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Crafting a Niche in Custom Furnishings: WL Pierce Design

Crafting a Niche in Custom Furnishings: WL Pierce Design

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Crafting a Niche in Custom Furnishings: WL Pierce Design

WP Pierce Design

It would not be hyperbole to describe William L. Pierce as a Renaissance Man. He has been quietly staging a renaissance in recycling and sustainability by developing an eclectic collection of both functional and whimsical hand-honed arts and crafts in his Baltimore home studio, turning a passion into a successful entrepreneurial enterprise, WL Pierce Design.

Formerly a full-time professional photographer and web designer by trade specializing in working with not-for-profits, William specialized in onsite and night photography. The turning point came in 2015 when Mr. Pierce designed and built a series of light boxes and magnifiers that readily sold. He was on to something.

A magnificent opportunity to showcase his wares and test the potential for his product’s demand came the following year at Artscape. For those unfamiliar, Artscape is an annual, free-to-the-public art festival held in Baltimore, Maryland, in July since 1982. Artscape has grown into the largest free arts festival in the United States.

Pierce declared, “I cleaned up at 2016 Artscape!” That event was the tipping point that motivated William to pursue his fledgling handcrafted artifacts and furnishings business full-time, with the support of his wife, Amanda.

WL Pierce Design Workshop

Because most of William Pierce’s business was generated from taking his show on the road by presenting at fairs, festivals, and pop-ups in parking lots, he featured pieces that lent themselves to the mobile nature of his audiences, his popular lightboxes, decorative transoms, and similar lightweight, portable, contemporary home products.

William realized from the public’s response that his traveling exhibition of custom crafts not only presented point-of-purchase opportunities, but also inspired prospective customers to imagine what he might be able to create for them, generating new business and expanding his clientele.

WL Pierce Designs’ fortunes continued to grow when Mr. Pierce linked up with the Cahoots Brothers, a group of five entrepreneurs who partnered to open an innovative exposition space in the Remington neighborhood of North Baltimore, on the premises of a former gas station.

William was among dozens of local artists and craftspersons who showcased their works at Cahoots Brother’s location. They often delighted customers by creating their handcrafted products in real-time, demonstrating the meticulous methods and TLC that go into their productions and winning over new clientele.

Unfortunately, most prospective customers for custom-made furniture, home furnishings, and accessories don’t realize the economy of purchasing made-to-order. Despite custom-crafted home products having a reputation for being more expensive, they are actually a better investment, in most cases, due to their durability and being designed to the specific tastes of the customer.

The alternative too often is visibly attractive but less durable, shoddily constructed furnishing that needs to be replaced more often. An October 31, 2022, report in the New York Times carried a disturbing headline: “ ‘Fast Furniture’ Is Cheap. And Americans Are Throwing It in the Trash.” The first line of the article read: “The mass-produced furniture that sold furiously during the pandemic could soon be clogging landfills.” On the contrary, much of WL Pierce’s wood is retrieved from perfectly good wood otherwise headed for landfills.

It looks like consumers are heeding this disturbing warning. According to Grand View Research, a market research and consulting company headquartered in San Francisco, the American contract furniture market grew $1.2 billion in one year from 2020 to 2021, from $30.9 to $32.1 billion, with future steady growth projected. The mass-manufactured U.S. home furniture market was $145.2 billion in 2023.

Not only are custom-built home furnishings and accessories proving to be a better investment dollar for dollar but there’s also the matter of sustainability and environmental considerations.  Aesthetically, more consumers want to bring more nature into the living space, organic elements like cotton, seagrass, wood, and leather, bringing more of the outdoors in. 

William Pierce is on top of his game in this regard. Not only does he develop his products with a less is more philosophy, but his online presentation also reflects a minimalist, simple but sophisticated approach.

Drawing upon his experience in photography and web design, Pierce has created a simple website experience akin to a photographic walk-through of his studio and workspaces. The experience has a visceral feel for the visitor, introducing his materials, techniques, processes, and real-time considerations as if he were personally greeting you and sharing the love that goes into his productions. All that’s missing is a glass of wine or a cup of coffee.

That homespun, welcoming online atmosphere is reflective of the seasonal in-person displays of William’s works at the Made in Baltimore exhibit space located at the Inner Harbor Gallery, 301 Light St.

Not only is William Pierce a passionate artisan, but he has also demonstrated his resilience as a small businessperson when, in 2023, an electrical fire gutted his entire production facility, leaving him with no equipment. Within six months, Mr. Pierce was back in business. He sees e-business as the future of expanding his business.

Your Turn

Crafting a niche in custom furnishings has been a successful strategy for WL Pierce Design. If you’re looking to start your own business, consider focusing on a specific market segment or offering personalized products and services. What niche could you carve out for your venture? Share your ideas in the comments.

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Crafting a Niche in Custom Furnishings: WL Pierce Design

Crafting a Niche in Custom Furnishings: WL Pierce Design

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