Custom by design

by Laura Hay
Custom by design

Custom design can make a space much more interesting and unique. As designers, we are thrilled when a budget allows us to express our creativity through bespoke solutions for clients. In residential design, I focus on five areas to create maximum impact.

Kitchen millwork

The kitchen is the heart of the home, and needs to be well-planned and well-built. Customization delivers the best function and aesthetic, personal to the home and the client's tastes. From size and structure to colour and finish, you can control virtually every aspect of the kitchen. Beyond cabinets, consider customizing toe kicks, header details, door styles, range hood, shelving, interior fittings and hardware to transform the kitchen from ordinary to extraordinary. Many cabinet makers will collaborate on the details to find a cost-effective, yet custom solution for your client.

Principal bathroom vanities

The principal bathroom is a highly personal space, therefore the fit and finish should reflect a level of personalization that is not typical in other parts of the home. Custom elements may include storage recessed into the wall cavity, seated makeup area, jewellery storage, mirrors with LED screens, custom drawer and door components and custom faucets. Heights can also be customized. This is an area of the home that is used daily, therefore, investing in quality construction is important. Consider how moisture and potential leaks will affect the construction and choose wisely. Clients are demanding more creative solutions to vanities now too, such as refrigeration drawers for expensive face creams and eye treatments.

Built-in closets and storage

Custom closet systems may seem like a dream for many clients, but in reality, many are not expensive and they can maximize the design impact. Sized for the client's clothing (tall or short), single or double hanging rods, LED lighting, drawers, pull-out shelves or baskets, spaces for jewellery, watches or hidden safes for valuables all make great components in a custom closet. In recent years, kitchen companies have started offering custom closets, so the entire 'millwork suite' can match within the home. Most talented carpenters can also customize off-the-shelf components, such as IKEA, which offers a plethora of interior fittings at affordable prices.

Area rugs

A custom-made area rug that reinforces the design concept of an overall space is a luxury that is typically reserved for projects with extensive budgets. However, it can make a significant design impact, especially in large rooms. By having the rug made to measure, the space will look thoughtfully finished. Beyond size, you can customize everything from the colour and pattern to the materials used. From New Zealand wool to silk from Thailand, the possibilities for custom construction, size and colour are endless. On the more affordable side, many carpet companies will 'sculpt' or create patterned inserts and bind the edges to create more affordable options for projects.


If the client owns quality items, why not revive them? Having existing furniture or antiques reupholstered saves them from the landfill. It also helps tell the 'client story' by honouring the history of their previous choices. Mixing modern fabrics and antique furniture is always a great way to add whimsy to a space. Additionally, adding detailing such as nail heads, button tufting, pleats or tassels can bring new life to old pieces. Many upholsterers will collaborate with designers to find cost-effective ways that offer high impact. It is always a great idea to leverage their knowledge to create new and exciting solutions for clients.

Laura Hay

Laura Hay is the principal at LH Decor & Design Inc.

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