The Custom Furniture Business: Creating Beautiful and Timeless Designs
Small businesses are the soul of America

More people are interested in buying locally made products than ever before. You can capitalize on many consumers’ return to local shopping by emphasizing that all components of your furniture are made in the United States, or in your town or area. The same applies to handmade goods. Individuals who are tired of mass-produced goods are often the same people who are interested in buying locally. Given this climate, it is a good time to start a handmade furniture business.

These Art Deco candleholders are like little brass sculptures

In a future-obsessed world, it’s a bit of classic beauty

I’ve always had a soft spot for stuff designed for World’s Fairs. Not all the space-age technology of the future so much as the little things: zippers, Cherry Coke, that “There’s a place in France where the naked ladies dance” tune.

And the whole notion of international pavilions is just so endearing—the idea of a nation sending the best it’s got to represent itself to other cultures, like a food and design olympics!

So, obviously, I’m in love with the fact that the now-iconic “Liljan” candleholder was designed by Swedish artist Ivar Ålenius-Björk for the Scandinavian Pavilion of the 1939 New York World’s Fair. Ålenius-Björk was primarily known as a portrait sculptor—his statues and busts can still be seen all over Sweden—but he also designed candlesticks for the manufacturer Ystad-Metall.

 Skultuna

As the year might suggest, the candleholder is a classic of Art Deco design. Not for nothing was the fair’s motto “the world of tomorrow.” But it’s a stylized beauty that has withstood the test of time as the best pieces do, blending with other good designs, holding its own, and appealing as much as a design object as an...


In a future-obsessed world, it’s a bit of classic beauty

I’ve always had a soft spot for stuff designed for World’s Fairs. Not all the space-age technology of the future so much as the little things: zippers, Cherry Coke, that “There’s a place in France where the naked ladies dance” tune.

And the whole notion of international pavilions is just so endearing—the idea of a nation sending the best it’s got to represent itself to other cultures, like a food and design olympics!

So, obviously, I’m in love with the fact that the now-iconic “Liljan” candleholder was designed by Swedish artist Ivar Ålenius-Björk for the Scandinavian Pavilion of the 1939 New York World’s Fair. Ålenius-Björk was primarily known as a portrait sculptor—his statues and busts can still be seen all over Sweden—but he also designed candlesticks for the manufacturer Ystad-Metall.

 Skultuna

As the year might suggest, the candleholder is a classic of Art Deco design. Not for nothing was the fair’s motto “the world of tomorrow.” But it’s a stylized beauty that has withstood the test of time as the best pieces do, blending with other good designs, holding its own, and appealing as much as a design object as an icon of a specific era.

The truth is, I didn’t know any of the history when I acquired mine: I just thought it was beautiful. My grandfather, who had a magpie-like lust for anything brassy and shiny, picked up the pair at a yard sale and asked me if I’d like to have them.

Years later, I display them on my table every day and light candles in them most evenings. The name is Swedish for “lily,” and the design imitates the leaves of a flower. When you add a candle (I especially like a pale green one) the effect is that of a stem. It’s graceful and minimal, decorative and discreet, all at once.

A recent reissue, made by the Swedish company Skultuna, is identical to the original, save in one respect: It comes with a little removable bud vase. I was so inspired by this that I went out and found a beaker of the right dimensions—perfect for an economical single stem. In the world of tomorrow, it’s a bit of classic beauty.

In a future-obsessed world, it’s a bit of classic beauty

I’ve always had a soft spot for stuff designed for World’s Fairs. Not all the space-age technology of the future so much as the little things: zippers, Cherry Coke, that “There’s a place in France where the naked ladies dance” tune.

And the whole notion of international pavilions is just so endearing—the idea of a nation sending the best it’s got to represent itself to other cultures, like a food and design olympics!

So, obviously, I’m in love with the fact that the now-iconic “Liljan” candleholder was designed by Swedish artist Ivar Ålenius-Björk for the Scandinavian Pavilion of the 1939 New York World’s Fair. Ålenius-Björk was primarily known as a portrait sculptor—his statues and busts can still be seen all over Sweden—but he also designed candlesticks for the manufacturer Ystad-Metall.

 Skultuna

As the year might suggest, the candleholder is a classic of Art Deco design. Not for nothing was the fair’s motto “the world of tomorrow.” But it’s a stylized beauty that has withstood the test of time as the best pieces do, blending with other good designs, holding its own, and appealing as much as a design object as an icon of a specific era.

The truth is, I didn’t know any of the history when I acquired mine: I just thought it was beautiful. My grandfather, who had a magpie-like lust for anything brassy and shiny, picked up the pair at a yard sale and asked me if I’d like to have them.

Years later, I display them on my table every day and light candles in them most evenings. The name is Swedish for “lily,” and the design imitates the leaves of a flower. When you add a candle (I especially like a pale green one) the effect is that of a stem. It’s graceful and minimal, decorative and discreet, all at once.

A recent reissue, made by the Swedish company Skultuna, is identical to the original, save in one respect: It comes with a little removable bud vase. I was so inspired by this that I went out and found a beaker of the right dimensions—perfect for an economical single stem. In the world of tomorrow, it’s a bit of classic beauty.


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Give your business a name. Name your business something that indicates what you sell. This will come in handy later on, when you are marketing your business and want people to associate your business name with handmade furniture.
File a DBA, which stands for “doing business as,” at your local county clerk’s office. You may want to do a search to ensure that no other business in your town is operating under the same name. If you live in a large metropolitan area, a search is a necessity.
Create a line of furniture. You’ll need to have models of each piece of furniture that you intend to sell, so that customers can easily visualize what you have to offer. Add to your furniture line each year so that your stock stays fresh and on-trend.