Mexico is home to some very talented and creative artisans and craftsman who turn wood, bamboo, stone, rattan and other natural materials into beautifully crafted furnishings to fit your individual style, taste, budget and more importantly; measurements. The beauty of custom-built furnishings you can build to fit exactly the spaces and contours of each room and area within your home.
While most of us lean towards buying ready-made furnishings from our local Pottery Barn or Restoration Hardware, here we are limited in our store-bought options. However, you can have just about anything built to fit and probably at a fraction of what these similar pieces would cost you in a fancy home decorating store. Of course, it helps to have a bit of imagination and the ability to visualize the piece, its design and materials and more importantly where and how it will fit in with your décor.
The best way to begin conjuring up your new table, bed frame, entertainment center, cabinetry, etc. is to start looking through decorating magazines, catalogs and on even the internet as a source of inspiration. Start out with some basic ideas of style, design and materials. Photocopy or tag pages from home decorating magazines and interior design books so you have an idea of your aesthetic and can decide what material to use.
Once you have a more concrete idea, a simple room layout or sketch will suffice; be sure to take accurate measurements so you know how much space you have to work with. You can fill the room with representations of each piece of furnishing; it doesn’t have to be too detailed, just to give you an idea of how your furniture will fit together and get you closer to the ideal size and location of each piece. You can either work independently or with a home decorating professional in order to come up with a plan that fits your style and interior space.
Using your room basic layout, you can start to think about materials for each piece; wood, bamboo, upholstered, rattan, wicker, iron, leather, glass, stone … the list goes only as far as your imagination and decorating aesthetic. You can choose to furnish in sets or bring together signature pieces that create an eclectic funky mix. In other words, you can get creative when the pieces are made to order. Modern, contemporary, rustic, colonial or coastal there are craftsman who can create a look that represents your individual style and taste. Once you’ve decided on materials and have a basic sketch and design, the next step is to find a skilled artisan that can craft your ideas into reality.
When it comes to finding talented artisans and quality crafted furnishings, several regions of Mexico stand out among the crowd. Among them, Guanajuato, Guadalajara and Michoacán, all of which are easily accessed by car or bus and can be visited on either day or weekend trips. Each region offers a slightly different style of handcrafted artistry and materials to choose from. In larger towns and cities there are typically a plethora of shops, boutiques and galleries that showcase their custom built furnishings. Most work directly with private clients or their decorators to create unique heirloom pieces or furnish an entire home. You will find that styles and cost vary, depending on the artist’s recognition (both nationally and in some cases abroad), experience, materials, etc. It’s best to shop around extensively before deciding on with whom to work with. Also, whoever it is should share a similar vision or work in a similar style to what you are looking for. Otherwise, it can be difficult if the craftsman has other ideas or styles in mind.
If you are looking for custom but built closer to home, Zihuatanejo and its surrounds are home to a wealth of small independent craftsman, whose humble workshops may not rival those of San Miguel or Tlaquepaque; however you can certainly find several diamonds in the rough if you know where to look. Above all, you must have a bit of patience with any custom built piece, whether constructed here or elsewhere. Hand crafted furniture making is an unhurried process that no matter the material cannot be built as quickly or accurately as machine-fabricated products. However, hand crafted pieces are typically of higher quality and as each is a unique creation, its imperfections often become part of its charm.
A few things to consider before building custom. Take accurate measurements! There’s nothing more disheartening than bringing home a beautiful new piece of furniture only to find that it’s too big or too small for the space. Also make sure to measure hallways or staircases where the piece will have to fit through in order to arrive at your front door. Know that no one can be expected to get inside your head. The closer you can get to a detailed drawing and design, the more akin your finished piece will be made. Even so, each person’s interpretation of the same drawing will be slightly different and the piece may not come out exactly the way you envision. Allow some room for creative interpretation; it will spare you frustrations and in the end you will have a beautifully furnished home that can’t be bought in any store.
· · · This article originally appeared in the February 2011 issue of Another Day in Paradise for which Maura Taylor is a regular contributor. CLICK HERE to read full digital issues of this vibrant local magazine on all things Zihua.