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A GOOD EYE FOR RETAIL
20 Eng Hoon Street
Opening hours: Tues to Fri, and Sun, 10.30am to 5pm;
Sat, 10.30am to 6pm, closed on Mon
MOST travellers may be content to bring home little souvenirs from their vacations. New Zealander Michelle Boyce, on the other hand, can be found despairing over how to find enough space in her luggage to cram all the homeware and unusual objects she's bought to fill her home.
Her eye for picking out pretty things soon caught the attention of friends who would want to know where she got them from and lament that they couldn't find anything similar. That sparked the idea of turning her good eye into a business. "Tired of hearing their disappointment, I am now personally sourcing products with a focus on everyday use in the home as well as statement pieces," says Ms Boyce.
These items are now sold through her online shop, Maissone, which she started last year. Ms Boyce has also opened a showroom in Tiong Bahru, so shoppers can view the products that are available online.
"Maissone is the result of a passion for beautiful design, 10 years of travel and many treasures from back street alleys," says Ms Boyce, who used to run her own interior design firm in Auckland. She and her family have been living in Singapore for two years.
Bedlinen from Thread Designs, designed and made in New Zealand, dominate the inventory with clean lines and colours that are meant to be "free of frills and fuss", says Ms Boyce.
The collection is priced from S$78 for a plain fitted sheet to S$245 for a duvet cover. There is also a selection of cushions, bathroom and laundry accessories, as well as items for the kitchen, such as pewter cake stands and ice buckets, and La Bruket candles and soaps from Sweden. With 2016 just months away, Ms Boyce is excited that the iconic Stendig calendar is now available at the store.
The black-and-white calendar, which retails for S$125, exclusively from Maissone was designed in 1966 by Massimo Vignelli and is now part of the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The calendar is available in limited quantities. Ms Boyce says she has had "excellent response" from new and existing clients.
She says that she sources for items from all around the world, citing examples of pouffes from Morocco, and African juju hats from Cameroon.
"As our pieces are so unique to us, it's hard to say what has been most popular. Our client base is wide and varied, everyone seems to find something they love and come back looking for more, knowing I am always adding pieces when I travel," says Ms Boyce.
BEECH WOOD EDGE
DESIGNER Melvin Ong is known for creating paperweights and side tables using concrete and for using pleats in his designs. But for his latest venture, he's moved into working with wood.
He's teamed up with his friend, Amy Lim, who works in advertising, to found kuru design. Mr Ong is its creative director, and he still runs his own design firm Desinere, while Ms Lim is kuru design's business director. "kuru design is about being clean, organic and unassuming."
"It wasn't created to stand out, but to fill a need for simple, yet functional pieces for everyday living. It's not a brand, it's an invitation to appreciate a lifestyle," says Mr Ong.
This collection showcases the use of beech wood. He initially wanted to experiment with colours and such, "but after a couple of rounds, we decided it just wasn't in line with our aesthetics".
There are four products to introduce the collection - a coaster, an incense holder, a tray, and a pencil tray. "Response has been pretty good so far, in particular the pencil tray - it's been nicknamed the 'potato chip'," quips Mr Ong.
It's just the start, as he has a long list of items to create. "We picked these four items, as we felt it would give a good glimpse of what's to come," he says. Prices range from S$5 for a coaster to S$27 for the pencil tray. They are sold online as well as at Foundry Store in Seah Street.
"Kuru" is Japanese, meaning "to come". "We're extending an invitation to come and join this lifestyle with us, and hopefully along the way, you can appreciate what we are creating or trying to," says Mr Ong.
ETHICAL STANCE ON HOMEWARE
100E Pasir Panjang Road, #08-01 Century Warehouse
Opening hours: 11am to 6pm daily
FOR fans of iconic brands sold at Danish Designs, the new furniture store Kuhl Home will let you fill your home with cool Scandinavian designs at friendlier prices.
Even as trendy homeowners lusted after the likes of Fritz Hansen, Gloster and Hag, there is a demand for more fashionable styles at more digestible prices, says Kuhl Home's spokesman Leo Shu May.
"We decided to introduce new Scandinavian design brands to meet this need. We wanted brands that could match our customers' desire for design and price points but still retaining the quality of made-in-Europe products which have an ethical focus," says Ms Leo. Kuhl Home is the authorised dealer for brands such as Normann Copenhagen, Vita Lighting, Plumen and ferm living, and is the exclusive distributor in South-east Asia for Bolia and Skovby NEO.
