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Dutch furniture brand debuts in Singapore
THE furniture brand Ghyczy (say git-sy) may not ring a bell, but it has fans in renowned fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld, the royal family of the Netherlands and, soon, the who's who of Singapore.
Founder Peter Ghyczy started the company in 1971, and is happy to keep things small. But since his youngest son Felix took over the company 10 years ago, father and son have had to think about the next step.
"We're a well-known brand in Europe, but how do we continue?" asked the senior Ghyczy, who, at 76, survived a brush with throat cancer last year but is still actively involved in design now.
He added: "I'm feeling good and still have some time left."
A meeting between the younger Ghyczy and two partners in Singapore led to Ghyczy opening its first retail store in Singapore and in Asia. Showroom H+A, located in Midview City in Sin Ming, carries a range of Ghyczy's pieces, from armchairs to sofas, coffee tables and lamps.
Asked why it has taken the company so long to branch out of its headquarters in the Netherlands, the younger Ghyczy said: "My father is happy that we are expanding, but I'm doing it his way - slowly."
His Hungarian-born dad studied architecture, but along the way, veered into furniture design. "By chance, I designed more furniture than buildings. It is better this way," he said.
He added that being an architect is risky business. What if he had designed a home for a client, and the client didn't like it upon completion or many years later? "You can't throw away a house. With a piece of furniture, clients have a choice to decide whether or not they want it. And with furniture, you can go into the minute details."
He said his furniture designs reflect his background in architecture in that the pieces have geometric lines, and their production methods are inspired by those found in building construction:
"I believe that the organic style is not suited for furniture. Nature does organic forms better than any designer can. My preference is for geometric lines, which have a timeless appeal."
Some of his pieces designed 30 to 40 years ago have fitted well into homes over the last four decades.
The father of four is also an inventor. In 1970, he invented a clamping system to hold thick glass sheets in place, thereby creating the first frameless tables. Today, that same clamping system is used by many furniture manufacturers.
Mr Ghyczy's most famous creation is the plastic Garden Egg chair, which he designed in 1968, and is on permanent display in London's Victoria and Albert Museum. The design incorporates features typical of the period: a space-age look, a UFO-like form, brightly coloured plastic lacquer, portability and the informal lounging quality of the low seat.
Many knock-offs have been churned out in China and Thailand, but the original pieces are collectors' items, frequently found at antique sales and auctions.
The brand prides itself on creating artisanal products, rather than mass-produced pieces.
It has four craftsmen but also works with small ateliers; pieces are only assembled in the Netherlands workshop, upon order.
Mr Ghyczy said: "It will be the same if we expand in Asia, and move our production to this region.
"We have never been about mass production. Our artisanal DNA must be kept."
Like a good chef, he is a firm believer in using only the best ingredients, or, in this case, materials for his furniture.
Ghyczy uses only stainless steel from Finland, regarded as one of the best worldwide.
The wood comes from a family-owned forest in south Germany and is naturally dried for three years before it is used to make a piece of furniture. Glass and wood are often used because of their lasting quality.
Thanks to Ghyczy's timeless appeal and the quality of materials used, items under this brand last 30 years or more.
"On the environmental front, that means you won't be disposing your furniture that often," said Mr Ghyczy, whose home is a 500-year-old, "small" castle filled with his own furniture and some antiques.
Rather than create endless pieces to add to the collection, the company philosophy is to focus on developing a small core range of designs with universal appeal. These can be customised according to different dimensions, materials and finishes.
The pieces look simple, but they come with hidden features that cater to customers of different builds. The back of the brand's Sofa GP01, for example, can be adjusted to get the desired seat depth. "I don't need to design multiple sofas of different depths," said Mr Ghyczy. "But rather, I evolve the design of a sofa. It is important to evolve to have progress."
As a veteran designer, he is often asked by young designers for advice.
"It is not good to have very far-out designs. Work with whatever there is, and improve on existing products," he said.
He added that it is easy to come up with a new design, but designers must remember that the product needs to be produced within reasonable costs and without complex construction; they also need to think about how to market it, and whether or not there is demand for it.
"Try not to have too ridiculous ideas," he said.