Interior Design Using Local Craftspeople

The biggest trend I have seen lately is the desire to create unique, custom spaces using local (island) artisans on a shoestring budget. It sounds so dreamy, so down to earth and homey, doesn’t it? And, I’m sure we have heard several stories where people did this.

As with most of my blog posts, I am here to deliver a dose of reality.

These projects did not include a design professional. Well, maybe it was a close friend who owed them a huge (and I’m talking monumental) favor. Design is exhausting. It is rewarding, but highly detailed work that requires many revisions, reworking, verifying, phone calls, sleepless nights and many, many hours of time that go unbilled (which is why we’ve moved to a flat fee basis). So, if anyone says their designer did work for nothing or very little, someone owes them an organ on their death bed.

The local artisans used in these dreamy articles are oftentimes the owner themselves, the owner’s brother/sister, etc. They may have donated time for charity or done it at a discount in exchange for marketing (arranged in advance with evidence as payment by the owner). That artisan work is usually going to come at a much higher cost than a store-bought item.

When I hear about inexpensive, locally crafted items, I am saddened that a creative professional has been taken advantage of… again. I will take no part in this to give a home that extra something for a photography shoot.

Now that we see the cost (financially and morally) of local artist work making up our interiors and architecture, the next consideration is availability. We live on an island with fantastically creative and talented individuals.

When I design cabinets, I am working with one of two one-person cabinet shops to custom-build your cabinets. Very little, if anything, is ordered. They BUILD it in their shop. Custom. That’s pretty artisan and custom, and honestly, their pricing is amazing. I have often asked them to remember to include enough to feed their families!

Furniture ordered through us is built by a network of manufacturers in California. I use these manufacturers because they can provide the level of customization, safety, and health requirements I hold. The furniture is designed by a local artist… me.

Let’s talk about the requirements for a home and the products we have on the island though. Typical items I specify include lighting, cabinet hardware, wall finishes, flooring, cabinet hardware, door hardware, plumbing fixtures, and appliances. Part of what I do is making sure these items meet safety and function regulations, that they are warrantied, and that the manufacturer still exists!

Sure, you can buy these items by some local craftsperson or on Etsy, but will the lamps you chose for the bathroom vanity be UL Rated? Are they also damp-rated? Are these attached to the wall and if you want a sconce to face up instead of down like the photo, is it safe to change the orientation? I may have a limited selection that I work with… but they are safe, they are beautiful, they are well-crafted, warrantied, and will last. Every product I specify has standards that are required to be met. Flooring should be slip-rated and the appropriate thickness for the location. Plumbing fixtures need to not contain lead, have low-flow energy efficient requirements, and the manufacturer needs to still be in business!!

So, while it’s fun to dream of a community of local artisans coming together to create a custom space that is one-of-a-kind in every minute detail, know that this takes time and money… lots of it!