Quick: Think of the buzziest markets for custom furniture in the U.S.
Done? If you didn’t put Irondale, Alabama, at the top of the list, you’re forgiven—it’s a little off the beaten path. But despite being secreted away in a quiet suburb of Birmingham, Grant Trick’s workshop has become a go-to source for designers all over the country. They come to him in search of exquisite tailoring, good vibes and—in a time when big manufacturers are struggling—reasonable lead times.
“We’re the ones maybe reaping the rewards of the terrible situation for the larger manufacturers, because now our lead time is shorter than theirs,” Trick tells host Dennis Scully on the latest episode of The Business of Home Podcast. “Now we have our own frame shop. … We have a good foam resource. We can live off our supply much longer. Our supply would last a North Carolina factory 30 minutes, and we can go three months. We’ve learned how to buy very well.”
Of course, Trick didn’t get into the business to compete with Lee Industries or Baker on lead times; he initially didn’t intend to get into the business at all. He started his career in fashion, then designed window displays for Tiffany’s. A West Coast trip took the designer to San Francisco, where, in the thick of the recession, he started working for a custom furniture workroom—his entree into the world of interior design.
After relocating to Alabama to be closer to family, Trick started his own operation in 2010 and has been growing it steadily ever since. Originally, he produced anything and everything, but over the years has built a reputation for custom furniture driven by a fabric-first approach. That, and a lively Instagram presence (few custom upholstery workrooms are as likely to break out into spontaneous sing-alongs) have won the designer a dedicated clientele.
In this episode of the podcast, he shares a CliffsNotes course on what to look for in a quality sofa, offers insight on why custom is booming right now and explains what he’s learned from the early stages of launching his own collection. He also weighs in on a hot industry topic—the social-media-driven copy shaming instigated by anonymous Instagram account @DesignWithinCopy.
“I think if you asked everybody who does what we do, from the fancy New York workrooms to the good ones out West, I think we’ve all made a few Kagan sofas. It is what it is. [But] none of us are branding that or putting our name on it or taking credit for the design of it,” he says. “I feel like the internet shaming thing is pretty lame. If kids were doing it, it’d be called bullying. … I challenge the person sitting on a nameless Instagram account to come sit in this office, which is where I draw furniture, and give me seven sofas you’ve never seen before. Try it.”
Homepage image: Grant Trick | Jim Larsen