How to Commission a Custom Project—Whether It's Furniture, Artwork, or Homewares

Roxanna Coldiron
·3 min read

Mint Images / Getty Images

While you can easily purchase mass-produced items at any store, there is something special about having an artisanal item in your home. It can add uniqueness to your décor, become a family heirloom, or enhance your wardrobe in ways that no mass-produced item can. But the process for purchasing such a quality piece is very different. You need to commission the project from an artist or designer, informing them of your style and having a combined vision. So, how do you go about commissioning a custom project from a professional? Follow our step-by-step process.

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Approach the artist.

First, you will want to find the artist's website or profile and follow their directions for contacting them. "Typically, when we are approached for commissioned projects, clients either send us an email or phone call, or sometimes even a direct message via Instagram or Facebook messenger," says Valerie Mayén, fashion designer and owner of Yellowcake Shop. "For best results, I would suggest clients reach out via email directly from an artist's website or via phone which can also most likely be found on an artist's contact page on their portfolio or website." Of course, referrals are also a great way to begin your search. The idea is to find an artist who specializes in your desired type of project and sense of style.

Schedule a consultation.

Some artists want you to schedule a consultation so that they can learn more about you, your project specifications, your goals, and your budget. Depending on what you are looking for, the artist may either accept or decline the commission. "Some artists may have a booking agent, a general manager, or an assistant who handles all of their scheduling and commissioned projects so this information may be available may also be available to clients to schedule a consultation or to request commissioned work," says Mayén. In turn, ask them clarifying questions: "How long have they been in business? What sustainable materials would you recommend? How long will it take?"

Understand the value of custom work.

A custom cabinet from a furniture maker is not going to be the same price as one you would find pre-assembled in a boutique, nor should it be. The designer sources all of their own materials, many of which may be higher quality or specialty from what is mass produced, and they take the time to produce the item by hand. It also requires years of practice and honed skill to refine their craftsmanship. So, when commissioning a custom project, it's important to respect the payment procedures by the artist. Before beginning the project, it's a good idea to draw up a contract outlining what to expect, how payment is to be made, the delivery date, and any related costs before agreeing to work with them.

"Some clients may be enamored with the idea of custom commissioned work," explains Mayén. "It's a unique and interesting process for both the artist and the client. If [the client] understands that they will be paying a premium for custom services and will require more patience and time, then the relationship can run smoothly and amicably."