"We carry brands which we believe will inspire the local market, as much as they have had an impact in Europe," says Ms Leo.
Both Danish Design and Kuhl Home are in the same building, so customers can have a complete Scandinavian design experience in the same location. Ms Leo says response to Kuhl Home has been "excellent".
She says, "Homeowners are more house proud today than ever, and this means our customers are design- and quality-conscious. We get a good mix of customers who are HDB and condo dwellers, young and more mature."
Their bestsellers are the sofas, which allow for customisation, from the choice of fabric and leather options, as well as choosing either metal or wood for its legs.
"If you visit our store and take a look at the design and quality that we offer versus the price point, it is clear that our selling point is the value that we provide," says Ms Leo. "We offer a much better quality product at an excellent price point for furniture which is made in Europe and not made in China or Asia like many other furniture retailers in Singapore."
ON THE FAST TRACK
West of May
EVER been to a furniture store, placed an order for a piece of sofa, only to be told that you would need to wait at least three months for it to be shipped in?
If you would rather not play the waiting game, new online furniture website, West of May, could help. "West of May is about putting all authentic designer furniture that retailers have in stock, in front of customers who do not want to wait the long lead times for the world's best furniture," says Charlie Brazier, one of its founding directors.
Mr Brazier explains that West of May only offers product in stock which is not always the case with retailers. "Customers know that everything on West of May can be delivered at once, saving them time from shopping around retail stores," he says. Some of the key brands available through West of May include Haworth, Gloster, David Trubridge, Anglepoise, Artemide and Wilkhahn.
And the range of pieces include those for the living and dining rooms, outdoor, office, lighting and accessories which have been sourced directly from furniture retailers and wholesalers who have new stock sitting in their warehouse.
"What we list on the website includes current stock as well as those items that a retailer is wishing to clear for various reasons," says Mr Brazier. "Warehouse space is very expensive so generally retailers hope to turn over their stock as quickly as possible, and this is how West of May helps them." Delivery of the product is between two to 10 days for all items.
Depending on the item, prices may or may not be cheaper than going direct to the retailer. Mr Brazier says that the price listed for an item is up to the retailer. "They can choose to sell at the same price as in their store, making West of May an additional route to market, or they can choose to clear the stock at a reduced price and have this marketed to a much wider audience than their retail shop allows."
In some cases, it pays to be a member at West of May. Retailers and wholesalers sometimes give West of May special pricing on their products, which is displayed by a "Members Price Available" token on the West of May website.
Complete the free registration and you will be able to access the hidden special offers. "Singapore has a large population of people who are often moving and renovating. We hope West of May provides them with a convenient avenue to source authentically designed furniture quickly," says Mr Brazier.
Journey East, 315 Outram Road,
#03-02 Tan Boon Liat Building
Opening hours: 10am to 6pm
Liang Court, #02-04/05/06
Opening hours: 11am to 9pm daily
BESIDES being Singaporeans who have made waves in the design world, both locally and internationally, what do Hunn Wai, Gabriel Tan and Wendy Chua have in common?
All three recently launched their new collections with Singaporean companies, Journey East and Scanteak.
Hunn Wai, together with Italian designer Francesca Lanzavecchia, form Lanzavecchia + Wai, and their PLAYplay collection of furniture for Journey East was launched earlier this month.
Gabriel Tan and Wendy Chua, together with Argentinian Gustavo Maggio and Spaniard Sebastian Alberdi, form Outofstock. They launched their second collection of furniture with Scanteak, called Holm, in July. PLAYplay was launched in celebration of Journey East's 20th anniversary. Mr Wai says, "PLAYplay is crafted for compact smart living spaces and fun-loving people - those who aren't afraid of colour and want to be surrounded by authentic possessions."
The spirit of play forms the driving narrative behind the collection, each piece consciously representing the young-minded positivity of a life filled with fun. This forward-looking energy is seamlessly juxtaposed with a touch of retro design influence: a homage to the 20-year heritage of Journey East as curator and restorer of rare vintage furniture.
For example, the Accordian, is a console with a lenticular effect, that is super colourful from one side and all natural wood from the other. Then there is Pong, which is a dining table with hidden compartments that provide users with a net, two paddles and a ball, transforming dinner into an impromptu game of ping pong.
