If you want to explore the long tail of furniture design, a new service called OpenDesk is worth investigating — it's a crowd-sourced database of downloadable furniture designs as well as a network of craftspeople that can build that furniture for you. While there aren't many pieces of furniture available yet, there's a lot you can do if you find a piece you're interested in. If you're a professional with access to a CNC machine and suitable tools, you can fabricate and build your own pieces based on these designs. Fortunately, those without the skills or tools to completely build their own furniture have other options. You can either receive "raw," sawn materials that you can then finish and build into completed furniture, or you can get an IKEA-style "flatpack" of finished pieces that you can assemble yourself.

In all cases, OpenDesk works to pair your request with local builders (OpenDesk calls them "makers) whenever possible. Right now, there are only 12 makers working with OpenDesk, a scant three of whom operate in the US (all on the East Coast). However, if you're not near a maker, OpenDesk will try and pair you with a local crafter who can then provide you with a price quote. There's also only a small number of furniture pieces available for now, but we expect to see more posted if OpenDesk manages to find an audience. While the service is currently useful for a limited audience and for a limited variety of furniture designs, it's a clever concept that could make it easier to get your hands on custom-designed items — assuming OpenDesk can expand both its line of furniture and its network of makers.