Steal vs. Splurge– Part 2: Buying furniture for our new office

So far so good with the wall paint. Now we come to the point of finding the right furnishing for most of these walls - cabinets that should match the spaces and the whole color scheme rather than looking like patches placed here and there.  We are very much tempted to go for “cussstomizzzed”  furniture as the spaces are far from standard in size and shape, moreover we have small hope that off-the-shelf pieces will work at all.

Our architects refer us to a good company producing customized furniture. A representative of the company’s design section pays a visit. He is a serious-looking guy who does not speak much but seems to know his stuff. Our first impression is that he is the total opposite of the magician lady from the paint store (see Part 1). Then, he decides to pull out that same old trick with the quality products for “BMW people” …   We push this silly bait aside, while trying to keep a serious face.  Our intention is to listen and collect information.

He walks around the premises, measures them up, writes down numbers, points out how tricky it will be with these 50-degree-angle walls (well, we know that but we have to find a way, right?) and then he leaves solemnly to prepare the quote. George and I are gambling about the digits in that quote - his guess is higher than mine. Then the quote comes – well, the guy’s quote is even higher than George’s. Whoever is dubbed as “BMW people” obviously has to pay the price for that…  We are aware of the challenges the spaces present and we appreciate the guy’s work preparing the quote. We ask about possible fluctuations in the price. No? Ok, no then… We set a couple-of-days time off to give the quote some thought. To be or not to be?

We are discussing the quote, as well the pros and cons of the customized furniture we are seeing in the sketches. There are attractive things about it but nothing really too exceptional to go for that high a price… Everyone can do great things on high budget (although we all have seen major screw-ups, too) but it is much more challenging to do fine ones on low budget. We agree that we would go for the “not to be” option. 

We decide to touch base with another custom-furniture company – guys that we have been using for years and which have done a lot of pieces for some other premises we own, including our own home. We hope that they will not go for sky-high prices. The guys come, take the measures, and call us back within a couple of days. The verdict is an equally hopeless quote.

 What should we do then? More or less all customized items custom-made for us will take us to very much the same moment.  Should we continue looking for a splurge or should we go for a steal instead? At this point, I decide to play it brave and go for modular furniture, off-the-shelf. George supports me but has no time at all to invest in such a project. He has his work to do and I am left on my own.

Ok, fine, it will be just me then. I look through websites of various stores selling modular pieces on the Bulgarian market, more or less all are very much comparable, so I finally decide to set with one just because it gives all dimensions for each separate module they sell – that is very helpful indeed. Ok, then, our office needs three sets of kitchen cabinets for three separate spaces within the office; also one long set of wall cabinets serving as storage, several lower-but-long-cabinet storage items under the windows, some more cabinets serving as wardrobes, and… yes, more storage, storage, storage…

Also, the items that I cannot get by arranging ready-to-assemble modules – like the reception room furniture, two conference halls’ tables and the lower-but-long storage cabinets (non-standard in size)  - should obviously be outsourced with the custom-furniture guys we know for years. Ok, I will need to make the two worlds meet… So, I  divide the products we need to have into two groups – Group One is furniture that can be created by modular sections assembled to look as a set; Group Two will be custom-made pieces, which need to be ordered at a slightly later stage (i.e., when we already have the Group One items,  so we do some matching).

The cabinets of Group One that appear to be most challenging for me seem to be the three kitchen sets. All the rest is a breeze. I generally love shopping for furniture but what seems to really bother me is the burden of responsibility – I am not making choices now for the sake of my family only, as I usually have done;  this time I should try to find pieces that should match the whole design of the office space and definitely stick close to the vision of the designers. The “stealing” factor does not even need mentioning…

My task is difficult but not impossible, of course.  The only issue is that it is a bit time and effort consuming. I just need to spend hours sitting, playing around with the dimensions of all the spaces that need furnishing and do my best to choose modular furniture pieces that would not only fit but will also look a bit like custom build-in wall-to-wall cabinets. Several hours into this game and all digits seem to start merging and I feel dizzy and lost.

