Published September 26, 2008


Spruce up your personal space

Premium furniture brand names are making their way into local living rooms at an unprecedented pace, says MELISSA YEO

IT'S NO secret that the upper echelons of Singaporean society love branded clothes, accessories and cars. But they crave designer labels on their furniture, too.

Fine finishings: At Boulevard Vue (above) buyers can have Poggenpohl kitchen cabinets and wardrobes, Antonio Lupi bathroom fittings and Toto Neorest water closets

'Interior design is increasingly geared towards incorporating branded furniture into personal tastes,' said William Ong, executive chairman of Axis ID. 'People are creating interiors that focus on their treasured items, and they are also willing to spend more on designer pieces.'

Premium furniture brand names like Poliform, Giorgetti, Minotti and Meridiani are making their way into local living rooms at an unprecedented pace.

Antonio Lupi bathroom fittings and SCIC kitchen cabinets have been installed in apartments and condos now come with Fendi Casa and Armani/Casa sofas and tables.

At Far East Organization's Boulevard Vue, for example, buyers can have Poggenpohl kitchen cabinets and wardrobes, Antonio Lupi bathroom fittings and Toto Neorest water closets.

'Many developers are looking to five and six-star hotels as their points of reference,' said Grace Ng of real estate developer Colliers International. 'More luxury items are being used, especially in high-end homes.'

Even traditionally non-furniture brands are looking to cash in on the rising demand for high-end homeware, parleying their existing properties into interior design ventures.

Bottega Veneta has branched out from handbags and wallets to create study desks in leather, while Ralph Lauren has diversified into gold cashmere-wool tweed throw pillows and velvet-upholstered lounge chairs.

'We know clients who have paid thirty to forty thousand dollars for a dining set,' said Mr Ong. 'And there are those who pay upwards of twenty thousand dollars for a sofa set and consider it the norm. They don't mind the high price, because they think it's something they will enjoy using.'

Patty Mak of Suying Design said: 'The high-end property homeowner wants interiors that are modern in terms of design language, but not minimalist in context.'

Homeowners are opting for furnishings that look rich, but not dated. According to Ms Mak, these include elaborate textures and prints on thick fabrics and embossed leathers.

'Homeowners are keen on having items that make statements,' she said. 'It's a joy for them to be able to showcase and own this type of furniture.'

Details should be simple yet sophisticated, declares Kunio Iwata, managing director of KKS International. Bold, natural materials, such as large stone in a rough finish, have replaced polished or laminated timber.

'How one furnishes one's home has become a benchmark of one's success,' explains Mr Ong. 'Filling your home with exquisite furnishings, designer items and artwork represents the next level in sophistication.'

Why the shift towards such extravagance?

The trend could be explained by the increasingly global tastes of local consumers.

'Clients nowadays are more enlightened, more well-travelled and more in tune with international design trends,' said Eugel Yeo of Chik & Yeo Architects. 'Increased affluence has also empowered them to make more discerning and bolder steps towards experimentation in design ideas.'

However, the prevalence of fancy fittings may also be attributed to soaring property prices. With the price of property through the roof, building cost now forms a relatively small percentage of a residence's overall cost.

'Property prices have shot up so much in Singapore,' said Mr Ong. 'If you have spent millions on your apartment, you want to furnish it in an appropriate way.'

Regardless of reason, it is clear that high-end property owners are hardly skimping on filling their homes with only the best and brightest of interior design names. Bathrooms are fitted out with imported rain showers and jacuzzi bathtubs, produced by companies like Laufen, Hansgrohe and Duravit - where toilet bowls can run up to US$1,300 apiece.

But a thousand-dollar WC does not a well-designed home make. Rather than just seeking extravagance, homeowners should look for a tasteful blend of furniture that is both elegant and practical.

'Over-the-top, opulent decorative treatment that does not balance form is something that these buyers cannot relate to,' said Ms Mak. 'Homeowners need to feel that they can express their lifestyles in a simple language, and will seek to do so through a good selection of furniture, art and well-treated interiors.'

And it seems they are doing just that, splurging on luxury versions of every day items in order to integrate form with function.

Hoffen Designer wardrobe systems, for example, come in sliding, bi-fold and walk-in varieties. Their cabinet doors and drawers are equipped with 'soft-close' mechanisms, which use shock absorbers to ensure that they shut slowly and soundlessly.

Even kitchen appliances have become high-end. Take, for instance, an aluminium Gaggenau coffee machine, which boasts a customised coffee strength selector and retails in Gaggenau's online store for a whopping US$2,499 - on sale. Household appliances manufacturer Miele also offers graphic text displays on their ovens for convenient operation, and triple-glazed doors that are cool and safe to touch.

Ultimately, the message seems to be that quality is king. Many luxury pieces of furniture are painstakingly handmade, and are specifically designed to be timeless. 'Craftsmanship is something that homeowners are willing to pay top dollar for,' said Ms Mak.

People want to own what will last for the next five to ten years; and with the recent upsurge in affluence, they can. As Mr Ong puts it: 'With high-end furnishings, quality is assured. And uniqueness is a given.'