Tuesday, 27 August 2019 / London, UK


Although my dining room reveal vol. 2 is not quite ready yet (I'm still waiting for 2 more chairs and a rug, plus some new accessories) I thought I'd share the whole buying a custom table process with you, especially since I've gotten so many questions about it on Instagram. So, yes I have just bought my first piece of custom furniture for our home (gosh, I feel like such a grown up saying that!) and gone are those good old Ikea days. Just kidding. I still like Ikea too! But buying my first piece of custom furniture has been kind of eye opening. First of all, the whole process of getting a custom dining table was fascinating. The best part is that I got to design our new dining table all by myself (with a little help from Will of course).

So, who's Will? I hear you ask. Check my previous post here for details but in short I commissioned  Will from the Urban Workshop to build my dream dining table back in May. So how did it all start? In instagram would you believe. Yes there's more to Instagram than just overly filtered photos and tropical sunsets. I struggled to find a wooden table I liked on the high street and posted quite a few stories about my dining room dilemma on Instagram. Will saw my stories and got in touch. I really liked his work and after messaging about 20 times (I'm hard to win over) I commissioned him to build my dream dining table. I asked him loads of questions and it was his knowledge and attention to detail in wood working that convinced me to go ahead. And I'm very glad that I did by the way..

My experience getting a custom wood table is very specific to dealing with The Urban Workshop but I'm sure the process wouldn't be massively different if you commissioned another artisan to build your dream table.

So here's how it works..

1) Contact Will and discuss your design brief

If you already have a design in mind (like I did) this whole thing is going to be a piece of cake. But Will is also a designer and he can design a bespoke table for you if you haven't quite made up your mind yet. You can send Will some photos or a pinterest board as a starting point. This is also a good time to discuss the size of the furniture (or table in this case) and the materials you're after. Exotic woods are far more expensive than other hardwoods like oak or ash for example and Will can give you different quotes based on your spec. You should also discuss your lifestyle at this point. Do you have children? Is the table going to be used frequently or only on rare occasions? Will can advice you what is the best material for your needs and how to look after the table afterwards. For example we have young children so my big concern was spillages and scruffs on the table. Will ensured me that hardwood (like oak or ash) is the way to go since it can be oiled and protected. If the worst is to happen it can be sanded down and reoiled to remove any marks. Happy days!

2) 3D Design

Sometimes it can be hard to envision what a custom table will look like in real life. This is why a 3D design is a 'must' before you go ahead with the plan. Before Will starts working on the first draft you'll need to pay the deposit of £250. This will be deducted from the final price if you do decide to go with him. All the 3D designs will be in CAD form and you can have up to 2 revisions before it starts costing you more. You'll be charged £50/hour for any additional revisions. I'd personally wait until you know what you want as this could end up costing you quite a bit more. But seeing the design in 3D is super helpful. Make sure to include any chairs you'd like to pair with the table so you can see the big picture before going ahead.

3) Samples

After I agreed on the design Will sent me some wood samples. I couldn't decide between ash and oak and it was super helpful to see some samples in flesh. All the wood samples were pre-treated (oiled) to a type of finish I requested which was very useful. In the end I loved white ash the most. It was a lot lighter than any other wood we have in the house which is exactly what I wanted.

Will also sent me some metal samples for the legs. I spotted the elegant spider legs design on Pinterest a while ago and immediately fell in love with it. I love the contrast of black against white wood which is why I opted for powder coated black metal. The finish I chose was called sand. It's quite matte and very hard wearing.

4) Second payment (50% of the total)

I had to pay the second instalment before Will went to pick up the wood  (the deposit was deducted from this).  All the wood Will uses is sourced locally in the UK. I was very pleased he chose English ash for our new dining table. The table actually consist of wood planks but they are glued together. He finished the table so well you cannot really see the seams at all.

5) Building the table

Building a table like this takes app. 4-8 weeks depending on how many other commissions Will has at the time. This includes the design process, choosing the materials and the actual manual labour it takes to build a table. It took quite a bit longer for me (we started talking in April-May) because I took ages to decide on the materials. If you know exactly what you want it can be done in 4 weeks,  especially if the design is quite simple. Will kept sending me pictures of the progress and I followed his insta stories closely to see where we were at. He is based in central London so it may be even possible to go and see the table in the making if you're London based.

6) Oiling the table

Once the table was built it was time to give it a protective coating. All wood dining tables should be protected before using them. I prefer oil over lacquer but it totally depends on your style and the type of wood you have. The table was sanded down before the oiling and the best part is that this can be repeated multiple times if needed. I was so relieved Will was doing all the oiling as this really determines the shade of the wood. White ash is also often bleached before it's oiled to achieve the light wood effect. Will used Osmo oil on the wood and I think he must have applied about 20 coats of it. I also didn't realise you need to wait 2 weeks before the oil is fully absorbed to the table (and the table is protected).

7) Delivery

Will contacted me about a week before to confirm the delivery date/time and invoiced me the final remaining amount (which needs to be paid before delivery). The delivery is free within London by the way. If you live outside London you may want to get a quote from him first. It took him app. 20 minutes to set it all up as the base needed to be fixed onto the table with screws.

8) Aftercare

If you're buying a custom wood table the chances are that it's a long term purchase, right? Which means that you should also remember to look after it. Luckily my table was protected (oiled) when it arrived but you still need to remember to care for it afterwards. This means cleaning spillages immediately and remembering to wipe clean it regularly with a soft cloth. You shouldn't use harsh chemicals on wood as it can penetrate the wood and damage it. Will left me a leaflet with some instructions which has been very helpful. I also know that if I do have any questions or need to have the table reoiled at some point I can contact Will to get it done. Apparently it's quite easy to sand it down and oil it but since I haven't done it myself I don't really want to comment on it yet. I promise to keep you posted though.

Buying a custom wood table can feel quite risky I get it. I mean you can't just send it back if you change your mind which is why I would not buy one without a 3D design. I was a little nervous too but Wills knowledge and great customer service skills put me at ease. I love that the table is made in London and that's it's made of English ash wood. I also love that I have supported a small local business rather than a big corporation. This is our long term table and my plan is that it grows with us to our next house if we ever move. I don't see myself parting with this table anytime soon (if ever!) but if I do I would absolutely get a another custom table again. It feels so much more personal and unique and I know there is no table exactly like this in the world.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me. Large 8-seater table like this (200 cm x 93 cm) starts from £1425 depending on the materials. Oak is a bit more expensive than ash but the difference isn't huge. Fancier base and colours (gold, brass etc) will also bring the price up so it's worth getting a few different quotes before going ahead. I cannot recommend Will enough. He is very competitively priced and his wood working skills are superb. Make sure you trust the person who is making your table and that they listen to you. You will have to live with the table for a reasonably long time and should love the finished product 100%

I cannot wait to reveal our dining room makeover on the blog very soon!


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