Furniture: Custom vs. Retail


There is a moment in most projects when clients ask me why they shouldn’t just go to a retail store and get a chair in the same style as the wing chair I will custom make for them.  I have a long list of answers.

It’s not always cheaper.  For example I have had clients that went with cheaper dining chairs for $500 each instead of the hand selected antiques with custom fabric for double that price.  I agree that in the beginning it seems like a reasonable way to save a dime.  However, those same clients, within a year or two found their chairs were so worn out they had to be replaced.  My argument is why not just spend the extra money in the beginning for a higher quality chair that will last for many years and does not need to be replaced?  Investing in custom pieces saves you money in the long run.


It maximizes your space.  One of the greatest parts about the design process and making custom pieces is that a designer comes into your space, measures and then draws up a floor plan.  Then we work on finding and creating pieces that fit the floor plan perfectly.  Designers are trained to be visual artists who see the room as a whole and not in bits and pieces.  It’s like a puzzle and we are able to see how pieces fit together and make the room whole. The arm chair with the style you like at a retailer might be oversized for your sitting room.  It makes sense to invest in high quality pieces with dimensions that fit the space.   If you are going to pay a designer, have them build custom pieces that fit the space and makes your home as efficient and well planned as possible.

You get to choose from the finest fabrics. If you have ever spent time searching on a retail site for a couch or piece of furniture you know that the fabric selections are limited.  Colors like “pebble” “twill” “oatmeal” or “granite” will only get you so far.  When working with a designer and create custom furniture the fabric options are endless.  Most designers have an entire library of books filled with rainbows of fabric.  Using custom fabric ensures that each piece is unique and work with the color palette your designer has selected for the room or project.



Custom furniture is unique.  After a horrible windstorm in my city, there were many fallen trees.  One of my vendors used a fallen oak tree to make gorgeous custom pieces for several of my clients.  This is why having a designer is so valuable.  They can find or make pieces that are one of a kind, timeless and priceless.  Also, most designers have vendors they have worked with for years.  Because they have built these relationships, it’s easy for them to bring any number of ideas to the upholsterer, furniture maker, and lamp fabricator and make any clients vision come to life.

Each piece is crafted and delivered with care.   I am sure you all have had the experience of the “white glove service” stomping in your house with dirty shoes, dinging the door frame and dropping the sofa on your floors.  It is very stressful.  Most designers have a team of people who not only craft and create the products but when they are done wrap them, store them and deliver them to your home unscathed.  Hiring a designer means not having to worry about the details and that is priceless.

Shopping Tips for Antique Stores

The Art of the Deal

Antique stores typically consist of multiple dealers inside a common building referred to as “the house.” Find out what days your favorite dealers are present in their space. It is easier to buy and negotiate pricing directly. Price negotiating is common and in most instances expected. I suggest asking for a “final” price, but be respectful of dealers once they give their final price. Everyone has to make a living and grinding dealers down so they make no money is obnoxious. Remember what goes around comes around. Another way to negotiate pricing is to leave a message or note for a dealer offering a price on a particular item. Leave contact information and welcome their call if they accept the offer. This is a more civil way to negotiate and gives the dealer the opportunity to accept or prepare a counter offer. Remember you are more likely to get a break in pricing if you are a frequent customer and have cash.







Buyer Beware

Check the merchandise carefully, but be accepting of “antique character.” For me, the purpose of shopping in an antique store is to find something unique. Since I am in the business of creating custom environments, for me it’s time well spent searching the cluttered isles and corners of antique stores. I have found so many gems this way and consider it almost sport to find that special piece that will add distinction and patina to a room. Antique pieces have scratches, dings, and wobbly legs. If you are looking for a pristine piece of furniture, buy an antique and have it restored. Do not haggle over price due to the character marks on a table or the wobbly leg on a chair. You will only reveal yourself to be a novice and annoy the dealer. I do suggest asking about fumigation of old wood pieces that have a rustic quality. Pests, like wood-boring beetles, are a valid concern. You should learn how to spot active beetle holes and have a conversation about remediation should this occur with a piece you bring home. When shopping antique stores it’s best to consider yourself to be the new guardian of an antique piece of furniture and commit to its care or restoration.


