End Grain: “Custom Design, Creative Process”
Bringing the challenges of commissioned design to the college classroom.
by RH Lee
Since 2008 I have managed the collective Offerman Woodshop in Los Angeles as well as my own furniture business, LeeBuild. Both focus on bespoke, one-off custom furniture. Though I have been told by many designers and makers alike that having a furniture line would appeal to bigger clients and actually turn a profit on hand-crafted furniture, I am stubbornly committed to the particular challenges and rewards of building on a custom-commission basis. Producing multiples is surely more profitable than working one-off, but designing, consulting with clients and trouble-shooting shop problems make commission work more compelling to me.
I like interacting with clients to assess their unique needs and collaborate on a custom-tailored solution. Maybe a client comes to me with timbers from a recent remodel and together we decide how to repurpose meaningful material into a piece enjoyable for generations to come. Or a family needs a table that fits four, but expands to seat 12 on holidays. Perhaps a couple wants a portable wedding chuppah that packs flat, installs quickly, then lives on as a permanent garden pergola. These projects present unique sets of design puzzles, negotiations and various mechanical and material production challenges.