Customizing Big Box: Ballard Designs and COM Upholstery

Today’s topic is still — obliquely — related to the my ORC: my custom bench from Ballard Designs and how you, as a consumer, can get the same look. Sorry, no Thanksgiving recipes here. I love to cook, but this ain’t no lifestyle blog.

But first I would like to thank two fantastic designers/bloggers. I was soooooo thrilled to be featured in their roundups of their favorite Fall 2016 One Room Challenges this week — Amanda Louise Interiors and Interiors for Families, the blog of Kelly Rogers Interiors. Go check out my very talented company (including Amanda Louise’s and Kelly Rogers’ own projects!). Thanks so much, ladies! I’m honored and humbled that you liked my “Artfully Fresh Foyer!”

Ok, onward!

Big Box Customization for Consumers

One of the comments I got most during my One Room Challenge was how much many people loved the bench that I had underneath my Craigslist console. The most clicks from my site was to the link I posted to the fabric.


If you’re only just checking in, it’s the Nala Bench from Ballard Designs in Tilton Fenwick’s Gibbie for Duralee.


As a decorator, I have accounts with numerous American-made brands of upholstery. However, when it came to the look I wanted for this space, among all those other benches from all those other brands and even at wholesale prices, Ballard’s Nala was just really the one I wanted. I loved its slightly Chinois lines, its fully upholstered legs, and the price was fantastic.

I also liked that Ballard carries a number of frames that are bench-made in North Carolina and Virginia of kiln-dried hardwood. If you don’t want your furniture warping with the fluctuation of winter’s dry heat or summer’s humidity, you definitely want that kiln-dried hardwood frame!

I was sold — almost. What I didn’t love was Ballard’s choice of fabrics — at least not for this project.

Ballard is one of a handful of Big Box outlets that offers COM — “Customer’s Own Material.” With COM from the Big Box stores, consumers, not just designers, can handpick their fabrics from whatever maker they choose.

This isn’t the first time I’ve used Ballard’s COM program. In the below picture, I used Gray Line Linen‘s upholstery fabric and Ballard’s Courbé Ottoman.

Dining Room 2

Even Tilton Fenwick themselves have used Ballard’s COM. Here’s a tufted ottoman in the dynamic duo’s recent project as it appeared in House Beautiful Magazine.

Tilton Fenwick

With COM, be careful to follow instructions to a “T,” though. Send in the proper yardage for your fabric’s repeat and make sure that it is on a bolt, not folded, or they won’t take it!

One quick word on price — Big Box doesn’t always mean less expensive. There’s a reason why hiring a designer makes good financial sense, especially if you’re intent on doing more to a room than order a single piece. VERY often a designer’s trade pricing is better than the Big Box stores. But if you’re going it alone, Ballard’s COM may be a good option for you.

Below are some of my favorite COM Ballard made-in-the-USA pieces, along with some choices for fun/gorgeous designer fabrics from a few of my go-to discount fabrics sources (for more on these sources, see here). Some of these are even better than wholesale prices. Shhhhh. Don’t let anyone know I told you! 🙂

Blair Bench
Tilton Fenwick for Duralee
Weston Ottoman
Robert Allen, Pantheon in Admiral
Larkin Swivel Glider


Sarah Richardson for Kravet, Yorkville in Celadon
Helmes Wing Chair
Sarah Richardson for Kravet, Brookhaven in Coral
Mill House Bench
Lee Jofa

Of course, decorators can get most anything wholesale, and you can get almost any fabric through Decorator’s Best or Inside Fabric for a markup, but you know me, I love a good deal when I can find one!

Have you ever used Ballard’s or another Big Box’s COM program? What were your experiences? I’d be eager to know if you were happy with the results.


Next week, I’ll be discussing color — and why that gorgeous silver gray paint you chose turned blue on the wall. Hope you’ll be back! And happy Thanksgiving!



2 thoughts on “Customizing Big Box: Ballard Designs and COM Upholstery”

    1. Hi Amelie.Thanks for your interest! I’m afraid that I do not know of another retail outlet that takes COM from consumers, and I’ve definitely looked. Some Big Boxes will “customize,” but they usually just mean that you can choose from their own list of fabrics. It’s just one of the reasons that (overall) I recommend buying American-made through a designer when it comes to big upholstery items to furnish a room or house — you can get anything under the sun, and you can get FAR better quality that will last longer. However, when you just want a smaller piece here or there, Ballard can be a nice option. If you’re ever interested, I recommend this post: https://homeglowdesign.com/2017/01/14/cost-comparison-big-box-vs-decorator/

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top
Scroll to Top

Home Style Compatibility QUIZ!

Have you tried decorating your home with that all elusive “mix”…

yet nothing seems to work?