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IntroductionWhen most people say that they got their interiors done, they usually mean the non-civil wood work - furniture, kitchen, and painting. I think interior designers are probably good at this work as it forms the bulk of their projects. That said, if you have some inclination towards designing, furniture is one thing that you can easily do on your own. But you need to get a good team of carpenters. Having seen professionally-decorated houses, I think designers do a better job of getting the whole space decorated so that it looks fancier than one can do on their own. I am sure that they are people who have a bent for such things too but in general, its tricky to get it all right.
Buying ready-made furniture is an easy alternative to getting furniture made from carpenters. There are many advantages to ready furniture: you get to see the final piece as it is, there is plenty of choice in the market, you can take it with you when you move. But you will find it harder to match different pieces of furniture with each other and it may not exactly fit your space leading to some wastage. Ready furniture will not be exactly to your taste but even when you get your own furniture made, its not clear that you will finally get what you had envisioned.
DesignThere is not much I can say for design. Make sure to plan out your storage needs first, and then design individual pieces. Remember you can use different materials such as wood, glass, granite, stone, cloth, tiles, wallpapers, etc. You don't have to stick to the standard wood+laminate/veneer design. Designs can be drawn simply - carpenters do not need elaborate 3D or CAD/CAM designs. Here is a sample wardrobe design and a sample kids' room design that I gave to my carpenters. Although a bit difficult to do, I suggest that you design one piece of furniture and get your carpenters to make the carcass. It will give you a much better idea (especially measurements-wise) to make other designs once you know what a final framework looks like.
I got design ideas from the internet and catalogs of furniture stores. I especially used Urban Ladder, IKEA, and Houzz for both ideas and measurements. Google Image Search is a treasure trove for choosing colors in rooms. I also measured a lot of furniture in my parents' house to get an idea of what size I wanted my furniture to be.
MaterialsThere are many different materials that are required for carpentry work and there is a wide choice available for selection. The carpenters should be able to tell you how much and what kind of materials they require. Keep in mind that since they work on a commission basis, they may order more material than required. Its hard to verify exactly how much they need to its best to get carpenters that you trust. Also you can get materials in batches as and when they need it so you can keep track of what they are using.
Furniture can be made of natural wood and then polished. This looks absolutely wonderful and you can have complicated furniture design as wood is easy to work with. But given the high cost of wood nowadays, people just go with plywood, and even particle board or MDF. With plywood, you can get a woody feeling by using a veneer covering which needs to be polished but looks closer to wood. Alternatively, you can use laminate which is like paper but gives a good finish anyway.
- Plywood: There are different kinds of plywood - the main types used are commercial and marine which is a little water-proof and hence, expensive. The industry standard for good-quality plywood is Gurjan which uses wood from trees in Malaysia. Plywood rates depend on the thickness of the plywood and whether it is branded or not. Some Indian brands are GreenLam, Kenwood, DuroPly, Goel, and Anchor - these tend to be about 20-30% more expensive. We went with DuroTech which is made of softer European Beech wood and was cheaper than Gurjan. So far so good - lets see how durable it is! 18mm or 19mm ply is used for all furniture frame work, 12mm plywood is used for shelves, 6-8mm plywood is used for back verticals of furniture but we avoided it altogether for more stability.
Its best to comparison shop with plywood, especially if you have a bulk order. Most vendors will give 20-30% off the quoted rates. Delivery and transport rates are extra - they will charge (around Rs. 5) per sheet per floor for hoisting it up. Plywood rates are on a per sq. ft. basis; each sheet is usually 8 ft. x 4 ft. = 32 sq. ft. Rates vary as much as Rs. 45/sq.ft. to Rs. 150/sq.ft. so its best to ask rates at a few shops, and pick a good value-for-money quality. Plywood rates are quite sensitive to the USD-INR currency conversion rate; we paid quite a bit more for plywood due to the delays in our project and the subsequent devaluation of the INR.
Along with plywood, you will have to order lipping patti made of wood which is used for the borders of furniture. It is made of Ghana or Burma teak. Lipping patti rates will vary depending on the thickness and is priced on a per running-foot basis. Another related materials are abro tape for sticking laminates and veneer to the plywood, and tons of fevicol. Our carpenters must have used more than 150kg. of fevicol for all the furniture in our house!
