custom furniture design fee...

hey guys, so i was recently commissioned to design a new dining room set for a family in minneapolis. I presented concepts and have reworked them, gotten approval, engineered it in CAD, sourced a fabricator, sourced a supplier, gotten quotes and will be fabricating a few of the components myself.

the quote was around 15,000 for 8 chairs and a large dining room extension table, all made from a mix of solid hardwoods and veneered plywood.

i really am at a loss here and dont have the slightest idea as to what i should charge. im tempted to ask several thousand because of the hours put in, the fact that its a custom job and the fact that i think the product justifies the cost.

however, this is a friend and there is the promise of future business and even investment money, so i dont want to offend with too high of a price but i want to be happy with the job.

so…i dont know, a flat fee, do i charge a percentage, do i charge per piece of furniture, or do i do a combination of all three?. any thoughts would be most helpful. thanks.

Wow, $15,000 for a dining room set? do people commonly commission furniture projects like that?

…20% for what you did isn’t too much…interior designers often get furnature at a 40% discount and i have been known to split the discount with client/friends…but i would indicate on my invoice that a 15% discount was given them…people that can afford $18K for table and chairs still like a deal.

First of all, you say you’ve already got approval. Have you submitted a proposal including a dollar amount. If not, I’ll pass along some advice that was given to me…

  1. Have you established an hourly rate? What is your overhead? Rent for shop space, etc. You can justify the same rate as your fabricator’s-its the cost of having the components made if you can’t make them yourself. If you price yourself too low then you can potentially loose money and still have to pay the fabricator.

  2. Have you estimated the number of hours it will take to do the job. I realize this is a big commission, but try to sit down and look at each phase of the project: rough cutting lumber-xx hours; joinery-xx hours; assembly; finishing;etc. Pad each phase of the project by 20% to cover unforeseen setbacks.

  3. Design costs. This is a tough one. Is the client aware of the amount of time you’ve spent developing the project? Are they willing to pay for it? Many on this forum will tell you to itemize design in the proposal. It may be difficult to add those costs into the proposal after you’ve already performed some of them-CAD, etc. What percentage of the total hours for the whole project would you estimate you’ve spent upfront on design? Can it be absorbed into the total? Ultimately this is your call-it depends on the relationship you have developed with the client. They are obviously willing to pay for custom, one-of-a-kind, handcrafted furniture.

  4. Cost of 1 chair versus 8. This might be where you can itemize the cost of developing, through prototyping, jigs and fixtures for one chair that could be used for the subsequent 7 chairs.

  5. Cost of consumables like hardware, sandpapers, finishes, etc. should be considered also.

It is also appropriate to ask for 1/2 of payment to start. And yes, Travisimo, there are clients out there who will pay that kind of money for custom, hand crafted furniture.

Anyway, I hope some of this helps. And good luck, I hope the project turns out well.

p.s. I lived in Minneapolis for a couple years, do we know each other?