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A handcrafted home

Why you should opt for custom, handmade décor

Story By Michaela Satterfield

Many things may come to mind when considering what separates custom furniture or décor from their big-box alternatives. Cost, quality and uniqueness are important comparison points, but we bet there is one factor you didn’t think of – the story a piece tells. Cookie-cutter furniture or home décor tells the ho-hum story of a journey through a dim factory to a shelf. Things get a lot more interesting, however, when the piece sitting in your home journeyed through a family-run shop, with every step of its production fine-tuned by human hands. When crafted by a familiar creator, custom pieces tell a story about their creator and their buyer. Alison Fargione, the owner of Al & Harry’s Home Fashions in Bluffton, is a creator who designs handmade pieces that tell a story. After growing up with design-savvy parents and re-finishing furniture for friends for over 20 years, she opened the family-run business to bring a handmade touch to the Lowcountry. Here are her reasons for why you should choose custom made over factory made.

The perfect fit

Fargione says one advantage of choosing custom furniture or décor over factory-made options is you can make it fit your space instead of forcing whatever you can find into your home. This doesn’t just mean the size of the piece – it includes color and style, too. There are only so many options when choosing from a store shelf or catalog. Choosing custom means the design possibilities for your home are limitless. Every piece will look like it was meant to be there, with nothing even slightly off or out of place.

It’s all about the people

Buying furniture or décor from the big-box stores can be an impersonal experience. Shopping local is often the opposite. It’s not just about efficiency or money. Local store owners often take the time to have a conversation and make purchasing pieces for your home an experience. “We really care about the clients and making them happy,” Fargione says, “because we want them to come back.” Fargione says building relationships with customers is also key in figuring out what they really want for their design. 

Trusting the process

Custom furniture allows the buyer to be part of the process as it’s being made. Fargione says she gets customer input at different steps throughout the process to make sure she is creating exactly what they want. If they aren’t sure what they want at any stage of the process, that’s no problem either. “If they have trouble coming up with something,” Fargione says, “that’s where we can really step in and guide them.”

Bucking the trend

It can be hard to be original when trapped in the confines of what the chain stores offer. They’re trying to be trendy, but many people may want to bypass the trends when designing their home. Recent trends catching Fargione’s eye are light wood and mid-century modern pieces. However, she recommends designing your home based on what catches your eye – not just what’s in style. “Just because it’s a trend,” she says, “doesn’t mean you have to abandon what you really like.”

A personal reflection

Escaping the clutches of whatever is currently trending creates the opportunity to use your home to express your personality. Every choice you make about your custom pieces says something about you. Whether it means choosing accessories that relate to your hobbies or adding splashes of your favorite color to your furniture, your home would not be the same without your personal touch. Even if part of your home reflects what’s in style more than your own personal style, Fargione suggests you should still find some way to incorporate your own personal brand. “I still think there should be things in a home that really tell something about a person,” she says.

Tips to create a handcrafted home

Filling your home with custom pieces doesn’t happen overnight. Here are Fargione’s five simple tips to get started.

1. Start where the color is missing. Any space in your home that is a little lacking in color could be the perfect spot to add a custom piece. Add a hand-painted dresser or table to brighten a dull space with a pop of color.  

2. Start with one. Custom pieces can be more expensive, so Fargione suggests investing in one piece to get started. From there, you can gradually add in more handmade décor.

3. Start at the entryway. A great space in your home to place an eye-catching, handmade piece is at the entryway. This sets the tone for the whole home. “It kind of gives a little hint of what’s going to happen as you proceed through the house,” Fargione says.

4. Start small. Fargione says small spaces like powder rooms are great places to play with design. Colorful bathroom vanities can add bold color without stealing too much attention from the rest of your home.

5. Start by getting to know yourself. Before adding new pieces or swapping out old pieces, determine what style you really like. Do you like what’s trending, or would you rather fill your home with something more timeless? If you’re not sure, Fargione suggests using a mix. Incorporate trends with accessories that are easy to change out, but go with custom for the pieces that will be sticking around for a while.