Ready-Made Vs Custom Furniture: Which One is Right for You?

Furniture shopping at a traditional furniture store is fun, but sometimes it can be extremely aggravating. Seeing all the different design setups makes your mind race with the possibilities, but you have to deal with pushy salespeople breathing down your neck telling you how a specific piece comes in many colors. There are advantages to shopping in stores like this, but sometimes the benefits don’t outweigh the frustration. There is another option that many will find more appealing, and that is ordering custom furniture. To better understand if custom furniture is right for you, it helps compare custom and ready-made side by side. 

What’s the Difference?

Ready-made furniture is mass-produced, and you can go to a show floor and buy on the spot. Custom-made furniture is designed from scratch with specific space, function, and taste in mind. Traditional furniture stores like Crate and Barrel or West Elm sell ready-made furniture which may look nice but isn’t exclusive to you. 

Pros of Ready-Made

Ready-made furniture is tangible; you can feel the texture, sit in it, and visualize exactly how it will fit into your existing space. In some cases, the shop already has it in stock so that you can take it home the same day. If that is not the case, furniture is usually delivered to your front door in a few short weeks, so there is little time spent waiting to pull your room together.  Given that these items are mass-produced in a factory, ready-made is often more budget-friendly than custom pieces. 

Pros of Custom

By far, the best thing about custom furniture is that it is exactly what the buyer wants for the space. No compromises are made, and owners can ask for features that one would never find in traditional ready-made pieces. Having custom-made furniture creates an air of luxury that will impress guests or clients. Custom-made furniture will almost always last for generations and possibly become an heirloom. 

Cons of Ready Made

Apart from being chased around a store like you are being hunted, there are a few other reasons that ready-made furniture isn’t right for everyone. If you are trying to create a stand-out look in your home, it is hard to do with the same couch that everyone else on your block has. There are great examples out there of ready-made furniture that is quality built, but sometimes this mass-produced furniture isn’t the highest quality, and you will find yourself looking for another replacement in less than a year, which drives the cost of ownership up. They don’t always come in the colors, shapes, or fabrics that you envision for your space. 

Cons of Custom

The cons of customer furniture are truly short-term problems for a long-term piece of furniture. They may cost a little extra upfront and take significantly longer to deliver, but it will be worth it in the end. It’s rare, but one other downside to custom furniture is commissioning a custom piece only to find out you don’t love it as much as you thought.

Which One is Right for You?

There are advantages and disadvantages to both routes, and it really comes down to the balance of aesthetics, budget, and timeline. If you need a place to sit in front of the television as soon as possible, a ready-made piece may be the economical choice, especially if you don’t think you live in a forever home. If you are in a position where you want something that will last a lifetime and give off a look of sophistication, custom-made furniture will be worth the wait. If you would like to see examples of how fantastic custom-made furniture can look or want to get started with a custom piece of your own, please contact us today for more information. 

7 Easy Tips to Upgrade Your Living Room

Your living room is the place where you probably spend most of your time. This is why you will want to keep the room looking nice at all times. When your living room design is outdated and no longer has the luster you want, a few updates can help you turn it into a space you will fall in love with all over again. But how can you transform your living room without undertaking a full-on renovation?

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Podcast Season 1 Episode 3

Carol’s restaurant Mean Noodles

In our third episode, Caroline talks about her restaurant business Mean Noodles with her husband Kevin. Anne and Caroline discuss how the restaurant business is doing, and what their signature dishes are, and what new products they have.

Topics Covered:

00:19 – Anne’s introduction and about her co-host Carol’s restaurant in Hong Kong.

00:41 – Caroline shares about her restaurant business Mean Noodles, in addition to her design practice.

1:09 – Caroline talks about how they operate two businesses.

1:46 – Caroline introduces her husband Kevin and his background.

2:07 – Anne and Caroline discuss why they decided to open a restaurant, which is very different than their interior design business.

2:40 – Caroline shares about the advantages and disadvantages of running two businesses, and how it helps her as a designer, and Kevin’s background in culinary.