 The Educated Consumer

Define your objective and do your homework. If you are looking for a specific piece you should do your research first. For example, look into markings, dates, and value of what you are looking for. You are more likely to find what you want at a fair price if you know a little about what you are looking for. An educated consumer keeps everyone honest and is more likely to lead to a satisfactory transaction. Consult trusted dealers, read about furniture styles online and in catalogs, and finally reach out to auction houses. There are usually experts that are associated with auction houses that can give you details about what you are looking for.  Happy antiquing and most importantly, wear comfortable shoes!











New Website + New Office Space = Inspiring New Possibilities

I don’t know about you, but I love the prospect of new spaces. Whether it’s just a little nook, a whole room or an entire building, a world of exciting possibilities awaits. There’s just something irresistible about a blank decorating slate that gets my creative heart pumping.

Japanese Modern

Rather than approach such change with fear and trepidation, I embrace it. It empowers me to push my talents to the limits, to suffuse my surroundings with so much inspiration that I can’t help but be anything other than inspired.

That’s the situation I’m finding myself in right now … and not just once but twice … as Charmean Neithart Interiors finds a new home both on the web and in its day to day operations. And I couldn’t be more thrilled about this double transformation transpiring around me.

We have just launched a totally new web redesign ( that incorporates a little piece of my decorating heart into each one of its beautiful pages. To go along with our new online presence, we’re also just moved into a new physical office space.

Japanese Modern

Change can be scary but it can also be invigorating.  Both of these sensations are important motivators.  They encourage us to step out of our comfort zones and become everything—and more—we ever dreamed we could be. I’d love to help you design your own new inspiring place as I settle into my own.

Contact Charmean at (626) 441-4288 to create a new space that opens up a world of inspiring new possibilities. 

Fashionably private bathrooms

Screens, walls and dividers offer just the right privacy level for your loo.

I’d like to think I have a close family: husband, three kids, one dog — and we are always together. However, there is one thing I’d rather not share … yup, the bathroom.

I know it’s TMI (too much information), but can we please talk about toilet time? I want to be left alone when I’m in the bathroom, and for some reason that is easier said than done. Yes, apparently this room too must be shared.


Bathrooms – the most popular room in the house or hideout?

Have you ever noticed that your family suddenly needs you when you’re in the bathroom? My husband has some cosmic ability to always call my cell phone as soon as I close the door. (I know, it’s my fault for having my cell phone with me.)

It’s common for one of my kids to walk in to ask if I have seen a missing shoe. Even my dog is very curious about what I’m doing when I shut the door. He waits right outside trying to nudge it open with his nose. He then stares at me when I come out, as if to say, “What was that all about?”

Remember, you can always use that lock on the door.

See designers figured out how to make bathrooms more private for toilet time.

Contact Charmean, (626) 441-4288 to design a private and functional bathroom the whole family can use.

Skin-deep beauty of marquetry furniture

When I’m shopping for special pieces for a project, I always keep my eyes open for marquetry furniture.  This veneer-surfaced furniture with inlaid patterns creates a deeply elegant look.

Marquetry is the art of applied veneer, usually wood, in a pattern or picture. The art form of marquetry is similar, but not the same as parquetry, which is wood inlaid in a geometric pattern, most commonly seen in floors. I love using marquetry pieces for their textural qualities, which include a multitude of colors and wood grains.

There are so many options that the level of artistry is up to you, making this furniture a good fit for a traditional, art deco or contemporary home.

French Colonial Living Room


Marquetry furniture favorites

My favorite pieces are French and Italian, which typically show flowers, instruments and sometimes even landscape scenes, all made from wood veneer.

The materials include mahogany, walnut or maple, as well as more unusual materials, like ebony, ivory and mother of pearl.

Marquetry is a beautiful art form that requires hours of precise cutting and application. The outcome is usually an heirloom-worthy piece that adds a touch of distinction to a traditional or eclectic room.

See with nine photos of marquetry furniture in minimalist modern and layered luxurious rooms.

Contact Charmean, (626) 441-4288 to marquetry furniture for your elegant room.