Custom furniture is a thing of beauty.
Gresham House Furniture is a family run Canadian company devoted to quality, style and customer service (no I didn’t get paid to say that… they really are great!)
Working with Marilyn Roberts, her father Max Roberts and their outstanding staff is a complete pleasure.
The fantastic pieces I have sourced from them over the years have played a major role in creating beautiful spaces for my clients.
I thought you would find a peak into this “to the trade” showroom interesting.
Walking in the front door to this wonderful open and bright space is a delight.
The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly, with many examples of their extensive line available to see and try out.
Fabric samples from a wide variety of suppliers are ready to hand offering endless options for your special pieces.
Above photo: Marilyn and I looking over some great fabrics for a cottage project I am working on.
Marilyn is a great gal. Her dedication to her company and the development of successful working relationships with the trade set her apart.
I sat down to ask her a few questions.
What it is like running a furniture company with your Dad?
I often joke about the trials and tribulations of working with my father but truth be told I love it and would not change a thing.
It has been 9 years since we started the business and I am amazed at how much control dad gave me in running the business at the forefront.
I love working with dad because I don’t have to filter anything, we are very open with each other (staff may say too verbal at times…!!!) and I need to work that way.
I know that at the end of the day we are on the same team and no matter what has been said we are family and still love each other.
Dad and I agreed that once we make a decision, if it proves successful then it was OUR decision, but if it proves unsuccessful we don’t blame each other because it was a decision that we both agreed to.
The one thing that dad and I do argue about is the amount that each of us works, we are constantly telling the other person to take a day off.
I am a little nervous that I am hard wired to work because dad is 76 and still working a full 6 day work week and loving every minute of it!
Now I would like to ask our staff this question of what it is like to work in a family business….??!!!!
What are the benefits people need to know about Gresham House furniture over off the floor showroom lines of furniture?
There are so many benefits….where do I begin? First off the goal of any retail store is to sell the product on their floor whether or not it is the right fit for the client.
Conversely when clients work with a design professional they are not tied to any one supplier, this is very important.
Once the designer determines the best fit for their client they then bring their client to the supplier that will best suit their needs.
I know that when a designer brings their client to Gresham House, the client is interested in purchasing a quality product that will last.
The second benefit is that the client is able to choose the length and the depth of the sofa to best fit their room.
In addition the client then chooses the right fill (i.e.: feather or Dacron) for the seat and back and the fabric to best suit THEIR needs.
Dad and I made sure that we designed the line so that each sofa could be made to tailor to the individual needs of the client.
Clients will ask me what is your most comfortable sofa and I always tell them it doesn’t matter what I think is comfortable the most important question is what do YOU think is comfortable because a sofa is like a shoe it will fit each person differently.
Unlike a retail store, we don’t have to sell a specific sofa because we have 10 of them in the warehouse, we don’t start a sofa until it is ordered, so there is no pressure to buy a certain piece.
The third benefit is that the client works with a design proffesional.
When you walk into a retail store, the sales person does not know your home, how you live, what you like etc etc, whereby when a client works with a designer, the designer goes to the persons home looks at their space, sees how they live, and THEN determines what will best suit their needs. This ensures that the client will make the right decision when investing in a sofa.
The fourth benefit (yes I can go on and on…) is that we are very proud that our product is Canadian made.
Starting with the frames (Canadian hardwood – usually maple) to the foam (soy based foam) to the feathers (waterfowl white from Quebec) to the people in our factory who hand make the pieces.
Each piece is handcrafted and we are very proud of that. We will never make the same sofa or the same chair so the client has a unique piece made specifically for them.
We have been flooded with product coming from offshore and looks the same.
People are tired of seeing the same thing in every house, they want to put their own stamp on their home and with the help of the designer they can make that happen. The designer listens to the client and designs a room to reflect their taste so that their home does not look like a generic furniture showroom but more so a reflection of them.
The fifth benefit (tell me when to stop…) is that it is bench made.
Each piece is individually cut, sewn and one person upholsters the entire piece. You are not going to see this level of craftsmanship on a retail floor.
I tell clients that I can talk to them about construction but there are easy ways to determine the quality of a piece. Feel the outside arm, is it hollow or is there padding and webbing there so that your hand does not go through. Feel in the inside back, is there padding behind the back cushion, there should be. Lift one end of the sofa, how heavy is it, does it lift in one solid piece or does it torque? These simple tricks will indicate the bones beneath the sofa.
The sixth benefit (am I talking too much…..yes I am proud of what I do) is that the client can come to the factory and see what is underneath the upholstery.
We invite clients to come to our showroom so that they can see how we make our sofas, we don’t have anything to hide!
The seventh benefit is that they are supporting their local economy, everything is Canadian made.
How do you design your line?
Before dad and I started Gresham House we would go on walks each night and brainstorm about the business.
We wanted to design a line that was versatile for our designers.
We designed a core line that is available in 2 depths, and different lengths from a chair to extra large sofa and sectional lengths to suit varying needs.
Now after 9 years, we listen to our designers and add new pieces accordingly.
What is the biggest misconception about Custom Furniture?
That a custom sofa is too expensive.
Yes it is an investment piece BUT if you use a well priced, serviceable fabric then a custom sofa is not out of reach for most people.
I would rather invest in a quality piece of furniture that won’t end up in a land fill then to buy a sofa that will fall apart in a few years.
Marilyn was very kind to share her time with me, I also took a tour of the workroom.
It is directly behind the showroom.
This amazing piece was just being made for a bay window… a perfect fit!
This photo is from the Gresham House booth at this years design show… so lovely! ( photo : Gresham House)
I am so pleased to have a Canadian company like Gresham House available for my projects.
I hope you enjoyed the tour!
If you would like help making your home everything you want it to be please contact me.