There is a thirst for great custom design work

Kim Lewis

I have been designing for almost 15 years and have seen fashion, colour and styles come full circle.

I was driving to a client appointment one afternoon and while stopping at a crosswalk I noticed some girls from the junior high school crossing the street all attired in new school clothes. One of the girls’ jeans had a multitude of gold zippers on the legs and pockets and I laughed out loud because that was fashion for me back in the 80’s!

It’s fascinating to watch styles become new again and I’m sure the girls wearing these jeans think they are just the coolest thing – ha, we did it first girls!

There is an element of design that does not seem to be returning and it makes me a little bit sad. Custom work has been tossed by the wayside in favour of fast, cheap and mass produced products. When I started in design custom drapery was a major part of our business and it was a challenge and a joy to create that one of a kind look for each individual client and their space.

I used to employ the skills of a custom cabinet maker for furniture in my clients’ homes and enjoyed hunting through the art collections of artisans, painters and photographers to uncover that perfect find. Custom built furniture was a common choice for those hard to fit spaces as well as the services of my favourite upholsterer.

Are we too busy? Too cost conscious? Too unimaginative? I can’t decide yet. I witness the decline of custom work every year and it makes me long for the days when I could completely work on a project with all the tools of my trade to make the perfect space for a client. Maybe I am being nostalgic and I probably sound like my parents who had to walk to school both ways, uphill, dragging a dead horse!

Still, the beauty in custom projects is second to none when it comes to making things perfectly yours. Designing the ultimate space with custom cabinetry can turn an underused room into a glove like fit for your lifestyle instead of trying to use several mismatched and ineffective cabinets you picked up at your local Swedish Superstore. Those items do have their place and they can be amazing solutions for some problems but there are times when a custom item is required.

What is the problem with custom? I think it comes down to time and cost for most people. When you can pick up a curtain panel for $50 dollars as opposed to waiting weeks for one which will cost 10 times the price, the need to instantly gratify can be overwhelming. The problem is, you end up with the same curtains as most of your neighbours and your neighbours’ neighbours. This is not true design, it fills a need and a space but is often not the best thing we could choose – kind of like fast food for your home.

I hope that when you are choosing to finish your home, your safe place, that you consider those spaces which may be calling out for a custom touch. The home that is finished lovingly with time and care will reflect your personality much more effectively than the mass produced replications which taunt us from home décor shelves.

Kim Lewis is an interior designer in Red Deer with Carpet Colour Centre. Feel free to contact her at 343-7711 ext 227, email her at or join her facebook group called “Ask a Designer”

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