Tuesday, 2 September, 2014

Published February 22, 2014
Home & Garden
Decor theme party
Themed furniture stores make decorating easier for homeowners who know what they want. By Tay Suan Chiang
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Swing featuring a bronze chain estimated to be from the 19th century. - PHOTO: PRAKALYAM GALLERY

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Prakalyam Gallery

The Vertex, Ubi Avenue 3, #01-09 tel: 6635 4741

Hours: Weekdays: 11am-6pm, Saturdays: 11am-5pm, closed on Sundays and public holidays

WHAT happens when you get over-enthusiastic about shopping for a new home, and end up with things you have no space for?

Easy - you literally open shop to sell them, as married couple Kasivishvanaath and Veshali Visvanaath have done with Prakalyam Gallery, a new furniture gallery selling antiques and collectibles from India.

"We both love collecting Indian antiques and have been doing so, for the last six years," says Mrs Visvanaath, 36. "Usually, we just buy one or two pieces, but when shopping for our home last year, we went overboard."

The couple - second generation owners of Muthu's Curry, which was started by Mr Visvanaath's father - bought more pieces than their home in Greenwood Avenue could fit, including a French study table that is now on the gallery floor.

Prakalyam Gallery, meaning "all things beautiful" in Sanskrit and "olden times" in Hindi, now has about 200 pieces that didn't make the cut at their home.

All are genuine antiques, which the couple personally sourced from all over India. Some of the pieces date as far back as the 15th century when the Portuguese first arrived in India. The pieces generally fall into several categories: Indo-French, Indo-Portuguese, Indo-Dutch, British, and Indian ethnic. "You can tell which period each piece is from," says Mrs Visvanaath. For example, cupboards from the British era usually have "claw" legs, while those of Dutch design have "ball" legs. "The Portuguese also tend to have more intricate designs in their carvings, such as grapevines running down the sides of a cupboard," says Mrs Visvanaath. Many of the pieces are either rosewood or teakwood.

The couple go on sourcing trips, and often check out private homes and sometimes palaces to find these gems, which are from 50 to 300 years old. One of their rare finds is an 18th century door and door frame, made of teakwood, bought from a home in Tamil Nadu which was about to be demolished. The doors still work, but the couple reckon that this will more likely be used as an art piece.

The gallery also has several writing desks, which come with hidden drawers, as well as chests, many of which still have the original key. Most of the pieces have to be restored, "but we don't go overboard, otherwise the pieces will lose their natural beauty," says Mrs Visvanaath.

The couple also sell statues, and each has to go through rigorous scrutiny by the Antiquity Board of India. "Any statue that is more than 100 years old cannot be taken out of India, as they are considered national treasures," Mrs Visvanaath explains. The gallery has found fans in Indian, European and Chinese clientele. "The Indians and Europeans know what they are getting as they are more familiar with such pieces," says Mrs Visanaath. "Our Chinese customers are more familiar with Chinese antiques, so this is something new to them."

Regardless, the couple are most willing to spend time sharing the history of each piece, and they say that often the purchase only takes 10 minutes, "but they are happy to spend hours at the gallery learning about each piece", says Mrs Visvannath. Prices start from $90 to $20,000.

While the couple select each piece based on their design and historical value, functionality is still of importance to them.

"You must be able to use the pieces, and not just have them on display," says Mrs Visvanaath. As each piece is an antique, there are customers who are wary about touching them. "I encourage them to feel them - these pieces are much stronger than what you can buy today," says Mrs Visvanaath.