Architects, designers, and end users may struggle finding the right fit for their projects interiors. In an effort to clarify which service works best for your project, we have laid out the differences between working with a millworker and a custom furniture manufacturer. Although they perform many parallel functions, there are many differences between the two disciplines.
Custom furniture and millwork have one thing in common; they are completely custom and often project based. Their fabrication and installation depend on the space provided by the client and is fabricated accordingly. Their main distinction is that millwork or cabinetry work is designed to be built into position one time, such as kitchens, built-ins, etc. They will install the piece on-site and once in place, that's it. Furniture on the other hand, needs to be built to survive constant repositioning, changing hands, being passed along from one person to the next for years on end, without working its way apart.
Throughout our 20+ years of experience in the furniture industry and working alongside millworkers, we have noticed that there is a foundational difference in the construction and fabrication of millwork and furniture. For most cabinetry, screw together construction will do the job. Custom furniture demands a more durable, permanent and elegant solution. Dovetails, custom fasteners, draw bolts, pinned mortise and tenon, among other techniques, are the secrets to building strong, durable pieces that will stand years of use and ensure a long life-span.
The quality of furniture is heavily dependent upon good design. Where a millworker could work with 1/16 inch error and draw it together with a screw or brad, a furniture designer would consider this a huge error. A millworker might also let a small cabinet door blemish go, however on a table top where people will be looking at it from different angles and different light, a blemish could be a glaring error. In furniture design, every joint, edge, and surface is taken into consideration. People will be touching and interacting with your work in public view every day. Where time was cost, now taking time to make things right is more important.
Below is an infographic representing foundational differences between millwork and custom furniture design.