Entrusting Your Furniture to a Professional: Part III – The Bidding Process

During this three part series, we are looking at several facets of why entrusting your furniture to an interior designer can have tremendous benefit. This is Part III of our series. Catch up on the selection process from the very beginning by reading Part I as well as why durability and warranties are important in Part II.

Consider bidding, but bid well

The bidding process has the potential to save clients up to 15% depending on the type of furniture, size of the project and the type of client. Much of the decision to bid is going to depend on the needs and wants of the client. Most often, I would recommend bidding but there are a few things to consider.

  1. There are additional benefits to being a publicly funded entity. If a client is a public entity, often times they are required to bid if the dollar amount is above a certain amount. They are able to get around this many times by purchasing through state contracts or GSA-General Services Administration contracts. There are also purchasing contracts available to non-profits and not-for-profits. These are basically pre-negotiated contracts that allow public entities to purchase without bidding because the “bidding” is done ahead of time. What is not considered in these contracts is shipping, handling, delivery and installation. I recommend bidding that portion of the project even if you will be purchasing off of state contract. In general, this is a great option for fast tracked projects and is available to any entity that receives public money.
  2. Timing is everything. If you are considering bidding a project 7 weeks before it needs to be installed, you are too late. You need to be ordering. In this case,  your best course of action is to work directly with a trusted dealer and take your designer along with you. The bidding process needs anywhere from 10-20 weeks to go through the entire process from writing the bid document to getting the furniture installed. Within that time, your design team will do estimates, get approval for concepts, write the bid document, give you time to review the bid document, send it out to dealers to bid, assess the results of the bid and work with the dealer to make finish selections and place the order.
  3. Make sure your designer is specific when creating the bid document. Many times, the best description that a furniture supplier gets from a client is that they need an office chair. That would be like going to a car lot and saying, “I need a car.” There are as many options in furniture as there are in cars; think of it as the same range as from Honda Civic to Mercedes SLS. Furniture ranges from budget to designer, traditional to contemporary, large to small, hard to soft, with and without specific options. Without giving the bidding dealers an idea of where you want to be in terms of quality and cost, they have no way of bidding “apples to apples.”  I like to use the “basis of design” method for bidding. In this case, I will choose something very specific and list it for a particular application (i.e. Haworth Zody Chair with mesh back, seat slide, lumbar support, height adjustment, adjustable arms, painted finish, and Grade D fabric). I will include everything from the model number to the fabric grade. By giving a very specific description of what we have based our design on, dealers are able to see what we would like in terms of style, quality, and color. Bidding dealers should be able to select something comparable from their own lines and include that in the bid. This has proven to return the best results in terms of comparable quality and cost.
  4. Give your designer a budget. If you aren’t sure about how much is reasonable, then work through establishing a budget with your designer. Make sure you understand what you’re getting for your money and assess whether or not those things are important to you. Your designer should be able to help you work through these things. Visiting a dealer is a great way to get a feel for what the difference is between a chair that costs $300 and a chair that costs $900.

When beginning the process of furniture procurement, be sure that you involve the appropriate professionals, assess your needs and stay involved in the process. Having worked with several clients to procure their furniture, I can tell you that the Mies van der Rohe was correct when he said, “God is in the details.” The more you understand about what you’re getting and why it costs what it does, the more satisfied you’ll be with the results.