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.

I’ve had this midcentury dining set for decades—and I’m still obsessed 

Illustration of a curved wooden chair with cream and black patterned upholstery, against a dark green background with black swirls.

I’ll give it a refresh but never break it up

As a kid, I would read midcentury design books and magazines my parents had lying around, taking note of the pristine rooms styled just so, with floor-to-ceiling windows, teak wood polished to a semi-gloss shine, and all the right accessories (sculptural mod candlesticks! Macramé hanging planters! Riotously colorful art!). I remember thinking that someday I, too, could have a house like that.

What I didn’t know at the time was that many of the homes in those publications are rare, historic, or just plain expensive—so no, I’m not living in an Eichler or Frey just yet.

But my love of midcentury modern design is well alive, and it all started with one piece of furniture: a Danish dining set that I inherited from my parents.

A chair with semi-circular wooden back and cream-colored cushioned seat with black dot pattern.Erin Lawrence
My love of midcentury design hasn’t just filled my home, it’s also led me to start a tour company so I can share my passion for this era and aesthetic with visitors to the midcentury mecca of Palm Springs, California.

The oval table seats four to 12 people with extra leaves and comes with “Made in Denmark, Gudme Møbelfabrik” stamped underneath; Gudme Møbelfabrik was a midcentury Danish...


Illustration of a curved wooden chair with cream and black patterned upholstery, against a dark green background with black swirls.

I’ll give it a refresh but never break it up

As a kid, I would read midcentury design books and magazines my parents had lying around, taking note of the pristine rooms styled just so, with floor-to-ceiling windows, teak wood polished to a semi-gloss shine, and all the right accessories (sculptural mod candlesticks! Macramé hanging planters! Riotously colorful art!). I remember thinking that someday I, too, could have a house like that.

What I didn’t know at the time was that many of the homes in those publications are rare, historic, or just plain expensive—so no, I’m not living in an Eichler or Frey just yet.

But my love of midcentury modern design is well alive, and it all started with one piece of furniture: a Danish dining set that I inherited from my parents.

A chair with semi-circular wooden back and cream-colored cushioned seat with black dot pattern.Erin Lawrence
My love of midcentury design hasn’t just filled my home, it’s also led me to start a tour company so I can share my passion for this era and aesthetic with visitors to the midcentury mecca of Palm Springs, California.

The oval table seats four to 12 people with extra leaves and comes with “Made in Denmark, Gudme Møbelfabrik” stamped underneath; Gudme Møbelfabrik was a midcentury Danish furniture maker, and similar tables can still be sourced on 1stdibs.

The six accompanying chairs, I learned, are much harder to find. Despite my infatuation with scouring the internet for vintage teak furniture, I’ve never seen chairs like these. They’re round with semi-circular backs that stretch to encircling arms, tiny lumbar cushions, and smooth, spindly legs.

As a child, they were fun. As a teen sitting across the table from my parents at family dinner, they were uncomfortable, though perhaps that had more to do with our conversations around that time. As an adult, I see them as art.

The chairs have lived many lives, including an ill-advised year wrapped in a light black silk. When I started looking for new fabric, I knew exactly what I wanted, but a cursory Google search for “midcentury starburst” led me in a more hokey direction. After browsing hundreds of image search results, I finally found exactly what I’d seen in my mind’s eye, and placed an order for a circa-1947 Charles and Ray Eames dot pattern textile, now produced by Maharam.

An oval wooden dining table is surrounded by wooden chairs with cream cushions and white curved plastic chairs.Erin Lawrence
I thought the set finally met its end during a move 10 years ago when the table, with legs removed, rolled off a moving truck ramp, splintering like kindling. Luckily, a furniture restoration specialist (on the moving company’s dime) returned it looking like nothing ever happened.

Since I’ve been sitting on these very same chairs for four decades, last year I started started thinking I should change things up even more.

I couldn’t bear to part with the set or break it up, so instead I decided to expand my midcentury collection and added two gleaming white Panton chairs to the mix. I love how they add a different texture and some bright liveliness to all the wood.

Despite its rich design pedigree, my evolving dining set is no museum piece. It’s one of the first things I see each day and a remarkable backdrop to every meal at home.

Erin Lawrence is a journalist and freelance writer with a fascination for architecture, design, food, and technology. A trained silversmith and jewelry professional, Erin makes sterling silver and gemstone jewelry in her free time.

Illustration of a curved wooden chair with cream and black patterned upholstery, against a dark green background with black swirls.

I’ll give it a refresh but never break it up

As a kid, I would read midcentury design books and magazines my parents had lying around, taking note of the pristine rooms styled just so, with floor-to-ceiling windows, teak wood polished to a semi-gloss shine, and all the right accessories (sculptural mod candlesticks! Macramé hanging planters! Riotously colorful art!). I remember thinking that someday I, too, could have a house like that.

What I didn’t know at the time was that many of the homes in those publications are rare, historic, or just plain expensive—so no, I’m not living in an Eichler or Frey just yet.

But my love of midcentury modern design is well alive, and it all started with one piece of furniture: a Danish dining set that I inherited from my parents.

A chair with semi-circular wooden back and cream-colored cushioned seat with black dot pattern.Erin Lawrence
My love of midcentury design hasn’t just filled my home, it’s also led me to start a tour company so I can share my passion for this era and aesthetic with visitors to the midcentury mecca of Palm Springs, California.

The oval table seats four to 12 people with extra leaves and comes with “Made in Denmark, Gudme Møbelfabrik” stamped underneath; Gudme Møbelfabrik was a midcentury Danish furniture maker, and similar tables can still be sourced on 1stdibs.

The six accompanying chairs, I learned, are much harder to find. Despite my infatuation with scouring the internet for vintage teak furniture, I’ve never seen chairs like these. They’re round with semi-circular backs that stretch to encircling arms, tiny lumbar cushions, and smooth, spindly legs.

As a child, they were fun. As a teen sitting across the table from my parents at family dinner, they were uncomfortable, though perhaps that had more to do with our conversations around that time. As an adult, I see them as art.

The chairs have lived many lives, including an ill-advised year wrapped in a light black silk. When I started looking for new fabric, I knew exactly what I wanted, but a cursory Google search for “midcentury starburst” led me in a more hokey direction. After browsing hundreds of image search results, I finally found exactly what I’d seen in my mind’s eye, and placed an order for a circa-1947 Charles and Ray Eames dot pattern textile, now produced by Maharam.

An oval wooden dining table is surrounded by wooden chairs with cream cushions and white curved plastic chairs.Erin Lawrence
I thought the set finally met its end during a move 10 years ago when the table, with legs removed, rolled off a moving truck ramp, splintering like kindling. Luckily, a furniture restoration specialist (on the moving company’s dime) returned it looking like nothing ever happened.

Since I’ve been sitting on these very same chairs for four decades, last year I started started thinking I should change things up even more.

I couldn’t bear to part with the set or break it up, so instead I decided to expand my midcentury collection and added two gleaming white Panton chairs to the mix. I love how they add a different texture and some bright liveliness to all the wood.

Despite its rich design pedigree, my evolving dining set is no museum piece. It’s one of the first things I see each day and a remarkable backdrop to every meal at home.

Erin Lawrence is a journalist and freelance writer with a fascination for architecture, design, food, and technology. A trained silversmith and jewelry professional, Erin makes sterling silver and gemstone jewelry in her free time.


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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.