Before we bought ‘The Otto House’ we rented a large, detached three-bedroom house with an enormous studio in the garden. Like many here in the South of England we had to downsize to get on the property ladder so storage has always been a bit of an ongoing challenge. I am a curtain-maker by trade and not only used the old garden studio for making curtains but also for hoarding HEAPS of fabric, wallpaper, paint, magazines, books and anything else remotely crafty. It was like a creative paradise to me and something which I am sure I will never have again, but I am so very grateful for the two glorious years I spent stitching away in there whilst the sun streamed through the double doors. (And the winters spent in a coat, hat and gloves bent shivering over my sewing machine, but, you know, that sounded less poetic!) Anyway, to cut a long story short, I had to throw away A LOT of stuff, because my challenge was to fit everything from that large garden studio into this corner of our bedroom.
Here is what it looked like initially, I had most of my key tools out but all my fabric was stored in the loft which was not conducive to getting any work done, especially when you’re rushing to get something finished during a baby’s nap time.
After a while of living with this rather messy and impractical solution, I contacted a friend of mine who was a carpenter. I’m not gonna lie, I was a little bit nervous about doing so because I thought the quote was going to be way out of our price range and I would have to find some sort of excuse as to why we didn’t want to go ahead. Thankfully I was pleasantly surprised!! I think people assume that bespoke furniture is crazy expensive (of course, sometimes it really is!) but for what I wanted with simple MDF and nothing too fancy, this was definitely the cheapest solution. I sent some simple sketches over to Chris from Chandler’s Ford Carpentry and was so encouraged by his quote that we decided to get more work done than we had initially planned.
Some of the advantages of going bespoke for us meant that I could make full use of the space. We designed the cupboard so it was as large as possible (it’s 90cm deep and stores a lot of fabric,) whilst still being able to open the door with the radiator being there and we could ensure the first shelf was high enough to neatly house my sewing machine underneath. I also wanted to be able to store my IKEA drawers (a hack completed many years ago sans children), A4 folders and long rulers/paintbrushes so the shelves all needed to be a certain measurement apart. A vintage-y looking latch for the cupboard, sourced by Chris, works perfectly placed high enough so inquisitive toddlers cannot gain access to my ONE AREA OF THE HOUSE THAT IS JUST FOR ME!
The other area in the house that wasn’t being utilised properly is the walk in cupboard in our bedroom. Before we moved in it had a wide clothing rail with a couple of shelves above, but whatever donut installed them initially, didn’t extend the shelves to the back of the cupboard so everything just fell down the back onto the floor. Thanks to an amazing eBay bargain we had just procured a large double wardrobe, so we wanted to fill this space with shelving which would be more useful for storing bed linen, towels and baby clothes. I did, however, ask our carpenter to install a small clothing rail to the right, large enough to store Matt’s suits that barely ever get worn and are too cumbersome for the wardrobe because when designing your own furniture, this is what you can do! Do not be afraid to be ask for exactly what you want, the more specific you are, the easier it is for the carpenter to create!
This cupboard is an awkward space because it is also our access to the loft which massively restricts the amount of storage you can have in here. However, with that in mind, we also asked our carpenter to ensure the top shelves are extra strong as we use those to step up into the loft. Now it works so much better though and we have probably quadrupled the amount of storage. It is still insanely hard to photograph though, sorry!
The work took two whole days and Chris used our front garden for cutting wood, but apart from that it was pretty non-intrusive. Darcey even managed to nap both days with the power tools going! I decided to paint the MDF myself, which took about a weeks labour during nap-times and evenings but it helped to save on cost so in the end we only ended up paying £450 to the carpenter which included all the materials as well. Whilst that is a lot up front, I do think it is fairly reasonable considering we’ve gained two whole new areas of storage completely bespoke to what we need. If we had bought wardrobes/shelving off the peg, not only would it have not worked so well, thus wasting precious space, but it would have probably cost more than that in the first place.
If you have been considering it for a while, or have an awkward space that just doesn’t work for you, why not ring up a few carpenters that rate highly on CheckaTrade and get some quotes? Your sketches don’t have to be perfect but it is a really good idea to think about the following before they come round:
- What am I storing in there now?
- What would I love to be able to store in there in the future?
- What access do I need?
- What things do I use everyday and need to be stored at an accessible height?
- What things do I use sporadically and can be stored up high?
- What things do I want stored out of reach of the children?
- What materials would I like?
- What finish would I like?
- Would I be happy to paint it afterwards?
The more specific you are with the details, the easier it is for the carpenter to create exactly what you want and provide an accurate quote from the beginning, and don’t be afraid of sounding ‘picky’ because honestly, that is what going bespoke means! We have never regretted the money we spent on our cupboards and shelving and it has made a huge difference to our quality of life. Having a ‘home’ for everything means our bedroom is easier to keep tidy and less complicated when we are looking for ‘that old babygro we only use when Betty is eating bolognese’ or ‘that scrappy bit of material to make some felt tea bags for Darcey.’
What spaces in your home would benefit from a bit of bespoke furniture? What is your biggest stumbling block in proceeding with the work?