4:22 – Caroline talks about the whole design and renovation process, as the designer and the restaurant owner.

5:07 – Anne and Caroline discuss Mean Noodle’s signature dishes, which has been voted best Laksa in Hong Kong.

5:38 – Caroline shares about using their creative background to their advantage, including logo and menu designs.

6:13 – Caroline shares about Kevin’s market adventures on Instagram lives. Follow Kevin to the market on instagram @meannoodles.

7:05 – Anne and Caroline discuss the dine-in restriction with COVID19 challenges, and what’s been happening for the last few months at Mean Noodles.

8:03 – Caroline shares about the launch of their new product InstaLaksa.

Next week’s topic is about how Anne ended up in Chicago and how she’s building her career in real estate.

Follow us on Instagram @meannoodles and Facebook, to watch Kevin livestream his shopping adventures.

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Podcast Season 1 Episode 2

Carol’s work as an architect and designer

In the second episode, Caroline talks about her work as an architect/interior design in Hong Kong. Anne and Caroline discuss how her interior design business is adapting to COVID-19 challenges.

Topics Covered:

00:19 – Anne’s introduction and her co-host Caroline.

1:17 – Caroline talks about her 2-year-old daughter, and her zoom classes. Anne and Caroline discuss the new normal of online schooling and private tutors.

3:52 – Caroline talks about her work as an architect/interior designer in Hong Kong for 8 years, and her practice with her husband Kevin. They manage a small team of designers, and work with clients with interior renovation needs, mainly focusing on hotels, restaurants, and retail spaces.

4:58 – Caroline talks about how COVID-19 has affected their company and their clients. She talks about the current on-going hotel project, but businesses are slow to start new projects, because of the hotel and restaurant industries.

5:31 – Caroline and Anne discuss the dining restrictions and safety measures and dine-in restrictions in Hong Kong vs Chicago. 7:05 – Anne asked about how COVID-19 impacted Caroline’s business operations. Caroline talks about how OPENUU adapted to work from home.

8:12 Caroline discussed how client meetings changed from face-to-face meetings to online calls. 10:02 – Caroline and Anne discuss the process of material selection. 11:00 – Next week’s topic is about Caroline’s restaurant Mean Noodles, and how they pivoted during COVID-19.

11:13 – Sign up at to download a free copy of a budgeting worksheet.

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Podcast Season 1 Episode 1

Anne’s work as a real estate agent

Topics Covered:

00:27 – Caroline’s introduction and Anne tells her story about her current situation in Chicago. She spends more time now enjoying her home office whereas before she was out a lot and didn’t cook at home much. Now she enjoys taking her coffee at home.

1:36 – Anne talks about her role at Compass where she leads a small team. They help people find income-generating rental properties and full-time residences.

2:20 – Anne explains what “income-generating” properties are. These are rental properties that have really good rental potential, where an owner can easily find a tenant for their units. Homeowners can get healthy returns on their investments.

3:09 – Anne narrates how COVID has affected real estate in general not only in their firm but the whole realty business in Chicago.

5:09 – But she explains the difference of their property amongst other real estates which is much more beneficial for their tenants because of the location and feature that is important during the quarantine.

6:36 – Caroline asked if there are still people buying properties during COVID. Anne answered, yes. The explanation entails, take advantage of buying these income-generating properties while the interest rates are low.

7:47 – Caroline asked, what are the safety measures in place during house tours since people are afraid to go out due to the pandemic.

8:05 – Anne and her firm introduced Virtual tours. Also, there are lots of showings using Lockboxes which are master lock key boxes that can hang on doorknobs or fences so the renter’s agent can access the key and unit themselves. They are also offering Virtual Open houses as well as some in-person open houses with masks, shoe covers, and gloves. They Limit the showings in tenant-occupied units for safety and protection measures. But what is great is that interest rates are very low so new homeowners and investors are taking advantage. And we all know once COVID passes these properties will increase the value.

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What Defines a Good Restaurant Brand?