I am exhausted from trying to adjust stupid pieces one next to the other. I make some stupid errors and I cry (for a change). Then I get suspiciously close to finishing it all in a shorter time than expected, when I notice a huge error in calculations and I get hysterical. After some useful ventilation of my anger, everything seems ok but then I move to another page on the site just to find out that this series I am playing around for three hours with have actually been discontinued. Time for some ventilation again. I start feeling like going out to one of the city’s casinos and trying to work some money out gambling but I come to my senses and embrace the digits and modules again… While I sleep, I dream of furnishing spaces.

Ok, I take a deep breath and decide to go for totally different series of cabinets and start one of the sets all over again just to find out that the store’s options for wall-mounted cabinets have the funniest sizes ever and do not correspond at all to the bottom cabinets that I have really liked. And this happens when I am just 10 minutes away from a possible end of it all…. For Christ’s sake – I am not designing a spaceship; I am trying to find modular pieces from one set that actually are supposed to match.

Then, I decide to be more creative, trying to match two different series of cabinets having same looks (or at least sprit) but contrasting colors. I start building up a new set with one color cabinets as bottom ones and a contrasting color cabinets as wall-mounted ones, but then the sizes of the bottom and top ones would not match again. Why am I not surprised at all?

Finally, I am ready – the final result is some mid version of “I quite like this” and “This will just do”, compromising between looks and size-availability. Some hints by friends that settling for less and going for budget-friendly versions is not a wise thing to do plant the seed of doubt deep in my tortured soul. And yet, after spending several days in the realm of mathematics and design, I have gone too far to give up and go for the splurge. Not now.

Ok, we go and order the endless list of individual cabinets– it takes almost ten sheets to write down the codes and descriptions of each one. I feel half-dead as now the “great expectations part” start – will the delivered cabinets be any close to what we actually ordered? Well, that risk has nothing to do with prices, actually  - everyone has faced big surprises when going for expensive items that are later on not at all close to what they have been expected to look like.

We have to spend three weeks waiting for the cabinet modules to arrive in small boxes from the production factories abroad. Then, installation guys come to assemble them piece by piece, which is time and effort consuming. It is also nerve-consuming too, as you have to wait and see what the final result would look like. It is not big fun when cabinets turn out to be not exactly the size given on the website (say, a third of the inch larger). Well, they are the right size, after all, which is fine for me. I feel I have may be done a descent job.

Then, the times to reveal the final result comes - friends start coming over and I do not even want to hear the first verdict. Well, they are not harsh at all - visitors even find the furniture beautiful and matching the bold colors and shape of the spaces and the decorative elements. I am too tired and biased to know if that is really the case. I need some time to come to terms with everything done in our office before I actually start liking it. So far so good with the furniture from Group One.

The Group Two pieces take some efforts too. We do not like the design of the pieces offered by our old friends, the  furniture guys. They are good in the execution part but we face problem with them in the design part. So, they expect us to come up with the design of the pieces they need to make. Ok, if I have to do this too, I will do it. The guys like the design as it presents some challenges to them and they say they like being challenged. Then, they set up a deadline for producing these pieces and they actually deliver on time. The result is really good and exactly matches the design. Good job.

Then, we have the office furnished with the working desks, and after some final cabling challenges, we have the spaces up and running. The launch of the office is just some three months before George and I moved to the States. We have not had enough time to enjoy or suffer from the results of our design efforts but  we have plenty of photos to look at, to remind us of all high and low points…

the reception - 1

the reception - 2

the reception - 3

main development hall - 1

main development hall - 2

main development hall - kitchen (1)

main development hall - kitchen (2)

entrance to the European development team hall

European development team hall - 1

European development team hall - 2

European development team hall - 3

European development team hall - kitchen

entrance to the management office; the conference hall on the left

conference hall

sitting area in the management room

management room - kitchen

management room - kitchen is hidden behind sliding trifold glass doors