November 28, 2010

Furniture on the Cheap(er): Stuff Made from Metal

Instead of the usual post this week (given the holiday), here's an inspirational round-up of metal furniture. As I mentioned in this August post, local welders can make cool pieces for much, much cheaper than you'd pay for in a store - and to your exact specs. For example, I had a coffee table frame like the one in the photo of the ticking stripe sofa (below) made for just $75; I just had to add a $30 stain-ready top from Lowe's, cut to size. A few tips:
  • Call around, and I don't mean just two places, because prices can vary widely. I've been quoted anywhere from $75-250 for the exact same project, and was completely happy with the work done at the least expensive price.
  • The cheapest metal option is iron, which works well if you're going to paint it (remember, metal can be powder coated so it can be sprayed virtually any color if you want a change in the future). For a finish like antique brass, some welders will use actual brass (much more expensive) while some can create the look of antique brass on iron. Whichever finish you select, make sure you see samples first.
  • Be specific: Even if you're showing the welder a photo, s/he might not realize that it's important to you for the legs to be, say, ultra-thin. So give them exact dimensions when you can so there's no room for error.
  • Keep it simple: Contemporary pieces without curves will be more affordable for the welder to make, and there's less room for error. (Some of the items below, like the chairs, would require  more work on your part in terms of making sure your specs are exactly right, but they'd be so worth it.)
  • Table tops: Wood is your easiest/cheapest option (unless you want the welder to make the top surface out of metal, too). You can buy stain-grade pieces of wood for coffee or end tables at hardware stores for about $30 or less (Ikea sells these, too). If you want a professional, high-gloss finish on the wood, call an auto body shop: they can spray a piece, usually for less than you'd pay a furniture refinisher for the same job.  Another option is to call your local natural stone supplier to get a piece of, say, marble cut to size. Finally, glass: In my experience it will cost about $100 for a thick enough piece of glass for a desk or coffee table top (even at that price, the entire table/desk would end up costing only about $200-250).

All of the above photos are from 1stdibs, except for:
1) 2-tier Curvy Side Table from Worlds Away
2) Photo of gold leaf étagère from Sketch 42
3) Photo of dining table with two red chairs from Abbey Goes Design Scouting
4) Photo of coffee table in front of ticking stripe sofa from Domino magazine