A good restaurant brand doesn’t just happen. Rather, it is the result of meticulous attention to detail, expert storytelling, and a consistent effort to innovate with every decision. Best-in-class restaurant branding is smart, customer-centric, and easily interpreted throughout the interior environment of a restaurant.

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Estimating a Renovation Fee Before the Renovation

When starting a renovation project, figuring out the cost is one of the most daunting tasks. Estimating the renovation fee involved in remodeling your home, your office or your business can be stressful and make you want to tear out your hair. Thankfully, there are tools out there that can make the process easier.

Before starting your home remodel, you can estimate the cost your project by using an online remodeling calculator. Most calculators, like the one linked, will ask you for a few specifics regarding your project (is it a bathroom remodel? Kitchen? What’s the square footage involved?) and your ZIP code to give you general costs for your area. For instance, say you were doing a remodel of your 300 square foot kitchen. You want mid-range materials and appliances, and there’s some partial demolition involved. You happen to live in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area of Texas. The average cost would come out to be around fifteen thousand. You must remember though, that these numbers are including the compensation fees of the workers you’ve hired, not just the materials needed to complete the job. These calculators are often able to be used to estimate costs for businesses as well, so don’t think they can only be used for home renovations.

If you don’t want to trust a computer, however, than you can always look at the average prices of work and material in your area. You can generally expect to pay around $70 an hour for a carpenter, while a painter would be paid around $25 to $35 an hour. Electricians, if your job calls of one, can average between $70 and $90 dollars.

Cost of materials are generally simple to figure out by simply perusing the hardware and do-it-yourself stores in your area, such as Home Depot. Do some research on your contractor to find where they get their materials and how much they cost. Paying more than $2 per square foot of fiberglass insulation is much more than the national average, so make sure your contractor allows you to know the materials and costs as a way to keep track of where your funds are going.

Don’t forget to factor in costs that aren’t usual for simple renovations. According to the Houston Chronicle which recently posted an article about renovation costs:

Factors that can raise your costs include rezoning issues, seismic upgrading, installation of new air conditioning, exterior refinishing and the addition of handicapped-accessible entrances.

Knowing these costs ahead of time will help in your renovation cost estimation. Always be thorough in your checking of your home or business before your start your project, so you can anticipate additional costs ahead of time. However, as a buffer, try to put aside a small part of your budget for contingency: a just-in-case fund, for any unforeseen problems that may occur.

If you are planning a future remodel for you home, office or business feel free to contact us.

Considering the Pros and Cons of Ready-Made vs Custom Furniture

When it comes to furnishing your home or business, you have the option of using custom-made or ready-made furniture. Often, people don’t give enough consideration to the idea of decorating using custom furniture; there is a general perception that it is a costly extravagance. In truth, both types of furniture offer pros and cons, and it’s important to understand the differences fully before making a final decision.

Furniture which uniquely reflects your personality or business

While ready-made furniture may allow a degree of choices regarding color, styles, and fabrics, the most obvious advantage of having a custom-made piece is that it will be the only one of its kind. By working with a designer, you will be able to create something that is an accurate reflection of you, your home, or the business concept you wish to promote. A custom piece can blend seamlessly with your existing decor or make a bold statement and be a conversation piece.

The perfect fit and maximum efficiency

Two of biggest advantages of having something made for a given area is the flexibility you have in making sure it conforms exactly to the required size or shape and the ability to maximize the potential use of space.

Quality and durability

By commissioning a custom-made piece of furniture, you are not only able to contribute creatively, but you are also able to pick out all of the materials used. You have the final decision on the wood and fabrics utilized, and the result will be something of lasting quality. In contrast, ready-made furniture is often made using pressboard or plywood and will not have the same quality and durability as a custom piece. However, consider whether the furniture will be in an area of high traffic or have children or animals using it; in this instance, investing in something easily replaceable might be the best option. By its very design, ready-made furniture is also more lightweight and therefore easier to move.


