Do you fancy designing sofas, ottomans, chaise longues, desks, beanbags and wardrobes? Do you want to be the next big thing in the furniture world and take on Ingvar Kamprad and his IKEA empire? Well, you’re in the right place.
Furniture designers are the creative characters that develop design concepts and ideas for different kinds of furniture and home accessories.
Some of these guys design furniture for mass production, some work for exclusive brands that produce limited edition pieces of furniture and some design one-off specimens for display and design shows.
Most furniture designers work on a freelance basis, but a small percentage of these professionals work directly for furniture manufacturers, interior design consultancies or large retail chains.
If you enter this profession, you will be:
– Liaising with clients and managing design projects in accordance with their demands
– Drawing designs by hand or using computer aided design (CAD) software
– Building sample models for production teams (e.g. carpenters, woodworkers and metalworkers) to work from.
You’ll also spend part of your professional life experimenting with different materials and unusual methods for making furniture, and researching new trends and classic styles to influence your next designs.
Some furniture designers also contribute their expertise to other related professions, such as set design for theatre companies and displays for galleries and museums.
Salary & benefits
Entry-level salaries for permanent staff tend to range between £18,000 and £22,000.
As you gain more experience and build your reputation, however, you could find yourself earning between £25,000 and £35,000 a year, with senior designers sometimes earning around £50,000 per annum.
Freelance furniture designers who are just starting out may only earn around £10,000 to £15,000 a year. If, however, you build your reputation and make a name for yourself, you could end up earning over £100,000 per annum.
Established and reputed designers command high prices, especially when they are commissioned to design exclusive collections or one-of-a-kind designs for auctions and museum collections.
Your working hours will depend on your employer and the market that you focus on. However, your work schedule will be largely self-regulated.
In-house designers for retail, manufacturing and wholesale furniture dealers work according to prescribed office or factory hours.
A common entry point for candidates looking to break into the world of furniture design is via a long-term apprenticeship programme with an established designer or furniture company.
However, some people study full-time for academic qualifications, such as degrees, HNDs or vocational qualifications in furniture design or furniture making, before breaking into this line of work.
To get your foot in the door and establish yourself in the industry, you’ll need to build an impressive design portfolio, participate in design competitions and get involved with work experience opportunities.
Training & progression
Formal training schemes are rarely offered for furniture designers; instead, they are likely to develop their skills by gaining hands-on experience and carrying out assignments under the supervision of senior designers.
Obtaining membership with the Chartered Society of Designers (CSD) will also help to validate your expertise, and will allow you to network within the industry and build up your reputation.
In-house furniture designers can progress up the career ladder within their organisation or move to other companies to take on senior designer positions.
However, many aspire to work on a freelance basis and eventually start their own furniture companies or design consultancies.