At Chassie, we make furniture for your life’s work. We mostly do that through our line of desks and tables, but we are equally passionate about bringing people’s visions to life with custom work in homes and offices. From bookshelves to bespoke furniture pieces, we love to collaborate with our clients to create truly special works. And as a small team, we typically make room for only one or two projects per month so that we can give our full attention and closely manage every aspect.
In this article we will describe what it’s like to work with Chassie on a custom project by giving you the play-by-play of our collaboration with Stephen on an L-shaped set of bookshelves for his upper west side apartment in Manhattan.
Stephen’s Custom Designed Bookshelves, New York
Getting Started: Free Consultation + Measurements
Reasonably priced, quality custom furniture can be hard to find. Timing, budgets, aesthetics, and personalities often make it challenging to find the right fit - plus there’s the added challenge of even knowing where to begin and who to talk to. We have put a straightforward design-and-build process in place to hopefully take much of the anxiety and guesswork out of picking the right partner and visualizing what the end product will be.
We first met Stephen through Houzz, an online platform that allows homeowners to efficiently link with and hire home improvement professionals like us. After viewing our work and liking what he saw, Stephen reached out to us about helping him design custom built-in bookshelves for his New York City apartment.
Our first step was to get over to his home for a free consultation, rough measurements, and some brainstorming. This is a crucial 20-30 minutes where we can align on a general sense of aesthetics, timing considerations, and budgets so that the next phase is as smooth as possible and both sides have more trust that the other understands the project, goals, and that we’re dealing with real thoughtful humans!
Not every company produces 3D renderings prior to a home-build project, but we do! We pride ourselves on translating our clients’ creative visions into real, tangible objects. 3D furniture rendering is a lot like real-world photography, and it helps our clients visualize what their custom piece will look like once it is finished.
After our first meeting we produced 3D renderings of Stephen’s space and our initial ideas for the bookshelves. This process is time consuming and requires a lot of focus on details, but we believe it is well worth the effort to make sure we are aligned with the client and can work iteratively.
We created multiple drafts whilst communicating back and forth with Stephen, finally settling on a concept for L-shaped, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves built-in bookshelves with an open back and curved trim.
Here’s an example of the 3D designs we rendered for Stephen’s bookshelves:
Design & 3D Rendering
With 3D renders approved, we worked with Stephen to develop a detailed budget and timeline to help break down the process. Everything from measurements to installation was carefully planned with both time and budget estimates. We do this for each of our custom projects to ensure that our clients are aware of each step that we take to help bring their pieces to life.
Materials and Design
In coming up with the design for the bookshelves, we worked closely with Stephen to make sure that it would match the existing aesthetic and style of his apartment. We created the matching baseboard trim, as well as adjustable peg holes for multiple adjustable shelves. Stephen’s bookshelves had no backing, meaning the back of the shelves were left open.
For material, we settled on painted 1’’ and ¾’’ FSC certified baltic birch plywood. This material is easy to mill, on the harder side for laminates, and is strong and stable over time. The material is also able to be smoothed, painted, and sealed to match painted drywall - the dominant materials in Stephen’s apartment.
We Love Curves
One of the exciting challenges of Stephen’s project was the opportunity to integrate smooth, subtle curves into the 4-inch baseboard trim. While this is easy to do with thinner pieces, this thickness presented a fun challenge, and to solve it we created an intricate floor box in five layers that we then laminated, screwed, patched, and painted to give the appearance of a curved wall.
Stephen was particularly happy with this element of the project, later writing: “Chassie helped add stylish design details like curved shelves and matching trim that added hugely to the overall success and look of the project.”
Building the Custom Bookshelves
At Chassie, we do all of our own millwork and pre-finishing work at our South Bronx studio. This helps us minimize the time we spend inside the customer’s home, ensuring a quick and clean process every time.
Our process involves programming exact sizes, shapes, and dimensions into our industrial grade CNC Router, which enables high-precision prototyping and production. To start with Stephen’s bookshelves, we set up and programmed the CNC machinery for computer-controlled cutting. This helped us accurately cut and produce Stephen’s “pre-finished” panels.
CNC Router in Action
Over a period of three days we prototyped, milled, and finished over 40 individual panels that would come together in the final piece.
Time to Meet with Stephen and Begin Assembling!
Finishing and Installation
With millwork and pre-finishing complete, our team was ready to load up all of the pieces and begin the delivery and installation. Before installing the custom bookshelves, we smoothed and painted most pieces at the studio to avoid excessive finishing work in the client’s home. That means little dust and less time at the worksite. We then got started on installing and making any finishing touches. In a matter of days, our small team personally installed Stephen’s custom built-in bookshelves.
Installing the Pieces
One distinctive aspect of Chassie’s process is that the same team that does the design, millwork, and pre-finishing are the ones delivering and installing in the home. This fully integrated process adds value by minimizing misunderstandings, damage, and re-dos which translates into quicker and more successful installations. As both designers/makers and installers, we are heavily incentivized to integrate smooth easy assembly into the work itself.
Overall it was a great experience." - Stephen
We know that the finished work is incredibly important aspect of the project, but staying on time, on budget, and keeping the client’s space usable and tidy throughout is just as crucial. That’s why for us a truly happy client is one who feels good not only about the finished work but the entire process.
Choosing The Right Projects
We know successful projects come from finding the right match of timing, budget, skills, and aesthetics. At Chassie we are laser focused on being and finding the right match and taking on 1-2 interesting projects per month.
We certainly don’t do everything, but our expertise is deep in custom bookshelves, desks, standing desks, and home office renovations. We are always excited to add value by advising on hardware, color, prints, and patterns. And the chance to do projects that pop with interesting shapes, colors, and artwork are always a plus. If you have a table, desk, bookshelf, or home/office renovation don’t hesitate to send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org or DM us at @chassietudio on Instagram. We’re always here to help you bring you a little more creativity and passion to you life’s work through our custom work.
Before vs. After