- Laminates and Veneers: Laminates and Veneers are used to cover the plywood and that is the final finish that you see. Here's a quick comparison:
Laminates versus Veneers Feature Laminate Veneer Material Thin sheets of paper pressed together Thin sheets of wood pressed together Look and Feel Glossy and matte finishes. Large variety of colors and designs are available. Wooden textures are also available but look less natural than veneers. Only wooden finishes. Needs to be polished after the furniture is made. Can be given a glossy or matte finish. Closest to natural wood look. Cost Mostly around Rs. 50/sq.ft. Some textures and qualities can go up to Rs. 200/sq.ft. Costs around thrice as much as regular laminates along with polishing costs. Maintenance No maintenance so to say. Can be wiped down with a wet cloth. As the polish wears, especially in high use areas, needs to be re-polished after a few years. Choice Tons of designs and colors, including wood. You can see entire sheets of laminate which is what the final furniture will look like. Only wood finishes. Looks different after polishing. You can get some idea of how the final look will be by applying water to a veneer sheet.
Some Indian companies that make laminates are Merino, New Mika, Formica, and GreenLam in increasing order of cost. All the catalogs are available with local vendors. Once you select a few samples, definitely go look at the full sheets as they may look considerably different. For internals, you can use plain white or off-white 0.9mm laminate which is cheaper and easy to maintain.
As veneer are much more expensive than laminates, some people put veneers in the living room and dining room furniture, and use laminates in other areas such as bedrooms. So you get a better look-and-feel in the guest areas. We just went with laminates every where as choosing veneers is very difficult - there is no catalog; you just have to look at the full sheets to decide. We ran out of energy in the civil work itself, and so we stuck to laminates. No regrets there even after all the furniture is ready now! It looks just fine and requires very little maintenance.
- Handles and Locks: Bhoriali is the place to go for handles and locks. Different vendors will give 10-20% off for all hardware items. Handles are made of white metal, brass, and stainless steel. Fancier handles have some colors, and dashes of gold and silver. Sizes vary a lot so pick those that look good on your furniture. Concealed handles are useful when there is limited space for handles that jut out. Knobs look good on lofts and smaller drawers but make sure they have two screws to avoid loose fitting.
Different types of locks include regular cylindrical locks, horizontal handle and keyhole combinations, dead locks, aldorf - kadi and lock, multi-level bolts, etc. Remember to use heavy-duty locks such as Godrej and Europa for the main door. You can use key-less locks for bathrooms which can be simply opened by a coin from the outside in case of accidental locking. There are many fancier locks available in the market too which give increased security and cost above Rs. 5000.
- Glass: Glass is used in a lot places: mirrors on wardrobes and other furniture such as a bar unit, shutters for items such as bar, crockery and TV units, shelves, bookcases, balcony doors, bathroom mirrors, etc. Shelves are usually 10mm thick, shutters with no wooden frame are 8mm thick, and wooden-framed shutters/doors are 6mm thick. Mirrors are also usually 6mm thick. All glass and mirrors have to be smoothed along the edges; they can also be beveled along the perimeter for a nicer look. Glass is one of the last items that the carpenters will install. Some times delivery and transport can cost a bit if the pieces are large. Glass can be used as follows:
- Plain (transparent) glass
- Frosted (opaque) glass
- Back-painted glass
- Glass coated with designer film
- Etched glass with designs
Glass can be etched with lovely designs and can cost a lot on a per sq.ft. basis. Acid etching is cheaper compared to laser etching, but the latter gives a smoother finish and its easier to maintain. Toughened glass can be used as partitions but limited designs can be made on it. One more option is to stick film on glass - ask at any glass shop. I am not sure of its durability or how the finished product looks.
Some basic costs are as follows:
- 6mm:8mm:10mm thick glass: Rs. 55:75:95/sq.ft.
- Smoothing of glass edges: Rs. 10-20/r.ft.
- 8mm:10mm:12mm Toughened glass: Rs. 160:180:200/sq.ft.
- Acid:Laser Frosting: Rs. 25:110/sq.ft.
- Acid:Laser Etching: Rs. 50:150/sq.ft. onwards depending on the design
- 0.5":1.0" Edge Beveling: Rs. 50:75/r.ft.
We installed laser etched glass in our 3-panel wood-framed balcony door. Here is the design that I used. I used the same design in different sizes for my crockery unit and bookcase shutters.
- Other Hardware: The carpenters will require other hardware such as hinges, magnets, locks, tower bolts, channels for drawers, chains, jaali, glass hinges and magnets, screws, etc. The carpenters should be able to guide you about good quality material. Its best to spend some more, and get good quality hardware as that will get used a lot and needs to last a long time.
