You won’t confuse iRCustom with any other furniture maker.
Its 4,000-sq.-ft. shop may be smaller than some showrooms at IKEA, the world’s largest furniture retailer with three stores within an hour’s drive of the Lake Zurich, Ill., business. But that’s OK.
“We’re not looking to be IKEA,” said co-owner Rob DiVito.
With their large, asymmetrical, colorful designs made from both wood and metal, iRCustom’s office desks and tables stand out from crowd.
The furniture, designs, and operations are the brainchild of Rob and Anthony DiVito, who are brothers and sole iRCustom employees. The two feel their off-kilter approach to making furniture—such as combining metal fabrication with woodworking—is what sets them apart and attracts customer attention.
The Modern Industrial Look
Prior to iRCustom, the DiVito brothers were neither involved in metal fabrication nor woodworking. Rob was in graphic design while Anthony was in finance trading stock options. The two wanted a change of pace.
About six years ago, office furniture came to mind and iRCustom was born.
“We saw a bit of a gap in the industry on doing a modern take that people need,” said Rob, the younger of the two siblings.
Rob is responsible primarily for how the desks and tables look. He said the transition from graphic design to 3D renderings was easy—whether such desks or tables could be built was a different story. As Rob points out, they’ve been learning what works and what doesn’t since their first piece.
“Every time you put something out, you learn something new,” he added.
The DiVitos describe their products as “modern industrial.”
“We like the metal and wood. It’s not raw metal, but I know a lot of people consider [metal] to be industrial,” said Rob. “But we definitely keep a cleaner aesthetic with the ground joints and powdered coating and the solid, brighter colors. That’s where the modern comes in.”
“I think the industrial component comes more from the strength and durability,” added Anthony. “All of our pieces are made of very heavy gauge, which in the furniture industry is basically unheard of.”
They typically use 10-ga. A500 tube steel from 2- by 4-in. or 6- by 6-in. plates, as well as 10-ga. cold-rolled plates for bracketry. For wood, they have used walnut, maple, oak, ash, padauk, and others.
While Rob focuses on the design of a project and Anthony handles behind-the-scenes work and logistics, both involve themselves in the cutting, welding, grinding, and polishing of the furniture pieces.
“Proper prep of the cut pieces is always a major time factor but a necessary task,” said Rob. “The fixturing of the cut pieces for welding is a big process, and our [welding] table has cut down on that time substantially. Once the welds are ground smooth and final touchups are done, we then send the large steel frame pieces out to be sandblasted and powder coated. We [powder coat] the smaller pieces in-house.”
They typically receive rough-sawn lumber from semi-local suppliers, which they ultimately mill into square and uniform thicknesses, but in varying widths, that are glued together. The DiVitos sand the wooden panels through multiple grits and finish them with oil and wax.
“Finding an ideal workflow and keeping separate workspaces is what we have found to be the key,” Rob said of working with wood and metal.
“Typically, we will do our best to keep the two processes completely separate, but often find ourselves moving between both while fitting and finishing a piece, so it can still be a bit of a balancing act.”
The desks or tables vary in size, but the DiVitos said the most common desk size is around 7 by 3 ft., and its conference tables range between 10 to 16 ft. long and 4 to 6 ft. high.
“People often say, ‘That looks heavy.’ Well, it is,” said Rob.
IRCustom’s website and social media pages show the different designs and concepts. One desk, “Gulf,” is described as a “hyper-modern desk” built from steel and ash, its orange and light blue colors inspired by the Gulf livery. Meanwhile, “Aeround” is a round dining table with solid aluminum, CNC-milled legs and a black diamond richlite tabletop.
All their work is custom made. Customers may look at previous designs for ideas, but each piece is unique.
“Everything is literally one-off, custom, handmade, and done to the customer’s specifications,” said Anthony.
It Takes Two
The business’s social media pages have thousands of followers. For instance, the iRCustom Pinterest page has more than 28,600 followers; they described Pinterest as their “secret horse.”
“It’s the world we live in,” Anthony said of social media.
Their products have attracted customers like offices, corporate clients, YouTube personalities, podcasters, and even metalworking equipment companies.
Despite the growth, the brothers like their company’s size, even if it means they do practically everything—design, orders, logistics, etc. A two-person shop is alright for them at this point.
“We expect to be pretty exact and precise,” said Anthony. “We’ve kept [the business] small on purpose.
“We don’t necessarily want to be dependent on a second or third party. We don’t want to mass produce them to the point where they’re in boxes in warehouses and no one knows who made them, where they came from,” he added.
That is not to say they haven’t considered growing. The two have considered hiring additional workers—and they just might one day.
“Every day that goes by, we’re debating whether to hire somebody. You got to find the right person, and I’m sure they’re out there,” Rob said.