Are you the kind of person who loves home makeover shows? Or wandering through the lighting section of your local hardware store? Will you spend hours browsing to find the perfect style of handle for your kitchen cabinets? Or pore over paint samples until you’ve found the shade that’s just right? If you answered yes to any of those questions, chances are you know a little secret about home improvement projects that others don’t: doing those things can be really fun! Custom Kitchen BacksplashCustom-ordering artisan-made installation pieces – such as medallions, borders, backsplashes, wood walls, even furniture – is one of the ultimate home improvement thrills. You get to decide exactly what you want and then specify this to a manufacturer. Beyond getting the perfect piece for your space, part of what is enjoyable about hiring someone to craft something unique for you is participating in the process. And it is a process. Unlike buying prefabricated inventory where you browse, point, and purchase, hiring a company to custom-build a piece for you involves a series of steps. But for those of us who delight in being unique, each of these steps is part of the fun. A quality manufacturer will help to ensure that the process is as easy and enjoyable as possible. The reward for your involvement? A one-of-a-kind conversation piece to beautify and personalize your space. Here are a few tips on getting the most out of ordering customized installation pieces for your space.

Small Business, Big Gains

One of the keys to a satisfactory experience is choosing the right manufacturer. Small, reputable, boutique-style artisans are your best option. In some cases, they may be your only option: many large-scale manufacturers won’t do custom work. Even if they do, massive operations often outsource everything from labor to customer service. Having a responsibility to an enormous customer base means less time devoted to each customer’s unique needs and concerns. In boutique-style operations, however, the designers, craftspeople, shippers, and sales reps often share the same roof and know each other by name. Team members are generally acquainted with each arm of the operation and may fill multiple roles. This creates greater accountability among departments and thus an atmosphere of teamwork. Everyone is centered around the same goal. That goal? Ensuring you get what you want. If the thought of having to make all these creative decisions is intimidating, though, not to worry. One great thing about working with experienced professionals is that, when you’re feeling stuck or indecisive, they’re there to advise you. That’s part of what you’re paying for after all – not just craftsmanship, but expertise.

Generating a Design

Custom Backsplash SketchSo you’ve chosen the perfect manufacturer. Now what? Do you know what you want? Chances are you have at least a vague notion. To get started on your design, you can provide us with a photo, a brief narrative of your concept, or something as simple as a sketch on a napkin. Ultimately, your idea will need to be rendered as a line drawing. You can do this drawing yourself, of course, though you don’t have to. For a small fee, Oshkosh Designs will render a line drawing for you, based on your input; this fee will be deducted from the final purchase price should you choose to follow through on the design’s manufacture.


If you’ve fallen in love with the idea of a custom-made piece but don’t know what you want, don’t worry. Coming up with a concept is half the fun.

What Does Your Space Say About You?

custom eagle medallionStart with your interests. Say you’re a golf nut, or you love sailing, or you have a thing for roses. Any image or motif can be incorporated into a piece. If these seem too on the nose, geometric patterns, abstract shapes, initials, words – anything can work. The only limit is your imagination.


Look at a lot of pictures to spark your imagination. Use social networking sites like Pinterest, Instagram, Houzz, and Facebook to gather ideas. Follow users whose work interests you. Scrolling through websites and flipping through catalogs is part of the fun And don’t forget the timeless pastime of window shopping!

Gather Photos and Make an Idea Board

Taking photos of inlay work in friends’ homes or public buildings is also a good way to spark your imagination. You need not like the entire piece. Design elements can often be recombined in interesting and original ways. When browsing online, save photos and screenshots to keep track of eye-catching designs. Pinterest is a great social media site for assembling your ideas. Create a board dedicated to your project and add pins and comments whenever you see something you like.

Use Your Home

Another way to collect ideas is by studying your space. Obviously, the parameters of your custom design are largely going to be determined by the room where it will end up. Use these parameters to your advantage. Size, color, and wood species are obvious factors, but design elements will, of course, come into play as well. What’s in the room now? What are the highlights? Is there a repeating motif in the room? Incorporate it into the design. Is there some feature of the room you’d like to accent? Use your custom piece to draw attention to it. What materials are on display? Use them in the piece.

Adapt Existing Pieces

If you’re overwhelmed by the endless possibilities, start by browsing the manufacturer’s existing inventory. You may find a design that you love, but wish that the colors were different. If that’s the case, simply pass the design on to the manufacturer and specify what you’d like changed. View Oshkosh Designs' Medallion Customizer to visualize wood substitutions and submit a quote request. At Oshkosh Designs, every handcrafted artisan piece is completely customizable. There’s no reason you shouldn’t get exactly what you want.

Choose Materials

compass with directionalsWhen you have a satisfactory line drawing of your design in the proper dimensions, it is then time to undertake what is perhaps the most enjoyable part of the entire process: choosing materials. Here you get to decide on the color, the look, the feel of your piece the way an artist chooses colors from a palette. Peruse the materials the manufacturer has available. Be sure to coordinate with what is already in the space. At this point, consulting with the manufacturer is also a good idea. Materials found in nature have their own natural variations. The hardwood artisans at Oshkosh Designs can advise you on how materials will age and withstand traffic, and they’ll provide you with information on required maintenance.

It’s Your Call

While the above may make it seem like there is a lot involved with a custom order, remember that you get to dictate the terms of your involvement. You may submit a photograph or a line drawing to the designer and specify exactly what materials you want for each element. Or you may say, “Here’s my idea and a photo of my room. Can you come up with something?” If you can communicate your vision, a professional can translate that into a finished piece. Remember, too, that it’s okay not to know every single detail of what you want. Oshkosh Designs is used to working out different variables and addressing any concerns a customer may have – it’s our job! Our customer service reps will do all they can to make you feel comfortable asking questions and will deliver the information you need to realize your creative vision.

Express Yourself

With the right manufacturer, custom-designing your own piece can and should be enjoyable. No, it isn’t as easy as buying products right off the shelf. There are multiple steps involved. But each of these steps allows you to be a part of the creative process. The key to a good experience – and ultimately to receiving a piece you’re happy with – is good communication. That said, have fun with it! Each decision you make will be an expression of your singular vision and taste. There’s a thrill in that kind of creative expression. To custom order a one-of-a-kind, artisan-made inlay piece from all-natural materials, contact Oshkosh Designs today. A customer service representative is waiting to answer your questions and help you realize your unique vision.