Generally speaking, factory-produced, ready-made furniture will be available much more quickly, with wait times ranging from none to a couple of weeks, if you have selected a color or style not immediately in stock. Conversely, a custom-made item could take months or years depending on the popularity and schedules of the designer and carpenter. If your need is immediate, it’s clear that you cannot opt to wait for something to be custom-made. However, if you have the luxury of time, it’s worth evaluating whether purchasing something less expensive, but that may wear out and need replacing, truly saves more money in the long run.


When it comes to price, ready-made furniture will have more easily available replacement parts and typically cost less than having something made; although, not necessarily by as much as you might think. Built into the cost of ready-made furniture are the overheads of the cost of materials, running the factories, transportation, and profits made by the middlemen. Taking these things into account, you may find that having a custom-designed piece of furniture, of higher durability and quality, is not that much more expensive after all. Also, while ready-made furniture will only depreciate with time, a quality custom piece may turn out to be an investment that increases in value.

No matter your budget or furnishing needs, please contact us so that our team of experts can help you create the perfect balance between beauty and functionality.

Why Does a Good Restaurant Designer Cost So Much?

Why does a good restaurant designer cost so much? Why should you have to pay an architect or interior designer just for a consultation? After all, isn’t interior design simply a matter of picking color palettes and furniture that you like, putting it all together in one place and calling it a day?

Not exactly.

There’s a great deal more involved with interior design, and it can have far-reaching effects on your business. A study conducted in 2014 found that the interior design of a restaurant is one of the most important factors influencing customer satisfaction.

Your restaurant’s look and feel is a part of your brand, and you want to make sure that your restaurant’s atmosphere conveys exactly what you intend. You’ve probably noticed that different types of restaurants give you a different sort of feeling when you walk inside. Family establishments are typically large, open and noisy while more intimate establishments surround their patrons with softer, somber, quieter environs.

All of these factors, and more, are well within the realm of expertise for a good interior designer. It’s their job to listen to their clients’ wants and needs while providing them with the finest design that their space allows. They’ll consider the business’ theme, maximum occupancy, and ease of operation and put it all together to provide something both functionally effective and aesthetically pleasing to everyone involved. The benefit of a good designer is that your customers will not only be satisfied, but will keep coming back.

If you’d like additional information regarding designer cost or a consultation, please feel free to contact us any time!

Design Fees: Why are Interior Designers So Expensive?

While the titles Interior Decorator and Interior Designer are sometimes used interchangeably, they are distinctly different.

Interior Decorators use furniture, draperies, paint, and accessories to create an aesthetically pleasing space within an existing area. Interior Decorators do not structurally change the layout of a space, they embellish what is already there. They are often brought in after the Designer to finish the newly created space.

Interior Designers work with architects to solve structural layout difficulties to enhance the quality and functionality of a space. Oftentimes, this requires removing or adding walls, reconfiguring layouts, or completely restructuring a space.

Designers are skilled professionals who have completed many years and levels of schooling, training, internships, and testing. Most interior designers hold multiple degrees including interior design, business management, and construction management. They’ve completed courses in communications, architecture, building codes, construction, fabrics and textiles, and even advertising. They have passed countless exams and hold licenses and certifications.

While an Interior Decorator may choose to attend classes or obtain a certificate, they are not required to have formal training, licenses, or certifications.

In addition to being the creative vision behind the project, an interior designer must wear many other hats. Like the contractor on a building project, an interior designer is responsible for the planning, scheduling, execution, and progress of your project as well as ensuring that it stays within budget. Your designer must foresee and troubleshoot any problems that may arise. They must coordinate sub-tradesmen, ordering, deliveries, and inspections. They are responsible for obtaining permits, knowing building codes, and ensuring that all work is being done safely and legally.

Your interior designer is far more than a creative genius. Like any skilled professional, they have worked hard and long, sacrificing much, to become what they are. Like any skilled professional, doctor, lawyer, or executive, they are masters in every area of their field and deserving of the rates they charge.

If you are planning a renovation and are considering hiring an interior designer, contact us. Our highly skilled, professional interior designers will handle every aspect of your project, put your mind at ease, and make your dream a reality.