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Nick Thwaites - Commissioning

Commissioning furniture gives you a rare opportunity to own something unique that is exactly what you want. For many people, the range and diversity of timber available is one of the most exciting aspects of commissioning. It need not be rare or exotic but, when so much furniture uses wood merely as a commodity, it is refreshing to choose it for its individual beauty. But the whole process, from timber selection to discussions about design, and perhaps even visiting to see the work in progress, should be interesting and enjoyable.

If at all possible I will visit you to see the house, the room and the space where the piece will go. That, and talking generally with you about what you want the piece to do and how you envisage it, are important preliminaries to the design process. I will usually prepare initial sketches for discussion. At this stage I would indicate a likely price range. When we’re clear about the design I will produce detailed scale drawings. The price is agreed and I ask for a deposit, usually 30 per cent, when the final drawings are approved. I will also try to give you a firm indication of the completion date at this point. Final payment is then due on delivery/collection.


It may be helpful to add something about pricing here. As almost all my pieces are one-offs, it is difficult to give more than a general indication of the likely price of a new piece until I have a design on paper. Quite understandably, however, people may feel uncomfortable embarking on the commissioning process without any idea of the potential costs. So, here are some pointers which I hope will help.
- The principal contributor to the price of a piece is my estimate of the time taken to make it, which is itself based on factors such as complexity of design (principally) and size.
- Materials (mainly timber) generally account for a much smaller proportion of cost, but may nevertheless be substantial for a large piece such as a dining table.
- Not surprisingly, curves, and joints cut at unusual angles, take longer than straight lines and rectilinear geometry, but I often incorporate them because they are more interesting or more functional. Most of my chairs, for example, contain very few straight lines or right-angles, because they are designed to fit the human body, and consequently it takes at least a week - often much more - to make a single chair. Moving parts, such as drawers (in particular) and doors are also labour intensive.

Translating all that into numbers: an 8 seater dining table would cost from £4,500. An individual chair, without arms, might cost £1100, including upholstery but excluding fabric, but the cost per chair comes down considerably if a set is ordered.

Small side tables, of the sort that appear in the Gallery, would cost from £950, though again the cost per piece comes down a bit if two or more of the same design are ordered. Boxes like the inscribed dovetail-jointed apple wood box in the Gallery take a lot of time to make relative to their size: a similar box would cost £1000 - £1200 depending on details.
Possibly the easiest way to get an idea of price is to find a piece in my website gallery which approximates to what you are looking for, and I can then give you an idea of what that would cost to make today.

Nick Thwaites Furniture commissioning