Andy Steinberg has built a business around building plus-size furniture like this chest of drawers.
At 6-foot-4 and sporting a XXL shirt, Andy Steinberg knows what it’s like to be plus-sized. He also knows it’s often hard to fit those plus-sized clothes into a normal size drawer. That eventually gave birth to his business, appropriately called Big Drawers Furniture.
From customer to custom builder
Steinberg wasn’t making furniture or intending to make furniture when he first set out on a quest for a chest of drawers big enough to meet his needs. After a fruitless search in a wide variety of furniture stores, he resorted to having the piece custom made.
When it arrived, not only was he pleased with the results, but it also impressed someone not so plus-sized. Andy’s girlfriend, a more diminutive 5-foot-five took one look at the drawers and said she wanted one, too, adding, “There isn’t a woman out there with enough drawer space.”
After some time honing his woodworking skills, Steinberg abandoned previous career paths in marine biology and computer system sales. He opened his woodworking shop in 2005 and started selling to a very large – literally and figuratively – niche market. The business is all custom. “I work to give someone what they want,” he says. “And when that happens, I see the excitement and appreciation from the client, and that is so rewarding to me.”
Meeting a need
Steinberg says his research shows that 60 percent of women and more than two-thirds of all adults in the U.S. are considered plus-size. But standard-size furniture has not kept up with the size of the people using it.
The extra-large drawers easily accommodate XXL shirts, but they also can be helpful for anyone looking for more clothing storage space.
So, how big is big? Imagine a drawer that can hold 40 XXL golf shirts or 12 XXL men’s sweatshirts or bulky sweaters. And drawers that big have to be built strong, so Steinberg uses solid wood and dovetail constructions with heavy-duty Blumotion full-extension slides for maximum access.
And the price? Steinberg says a chest of drawers typically runs about $4,500. He’s been marketing through stores and word of mouth and is resisting suggestions to outsource or license the concept to other manufacturers. He likes the concept of supplying quality custom products.
“My furniture hails to an era when ‘made in the USA’ meant quality,” he says. “And I care about quality. There is an added price for quality, but the value of this furniture is far greater than the price.”
More than drawers
Although the original emphasis was on super-sized chests of drawers, Steinberg has expanded into other areas of maximum storage.
One recent project was a makeup vanity that Steinberg describes as functioning like a fishing tackle box. Not only does it have big drawers with custom interior storage for makeup items, but also it has trays within drawers that automatically lift up along with the lid.
With a fondness for quality domestic hardwoods, Steinberg features figured solid wood in most of his projects. He even has been known to do some urban forestry to salvage wood from trees being cut down in the city, he says. In a recent effort, he’s been using offcuts from these often colorful woods to make cutting boards, which he sells as a benefit for an anti-cancer charity.
At a glance
Who: Andy Steinberg
What: Big Drawers Furniture
Where: Norfolk, Va.
Product: Plus-size furniture for plus-size people
Shop size: 1,200 sq. ft.
Web site: www.bigdrawers.com
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