectural firm even now, BTW). Kelley has developed a custom fabrication shop that enables her to create both entire structures or custom pieces that delight her clients.

Join the conversation to hear how Kelley made the transition from architect to custom furniture designer, how she’s getting her custom wares out into the world, and how she suggests you think about offering custom-designed furniture to your clients and developing the partnerships that will enable you to do it.

What You’ll Hear On This Episode of Wingnut Social

  • [1:51] Darla’s upcoming speaking gigs you don’t want to miss
  • [5:02] What you’re going to hear from Kelley Bishop on this episode
  • [7:10] The frustration that moved Kelley from being an architect to a furniture designer
  • [14:10] How can designers get started creating custom pieces for client homes?
  • [17:34] The best ways to offer custom furniture design to clients
  • [21:50] Is it possible to design furniture that could lead to licensing agreements?
  • [26:32] Kelley’s newest ventures: curating and manufacturing her own lines
  • [30:13] The “What Up Wingnut” round

Connect with Kelley Bishop

Resources & People Mentioned

From architect to custom furniture designer? How did THAT happen?

In this episode, Kelley shares how she got into designing custom furniture - and the story goes way back to her childhood. Her father both modeled and encouraged her to figure things out so that she could do them herself. He was always fixing or building things on his own instead of hiring someone to do it for him. Kelley learned the lesson so well that she partnered with her Dad to rebuild an MG motorcar as a teen. Fast forward from there and apply that attitude to the design of furniture, and you’ll see how her creative, industrious bent could create some amazing pieces.

If you take the time to listen to this episode, you’ll see how Kelley's “figure it out” attitude has lead to an entirely new and profitable business that she absolutely loves, and how Steel and Plank has become a showcase for her work and the work of others who offer complementary wares. It’s a great story you’ll want to hear..

Why would you want to suggest custom furniture as a designer?

As designers, most of us are busy enough with all the moving parts of the typical design project. But we have to admit that we come across situations when something else is needed for a project, something special to bring things into focus and alignment. Could that “something” be a special piece of furniture that is truly one-of-a-kind?

Naturally, not every client is going to be interested in custom furniture pieces as part of the design package you put together for them. But some will be - and “custom” means “cha-ching” for your bank account. The beautiful part is this: Clients who are interested in custom pieces typically know that fact - and are willing to pay the extra money to have something unique in their homes.

What’s the best way to talk about custom furniture design with clients?

If you’re going to offer custom furniture design, you’ll need to be able to describe it in a way that is appealing to clients and that explains the process that will take them from concept to construction to placement in their home. It may sound simple but it’s not. Many things can easily go sideways along that path.

Darla was curious about how to approach the messaging regarding custom furniture options so she asked Kelley to share her best advice for designers who want to start offering custom furniture to clients. Kelley says it’s a process of knowing the client’s desires, exploring those effectively, and having the right relationships and resources to pull it off. You’ll have to listen to get all the details.

Clients need to connect with the furniture you create as much as they need to love that it is custom

We easily understand how a client would feel to have a true one-of-a-kind piece in their newly designed home. Excited - unique - special. But much of the time, “special” is not enough. People want to have a deeper connection to the pieces they select - and it’s your job as their designer to help them make that connection. 

How? You do it by learning the story behind the piece - and you do that by developing a great working relationship with the furniture designer. Kelley believes this is one of the most important aspects of selling custom furniture design to clients. You want to connect them to the furniture, not just its uniqueness. This lady has a wealth of insight to share and provides many details that will benefit you, so be sure you listen.

Connect With Darla & Wingnut Social

Get the Wingnut Social custom services package: www.WingnutSocial.com/services or call 1-877-Wingnut

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