Diversify or Specialize

My workplace is conveniently located at home, or rather, I like to think of my home as my workplace. The fortunate advantage I have is that my shop is just 150 feet away from my back door, allowing me to work there full-time.

As I lack a large building with salespeople and a gallery, I’ve turned my home into a showroom. The moment a new client steps in, they’re instantly impressed by the diverse array of furniture styles I’ve crafted here. From simple and rustic pieces to modern and elegant designs, I even have reproductions of period furniture. While I embarked on this endeavor primarily out of personal interest, it has proven to be beneficial when meeting new clients. The wide range of furniture on display gives potential clients the assurance that I possess the skills and abilities to transform their dreams into reality.

When I’m not engrossed in furniture-making, I find myself delving into books about furniture. Lately, I’ve dived into several books about the lives of iconic figures such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and Charles and Henry Greene. Their compelling stories interested  me, particularly the challenges they faced while striving to achieve success for both themselves and their companies. Just like true artists, musicians, and chefs, they needed to develop a distinctive look or style to become instantly recognizable in their field. Their journeys and their unique style have been a great source of inspiration for my own endeavors in the world of furniture design but it also presented a dilemma for me. In my case, I’ve noticed it comes down to whether I should undertake a variety of diverse projects to demonstrate my capabilities to a broad range of customers, or if I should specialize in one particular area and aim to be recognizable in that market? In order to answer that question for myself, I had to consider the pros and cons of either being diverse or specialized. 

Having a specialized approach or a distinct style offers several advantages. To begin with, it allows you to become intimately familiar with the materials you consistently work with. You gain a deep understanding of their characteristics, knowing their capabilities and limitations. As you build the same items repeatedly, muscle memory develops, making the task not only faster but also less physically straining on your body.

Another benefit is the ability to introduce minor changes and instantly create a new line of products. For instance, if your signature style involves making dining room chairs with arms, crafting the same chair without arms maintains your recognizable style while offering a completely new product.

Ultimately, having a fresh and unique style that others can instantly recognize becomes a powerful way to establish your name and reputation in the industry.

On the flip side, adopting a particular style may also come with its own set of drawbacks. Firstly, discovering and refining your unique style can be a time-consuming process, taking years of practice and experimentation. Moreover, once you establish your distinctive look, its appeal becomes subjective, and not everyone in the public may find it appealing.

Furthermore, adhering to a specific style can impose limitations on your creative abilities, potentially hindering you from exploring entirely different artistic directions. Being confined to using the same materials and techniques may restrict your exposure to new experiences and novel approaches that could come from experimenting with other diverse supplies and tools.

One significant concern is that after developing a truly unique appearance, there’s a possibility of others, including larger companies with more resources and marketing skills, copying your designs and potentially exploiting your innovative ideas. 

So after much consideration, I have reached a decision. I realized over the course of 25 years, my focus has been on crafting furniture for local clients, and I’ve come to recognize that my strength lies in designing pieces that align with their own visions. My ability to bring their ideas to life in a distinct and creative manner sets me apart from others in the field.

As for having my own signature style, I haven’t given up on the idea but I’ve decided to reserve that unique touch for the furniture pieces in my own home. By doing so, I can indulge in the freedom of my personal expression while still creating future pieces that might entice a new client. 

Chad Stanton – Stanton Fine Furniture 7/29/2023