- Fittings: At the end of painting, you will need to call the carpenters again to install a bunch of fittings. Some of these include (and are not restricted to) shower rods, curtain rods, mirrors, bathroom accessories, door hooks, nails, name plates, furniture assembly, key holders, door stoppers, etc. Make sure you have all the materials ready as the carpenters will charge on a daily basis to get them installed. Some carpenters may even charge a fraction of the hardware cost for these items but most of them should be able to do it for a fixed amount per fitting, irrespective of its actual cost.
CarpentersWe had an excellent team of carpenters - they were three brothers who worked well with each other. It was a small family team so the work went a bit slower than we would have liked, but the end products were excellent. They were one of the few people we met who took pride in their work and were not in it just for the money. I measured the spaces in our flat and simply gave them rough furniture designs with measurements. Here is a sample design of a wardrobe in our master bedroom. They corrected some of my mistakes so that the designs were more feasible and durable. They gave me a lot of suggestions for materials. They were also very willing to break down our existing furniture to reuse the materials to make new stuff.
All that said, carpenters are basically temperamental. Its also hard to find dedicated and skilled carpenters so one has to keep them happy. We mostly went their way if there was any disagreement between us. We also allowed them to work at their own pace. They used to work almost 10 hours a day so that was quite a bit more than other laborers. Our carpenters did not stay on site but most of them do. In that case, it is imperative to determine the society rules for timings to work as their electrical machines can be quite noisy. They also tend to create a lot of mess if they live on site so make sure that they clean up after themselves. Rajasthani carpenters have made a name for themselves so people prefer them. Our carpenters were from Orissa but we liked their work a lot.
Once the main furniture pieces are done, you have to call the carpenters once again at the end after the painting, to fix all the accessories. You need to plan to call them at that time and have the materials ready for them. Carpenters usually charge 40% of ALL new material, and 60% of existing material as labor. VAT is usually not included in total material cost to compute the labor. They will charge separately on a per-day basis for fixing accessories - around Rs. 1500/day. In case you buy very expensive materials, you should negotiate with the carpenters to have some limit on the labor cost. For example, if you buy expensive veneers, locks, handles, glass etching, etc. be upfront and tell them you will pay the labor commission based on equivalent materials such as laminates, standard locks and handles, plain glass, etc. since their work is the same in both cases. But its really up to the carpenters to decide.
Shops in PuneThere are many shops in Pune that provide the materials for furniture. I am listing some of the major ones that we used.
- Plywood and Laminates/Veneers: There is literally a shop at every corner selling plywood and laminates. We went to a couple - Dalal's opposite Kamla Nehru Park, and Kale Brothers on Karve Road. Both these shops have the catalogs of major laminate vendors and a reasonable sample set of the actual laminate sheets too. Dalal's is the main dealer for GreenLam so they also have a shop at Timber Market with the full-sized GreenLam laminate sheets, and a huge variety of veneers. After you have short listed some laminates, make sure to go see the full sheet; each company has a dealer or a shop in Timber Market who will keep the full laminate sheet to view. You can always just go to Timber Market, even for sample selection, but its a busy area and parking is a big mess.
- Hardware: Bhoriali in the city is the place to go. There are dozens of shops one after the other which will give you a huge choice for all hardware including handles and locks. Two shops that we used quite a bit were Master and Alif. I would highly recommend Alif (there are two shops named Alif right next to each other; go to the one on the left.); the owner is very knowledgeable and helpful, especially if you buy a lot of stuff, he will give an excellent discount and great service. Tej Kiran is a high-end hardware shop located on the left just before the Swargate flyover. They have costlier handles and locks but you will get to see a good variety if you really want fancy stuff.
- Glass: Again lots of glass and mirror shops all over the place. I checked out Nazarali Abdulhusein who have a shop for mirrors opposite Dagduseth Ganpati in the city, and a fancy showroom for all varieties of glass in Salisbury Park. I would recommend going to this shop to get an idea of the full range of glass available. Another big shop is Mehta Glass in Budhwar Peth, to the right just ahead of Appa Balwant Chowk. We got our glass from a local shop called Poonam Glass in Mayur Colony, Kothrud. He gave us very reasonable rates and was willing to make etched designs as per our requirement.
- Fittings: Pretty much the same shops for hardware in Bhoriali will give you fittings. For bathroom accessories, see details under Bathroom Accessories.