The Custom "Process"

ColeTrain has been very fortunate in 2015 as we are staying busy with fun projects that are both interesting and challenging.  One might think that EVERY piece is challenging in their own way but if I am being honest, that's just not the case.  We have had many opportunities this year to create one of a kind creations out of thin air, taking an idea out of the clients head, collaborating, asking questions and eventually coming to a common ground where everyone is happy, excited, and waiting on the edge of their seat for the freight delivery man to show up some random day usually 4-6 weeks in the future.  That being said I am of course asked quite frequently what to expect from the custom process or 'how it all works'.  It's a great question and one that needs an entire section devoted to it on this site (coming soon...) but for now, let me tackle that here.  So if you were looking for a fun, introspective, 'storyteller' type post you'll just have to be patient for a bit longer.  :)

How does it Start?

The typical process starts with an inquiry. An idea. A measurement. An "I saw something I kind of liked but it just doesn't work for me' kind of statement that leaves most feeling frustrated. 

The path to ColeTrain is unique for all but it always has the same outcome............."I need you to do something one of a kind for me."

What next?

A series of conversations will happen. Via email, phone, skype, gotomeeting, carrier-pigeon. We can be very 'businessy' or we can be relaxed and enjoying our conversation while endulging a tasty adult-beverage.  Truthfully, a lot of Cole-Train nationwide clientele never have anything other than an email conversation with the Storyteller.  

During the back and forth it's very important for us to capture how you want the piece to function in addition to the aeshetic of the piece. What a lot of designers don't want to tell you is that almost ANY design can be conformed to fit the FUNCTION that you are desiring. If you wanted something that was pretty but didn't work for how YOU wanted it to than you can most definitely find that currently on the shelves of any major retailer. There is absolutely nothing wrong with furniture retailers, but that is certainly NOT why you are thinking about having a custom piece built just for you!  

Preliminary Budget: At some point during the fact-finding process we will uncover YOUR budget.  This is important to determine early in the process so I am not proposing caviar when you simply wanted a nice salmon dip from your local grocery chain!  It eliminates large amounts of wasted time and gets us down the road much quicker and with a better level of understanding. 

And then?

Once we feel we have enough detail and questions answered to feel as though we understand what is being desired we will call a time-out, bury ourselves in a quiet place (just kidding, music is ALWAYS involved), and sketch what it is we THOUGHT we heard. Sometimes we are right, sometimes we are wrong but most generally are never off more than 25%! I don't know, that sounds pretty good to me.  Within a few days you'll receive an email in your inbox.  It's sure to feel like Christmas morning (unless you don't celebrate x-mas, of which I am sorry, of which.... 'happy holidays') as you open your email with anxious anticipation and 'unwrap' your custom gift!  

This could be a one time un-wrapping OR we could have rounds of iterations, as mentioned earlier, we are generally never off more than 25% so adjustments are fast and not a problem.  As soon as we reach 100% we move onto pricing.


It's fairly typical that most clients dread the 'pricing' portion of building custom, but honestly, it shouldn't be scary, you won't offend, and to each their own!  For those who are new to the custom world I will try and eliminate the easy questions now.

-Are you more expensive than a big box home-improvement store? Generally yes.

-Are you more expensive than a medium-high end furniture shop?  Generally no.

-Why ARE your prices higher than a similar piece that was manufactured?  Economics.  A fair amount of furniture shops depend on over-seas shops to create their designs.  The local shop creates designs, ships the designs overseas to be built and a large container of furniture comes back minty fresh.  There is nothing wrong with this method but you asked the question so I am giving you the answer.  We use real wood, handcrafted in our Iowa City shop where each and every piece of wood is personally touched and worked to build YOUR piece......we prefer this method! :)

Ready set go!!

We will all do a dance when the budget is agreed on.  You will send us a deposit (generally 40-60% unless you present a bigger flight risk) and we will hold your place in line.  Typical timeline for 'standard' pieces of furniture ranges between 4 and 8 weeks.  The remainder of the budget plus any applicable shipping charges are due upon completion!

So there you go fans, you now are officially dangerous with knowledge.  We'll look forward to all of your inquiries VERY SOON! :)

-The Storyteller