How to Work With a Custom Church Furniture Company
It’s a common occurrence. Your church facility needs to be expanded. A building committee is formed, architects are chosen, and the fundraising begins. Work begins, and six months from dedication, there has been no thought to the furnishings.
What to do? Whip out a catalog or go on the Internet and buy some stuff off the shelf. All that time and money put into creating a beautiful space for the glory of God and the furniture looks just like everyone else’s, with no connection whatsoever to the interior space.
But isn’t it hard to work with a custom designer? Aren’t they much more expensive? It doesn’t have to be.
Just about anyone can make a nice piece of furniture. Designing worship space is much more than that. Extreme care must be taken in the conceptualization, design, placement and flow of worship space and liturgical furnishings. Liturgical design must not be left up to the personal taste of the pastor or the loudest building committee member, but instead must be solidly based upon approved guidelines and a strong foundation in the theology of worship. Liturgical furnishings should function for their intended purpose but not impose themselves upon the senses. What’s important is what is taking place in the space and on the furniture, not the furniture itself.
The most beautiful furnishings in the world are worthless if they don’t hold up to the rigors of constant use. On the other hand, purely functional pieces can be really boring. A good designer maintains a balance among beautiful design, high quality construction, fit and finish. A good fabricator must make exceptional quality furnishings, built to last a lifetime. And, you’ll be surprised at how affordable it all is.
The biggest mistake is when churches design the interior of the building without taking the furnishing design into consideration. That doesn’t mean that the architect should necessarily design the furnishings. Some are proficient at it, but most are not. Get the designer involved from the beginning. Some designers simply design. Others design and educate. A few can do it all and can help guide you through the entire process of programming, choosing the architect, community education, design and fabrication.
Do Your Homework
Visit nearby churches, and not just those from your own denomination. Talk to the pastor and staff to discover what went right and what went wrong with their project. Ask for referrals.
Check out the internet. Google “Custom church furnishings”, not just “Custom furnishings” because you need to narrow your search down to those companies who have an in-depth knowledge of the complexities and history of church furnishings. Go to their websites to see examples of their work and to find their statement of design philosophy. Don’t expect to necessarily see exactly the furniture you want. Remember that these are not catalog houses. Many designers have specific styles they specialize in. Others are more flexible. Look for a sense of the mystery of God in their work. Check out their quality and choice of materials and colors. Check their references.
Write a Good Contract
Be forthcoming with your designer. Give him or her access to your architectural plans and specifications. Be specific about what you expect to receive for your money. What is the scope of the job? How will they be compensated? Some designers charge up front for their designs, and some include it in the fabrication cost. Some will charge you up front and then rebate the fees back to you once the job is completed. Either way, lay it all out on paper without getting too complicated.
Develop a Plan
Have the designer develop a design plan, timeline and budget that he can present to the church community. The entire community should understand the thinking and the processes involved. Set up easily understandable milestones and then meet regularly to see the progress being made.
Work the Plan
Assign one person from the building committee to be the point person for communicating with the designer. Work out what you want ahead of time and then have your spokesperson communicate it to the designer in writing.
There will always need to be changes made. Allow the designer to be flexible in the fabrication of the pieces. Sometimes they won’t know a change is needed until the actual pieces are being made. Usually the changes needed to be made will not adversely affect the overall design, quality or budget.
Just because you have paid your designer/fabricator doesn’t mean he or she wouldn’t like to hear your praise.
This article is courtesy of Tekton Woodworks, www.tektonwoodworks.com.