Prices range from S$560 for a side table to S$2,900 for a long Accordian. "PLAYplay is an expression of the New South-east Asia, to embody its vibrancy, energy and playfulness which our region is known for," says Mr Wai. While play is the inspiration for PLAYplay, Holm is derived from the old Norse word, holmr, meaning a small island, which is what inspired the soft forms that define this collection.
This is Outofstock's second collaboration with Scanteak, following the success of the first, called Prologue.
Outofstock sees this collection of furniture not just as functional pieces but which are also imbued with artistic quality and personality. For example, the mirror of the shoe cabinet serves to help check outfits and shoes before heading out. "It is also an expression of functional art, in a shape that is between a circle and a square," says Mr Tan. "This is the essence of the Holm collection where we have sought a balance between the expression of form and the usefulness derived from the pieces."
Apart from the shoe cabinet, retailing for S$1,199, other pieces include a side table for S$299, and sofas from S$1,099.
HAVING decorated her home by herself, Priti Devi knows how difficult it can be to find just the right pieces to fill up each room.
With that in mind, she launched Decorator's Notebook, a collection of home accessories sourced from around the world. But what's different is that what shoppers see on the website are also pieces that Ms Devi has personally bought and used. In other words, she has tried and tested these products, and given them her stamp of approval. "The idea for Decorator's Notebook came when I was furnishing my new home in Singapore, and was unable to find unique and inspiring pieces from independent designers," she says. "Through my travels, I had the privilege to see some beautiful, handmade products and meet some inspiring young artisans."
She adds: "Decorator's Notebook offers a collection of carefully curated, eye-catching and elegant home accessories on a single platform."
For Ms Devi, having elegance is about restrained, unpretentious good taste that exudes confidence and is not intended to attract or impress others. She says her preferred personal style is muted, smart stylish design and she is drawn to beautiful things that are graceful, and speak of the places they come from and the personality of the artists that have created them.
Some highlights include horn and lacquer home accessories made in Recananti, Italy, where the centuries-old cutting and polishing techniques are still used. Such pieces cost from US$190.
Then there is also a selection of home fragrances, in the form of organic soy scented candles and scented room diffusers from Niana, the leading organic scented candle company in India. The fragrances used for the candles are infusions of aromatic flowers, exotic spices and fresh fruits. Prices start from US$25 for a candle.
The Decorator's Notebook isn't a mere online shop. Ms Devi also shares tips on decorating the home, as well as gives her opinions on luxury hotels where she has stayed at, as their designs have impressed her.
Her stories on these hotels serve as inspiration, but Ms Devi says, "Buy what you love, as a home should reflect the personality of its owner."
LOWDOWN ON DANISH DESIGN
191 Upper Bukit Timah Road
Inside Courts Bukit Timah
Opening hours: 11am to 10pm
FOR years, Singaporeans have said Hej! to Ikea, but now, say Velkommen to JYSK. JYSK (pronounced "yoosk") is a Danish furniture and homeware retailer, brought into Singapore under an exclusive partnership with Courts Singapore.
Its store-in-store concept at the latter's Bukit Timah store has close to 1,000 products on sale featuring Scandinavian-inspired designs across a range of categories at great value. Sounds familiar? Well, in Scandinavia, Ikea and JYST see each other as competitors.
"But with JYSK, our aim is to be priced lower than the competition," says Steve Church, group furniture director of Courts.
While there is only one JYSK store in Singapore for now, Mr Church says they hope to open 20 more stores in Singapore in the next five years, hopefully in malls, "so that our stores will be accessible".
JYSK started in 1979, and there are now over 2,200 stores in 38 countries. With this number of stores to fill, JYSK manages to keep its prices low. For example, an adult-sized bath towel starts from S$3.90, while a bed with adjustable incline, inclusive of mattress and bed frame costs S$1,899.
The brand prides itself on offering three different price ranges for its products - basic, silver and gold. The gold range is naturally better quality at a higher price.
Lest anyone think low prices mean poor quality products, JYSK was granted a Royal Warrant of Appointment as Official Supplier to The Royal Danish Courts - a title conferred upon companies who have done business with the Royal Danish Courts over several years, are financially stable and have a good reputation.
The range of products that JYSK has is mind-boggling. You can find everything from mugs, folding boxes and home textiles to toy water guns. And if you need outdoor items, such as tents, inflatable beds, portable grills, and even an outdoor swing, or trampoline, JYSK is well-equipped.
Mr Church says that while Courts is more focused on selling big ticket and branded items, having JYSK in its portfolio means the company can now sell a higher quantity of smaller items too.