They may cost more but originals elevate the quality and ambience of interiors, raise the value of properties and could even work out to be better investments in the long term. This is the third of a six-part series that will give you the 101 on original designer furniture.
By Low Shi Ping
The Ascott Limited
Nathan Yong, Gabriel Tan, Hunn Wai. These are just three designers whose furniture pieces can be found in The Ascott Limited properties in Singapore.
That the trio is based here is no coincidence. The lodging owner-operator is a firm believer of infusing local sensibilities and aesthetics into the interior design of its serviced residences and hotels – and working with local designers to create furniture does just that.
Take the recently-opened lyf Funan Singapore, the newest Ascott brand to launch, targeted at millennials with a strong co-living element to it
At the Connect social zone, it collaborated with Hunn Wai to custom make the “seesaw piper” chair and “rocking piper” stool and lounger using metal and coated metal powder.
The colourful pieces infuse a sense of playground fun into the space, while being versatile and functional at lyf’s community events.
“We work very closely with well-established local furniture designers to create bespoke pieces,” says Kian Liew, Head of Global ID & Technical Services at The Ascott Limited.
“This is in line with our commitment to support the communities where we operate and enable our guests to appreciate the local culture.”
Liew reveals that it is also part of the design and consultancy services that Ascott’s Interior Design (ID) Services team offers to owners and developers whose properties Ascott manages.
“We have developed very detailed brand and design guidelines to ensure each property has a strong design with its own personality.”
The exclusivity appeals to sophisticated guests who want a differentiated experience
It has been nothing but a joy to work with local designers, points out Liew. In fact, he is so sold on the idea he is collaborating with them to showcase their furniture designs in Ascott’s overseas properties.
“We want to play a part in empowering local designers, giving them a platform to bring their designs onto an international arena as Ascott expands its presence and operates properties globally,” he says.
But Liew isn’t just supporting local. He reveals that Ascott incorporates international designer furniture brands at their properties too.
For example, the penthouse suites at serviced residence Ascott Orchard Singapore are outfitted with pieces from luxury brand Fendi Casa, specifically those by Vietnamese designer Toan Nguyen.
“The exclusivity appeals to sophisticated guests who want a differentiated experience,” he adds.
Mandarin Orchard Singapore, by Meritus
This iconic hotel along Orchard Road will soon celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2021. In these five decades, it has always prided itself on reflecting its signature Asian hospitality through its product and service offerings.
“Though designer furniture requires bigger investments, we find that they are more durable in the long-term, due to the superior materials and special manufacturing techniques used in producing each piece,” says Shigeru Akashi, the Food & Beverage Director of Mandarin Orchard Singapore.
So when it came to selecting chairs for the city hotel’s 13 Meeting Suites that can host over 500 delegates at any given time across its two towers, Akashi reveals the decision was made to purchase the classic Fritz Hansen Series 7 chairs, designed by Arne Jacobsen in 1955.
Their appeal lies in their aesthetics, functionality and cost efficiency in the long run.
Additionally, being sourced from a reputable brand like Fritz Hansen, which is distributed in Singapore by W. Atelier, ensures a continuity of supply should replacements be needed.
“We prioritise durability when selecting our furniture, preferring materials that are more resistant to wear and tear,” explains Akashi.
“We also leverage the strong relationships we have built with our suppliers over the years, to assist us in maintaining the furniture and make quick repairs and replacements as necessary.”
Ultimately, it is the hotel guests that benefit. In addition to being in an aesthetically-enhanced setting, the high-quality Series 7 chairs make a world of a difference for those who are there for full-day meetings.
The hotel staff are not complaining either, since their stackable design makes it easy to turn over the meeting rooms efficiently and store them.
“A good investment goes a long way. Choose pieces that are timeless and at the same time address the needs of your audience.”
The Work Project
A relatively late entrant into the co-working space industry, The Work Project stands out for its design-led spaces that make its tenants happy to come to work and be the best that they can.
One way it does this is through procuring a mix of furniture from designer brands to add a unique touch to each of its six locations in Singapore.
“What remains consistent in our process is a search for quality and excellence,” says Junny Lee, its Founder and Managing Director. “Well-designed spaces have the ability to bring out the best in an individual.
“Our furniture pieces represent the values that we hope to inspire, including originality and craftsmanship.”
To this end, it has shopped at retailers like Space Furniture, Proof Living, XTRA, Vitra and Pomelo Home, just to name a few.
For instance, at the lounge in its Parkview Square location is the Bibendum, Eileen Gray 1926 armchair from ClassiCon, all purchased from Space Furniture.
At its Asia Square location, the receptionist sits on Cassina’s 410 Cab Stool, while the side tables in the lounge are the 381 Torei, also from the same brand.
While the long production lead time and maintenance pose some challenges, Lee believes they can be overcome by building a culture of appreciating fine craftsmanship.
“Masterpieces are worth waiting and caring for,” he adds.
Lee hopes that other corporates will follow in his footsteps when it comes to buying original designer furniture – after all, every decision they make should stand for their company’s beliefs
“Furniture procurement is one of those decisions. How and what furniture you procure will impact how the organisation is viewed among employees, clients and various stakeholders.”