There is an old joke I heard on an episode of Columbo. A man has a pair of pants that only go up to his knees, hanging by suspenders. All he has on otherwise is a hat and a trench coat. He encounters an elderly woman and whips open his coat. She takes a good, long look and says, “You call that a lining?”

This describes the experience I have with people who want custom furniture. It’s like learning a new language. They come with a picture in their minds, and it takes me awhile and a bit of conversation to begin understanding its facets.

My lack of understanding can have several aspects. I might have a different aesthetic from them. My sense of what is beautiful may cause me to be blind to their vision. My experience of furniture or cabinets may cause me to think I know where they are going but I don’t. Their vision may not be clear. They might be asking for something you just can’t do with wood. They might be looking for something which is going to be too expensive. It might be some combination of any or all of these things.

We gradually move together though, in a successful encounter until we’re on the same page. Each side becomes a contributor, and a piece of furniture or set of cabinets begins to be fashioned.

Fundamentally, we are learning each other.