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.

See how Target’s new minimalist home goods line compares to Ikea and Muji products

When simple isn’t so simple

Target already has new in-house home goods lines for lovers of boho, midcentury modern, and Fixer Upper, and now it’s adding to the roster with Made by Design, a brand focusing on affordable, carefully considered basics. Launching in stores and online tomorrow, June 23, the line includes over 750 products spanning bedding, bath accessories, kitchenware, storage, and furniture; prices range from $1 to $260, with most items coming under $30.

The concept of well-designed essentials is, of course, nothing new. Snowe and Piaule are examples of new brands chasing this kind of vision. The overall look—clean-lined with lots of neutral tones—and the one-dollar-sign pricing of Target’s line also bring to mind a few older contenders: Ikea, long a household name, and Muji, which has been ramping up its global expansion.

To get a better sense of how these brands’ offerings differ (or not) from each other, we took a closer look at a few Made by Design products and their rough counterparts at Ikea and Muji.

 Target
Solid Soap/Lotion Dispenser (plastic), $13.
Voxnan soap dispenser (glass and stainless steel), $6.99.

The main design trick with these...


When simple isn’t so simple

Target already has new in-house home goods lines for lovers of boho, midcentury modern, and Fixer Upper, and now it’s adding to the roster with Made by Design, a brand focusing on affordable, carefully considered basics. Launching in stores and online tomorrow, June 23, the line includes over 750 products spanning bedding, bath accessories, kitchenware, storage, and furniture; prices range from $1 to $260, with most items coming under $30.

The concept of well-designed essentials is, of course, nothing new. Snowe and Piaule are examples of new brands chasing this kind of vision. The overall look—clean-lined with lots of neutral tones—and the one-dollar-sign pricing of Target’s line also bring to mind a few older contenders: Ikea, long a household name, and Muji, which has been ramping up its global expansion.

To get a better sense of how these brands’ offerings differ (or not) from each other, we took a closer look at a few Made by Design products and their rough counterparts at Ikea and Muji.

 Target
Solid Soap/Lotion Dispenser (plastic), $13.
Voxnan soap dispenser (glass and stainless steel), $6.99.

The main design trick with these soap dispensers is a wide opening for easy refills. Ikea has similar twist-off dispensers ranging from $1.49 to $9.99, but none with that oh-so-trendy all-black look. Muji’s soap dispenser, made of porcelain, is pristine but has a small opening.

 Target
3-Tier Utility Cart (metal), $30.
 Ikea
Råskog utility cart (steel), $24.99.

Ah, an Ikea classic gets the Target treatment. These look virtually the same, with four wheels, three tiers, and mesh bottoms for each section. Target’s is $5 more and for that you get handles on top (could be useful) and two can’t-go-wrong colors (gray and white).

 Target
Stackable Stemless Wine Glass, $11 for a set of 6.
 Ikea
Ikea 365+ glasses, $5.99 for a set of 6.

There’s no shortage of simple, affordable glasses at Ikea and Muji, but none seem to bring stackability to the elegant stemless wine glass—which is what Target is delivering. The stackable glasses at Ikea are for general beverage use, while its shorter, more rounded designs clearly state, “These glasses are not designed to be stacked.”

 Target
Natural Chairs (MDF composite), $100 for a set of 2.
 Ikea
Janinge chair (reinforced polypropylene), $49.

Ikea offers dining chairs galore, but we couldn’t find one that looks almost exactly like the new fiberboard chairs from Target (which is probably a good thing). Target’s chairs remind us of designs from Akron Street and Hedge House Furniture, which are made of solid wood and run in the $300s.

 Target
Beech Wood Spoon, $4.
 Ikea
Rört Beech Wood Spoon, $1.79.

A spoon is a spoon is a spoon, and all three brands we’re looking at here have beechwood spoons. Ikea’s is the most affordable at $1.79 and, for better or worse, has a straight edge instead of round and is flatter, like a spatula. Muji’s round spoon has a bit more depth and scoopability, like Target’s, but is smaller and pricier at $9.50.

We’ve highlighted just a very small sampling of products from all three stores, but this exercise suggests that there’s still nuance to “beautiful basics,” and for discerning shoppers, Target’s Made by Design line is another opportunity to find exactly what you want at an affordable price point.

When simple isn’t so simple

Target already has new in-house home goods lines for lovers of boho, midcentury modern, and Fixer Upper, and now it’s adding to the roster with Made by Design, a brand focusing on affordable, carefully considered basics. Launching in stores and online tomorrow, June 23, the line includes over 750 products spanning bedding, bath accessories, kitchenware, storage, and furniture; prices range from $1 to $260, with most items coming under $30.

The concept of well-designed essentials is, of course, nothing new. Snowe and Piaule are examples of new brands chasing this kind of vision. The overall look—clean-lined with lots of neutral tones—and the one-dollar-sign pricing of Target’s line also bring to mind a few older contenders: Ikea, long a household name, and Muji, which has been ramping up its global expansion.

To get a better sense of how these brands’ offerings differ (or not) from each other, we took a closer look at a few Made by Design products and their rough counterparts at Ikea and Muji.

 Target
Solid Soap/Lotion Dispenser (plastic), $13.
Voxnan soap dispenser (glass and stainless steel), $6.99.

The main design trick with these soap dispensers is a wide opening for easy refills. Ikea has similar twist-off dispensers ranging from $1.49 to $9.99, but none with that oh-so-trendy all-black look. Muji’s soap dispenser, made of porcelain, is pristine but has a small opening.

 Target
3-Tier Utility Cart (metal), $30.
 Ikea
Råskog utility cart (steel), $24.99.

Ah, an Ikea classic gets the Target treatment. These look virtually the same, with four wheels, three tiers, and mesh bottoms for each section. Target’s is $5 more and for that you get handles on top (could be useful) and two can’t-go-wrong colors (gray and white).

 Target
Stackable Stemless Wine Glass, $11 for a set of 6.
 Ikea
Ikea 365+ glasses, $5.99 for a set of 6.

There’s no shortage of simple, affordable glasses at Ikea and Muji, but none seem to bring stackability to the elegant stemless wine glass—which is what Target is delivering. The stackable glasses at Ikea are for general beverage use, while its shorter, more rounded designs clearly state, “These glasses are not designed to be stacked.”

 Target
Natural Chairs (MDF composite), $100 for a set of 2.
 Ikea
Janinge chair (reinforced polypropylene), $49.

Ikea offers dining chairs galore, but we couldn’t find one that looks almost exactly like the new fiberboard chairs from Target (which is probably a good thing). Target’s chairs remind us of designs from Akron Street and Hedge House Furniture, which are made of solid wood and run in the $300s.

 Target
Beech Wood Spoon, $4.
 Ikea
Rört Beech Wood Spoon, $1.79.

A spoon is a spoon is a spoon, and all three brands we’re looking at here have beechwood spoons. Ikea’s is the most affordable at $1.79 and, for better or worse, has a straight edge instead of round and is flatter, like a spatula. Muji’s round spoon has a bit more depth and scoopability, like Target’s, but is smaller and pricier at $9.50.

We’ve highlighted just a very small sampling of products from all three stores, but this exercise suggests that there’s still nuance to “beautiful basics,” and for discerning shoppers, Target’s Made by Design line is another opportunity to find exactly what you want at an affordable price point.


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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.