In the lap of luxury

With an influx of high-end furniture brands here, home owners with deep pockets are increasingly spoilt for choice.

In the past year, at least two high-end stores, French label Roche Bobois and In Situ, which first started in Guatemala, have opened in Singapore.

Meanwhile, Missoni Home, the luxury furniture and homeware line of the famed Italian fashion house, has secured a new distributor and moved from Miles & Theodore in River Valley Road to a swankier address - the Hilton Singapore Hotel.

They join already-familiar, multi-label retailers, such as the 26-year-old Xtra in Park Mall, 13-year-old Space Furniture in Bencoolen Street and nine-year-old Proof Living in Ion Orchard.

And they are continually bumping up their stable of luxe brands. Space Furniture, for instance, brought in Dutch lighting brand Brand van Egmond, which is used in plush hotels such as the Four Seasons and WHotels; Los Angeles indoor and outdoor furniture brand Janus et Cie; and, most recently, Jaya, the eponymous furniture brand by Indonesian interior designer Jaya Ibrahim, who is behind luxury resorts such as Aman at Summer Palace in Beijing and The Legian in Bali.

There are also other standalone international brands, such as Christopher Guy by British designer Christopher Guy Harrison, which has been at High Street Centre since 2007. New York's Hudson Furniture, which caters to the luxury market with prices starting from $10,000 for a coffee table, opened in Tanjong Pagar Distripark in April last year.

In March, premier French furniture fair Maison and Objet Asia will debut in Singapore at the Marina Bay Sands Expo & Convention Centre. More luxury brands from Europe and the region which are taking part in the fair are expected to open shop once they have sussed out the market.

Singapore, these retailers say, is a prime location to tap affluent buyers.

Roche Bobois' public relations director, Ms Huma Qureshi-Broker, says the Singapore market is important to the 53- year-old brand, which has 250 stores around the world.

She says: "Luxury brands have traditionally been, and continue to be, successful in Singapore. The population's growing disposable income and the country's status as a hub for high-net-worth individuals, coupled with a buoyant property market, bode well for our strategy to bring luxury furniture to Singapore."

Prices at these furniture stores can start at high three-figures for small homeware accessories and go up to five-figure amounts for a modular sofa.

For example, at In Situ in River Valley Road, a side table lamp costs $800 and a tall mangrove root lamp with a silk lamp shade costs $6,500. Over at Xtra, a woven hanging pod by German brand Dedon goes for $28,765.

Marquis QSquare in Tai Seng Street sells an L-shape leather sofa by Italian furniture brand Visionnaire for $89,000, while Proof Living's most expensive and one-of-a-kind furniture pieces is a commode by Stately Homes Collection for American brand Baker, which sells for $77,850.

Stores say their customers range from first-time homebuyers in their 30s to expatriates looking for brands that they are familiar with in their home countries.

The four-year-old Marquis QSquare, which now has seven key furniture brands under it such as Italian outdoor furniture brand Emu, sees many websavvy couples in their 30s.

The company comes under the umbrella of the 20-year-old Marquis Furniture Gallery, which also operates ultra-luxe standalone Italian label Minotti in Hill Street, both of which started in 1993.

Says Marquis Furniture Gallery's chief executive officer, Ms Jean Wee: "We see these couples very involved in choosing furniture for their homes, searching and planning many months ahead. Instead of buying mass-market items, they spend more time getting to know brands and qualities."

It has not always been boom time for luxe furniture sellers, though.

Space Asia's general manager, Mr Syddal Wee, recalls that it took two years, from the time the Australian furniture company started its first showroom in Asia in Millenia Walk in 2001, before it found its footing.

When Space Furniture started with an initial investment of $3 million in Singapore, says Mr Wee, clients were not used to the prices as they were perceived as expensive.

He says: "They have since grown used to them in recognition to the inherent quality offered.

"Hence, it took Space Furniture two years to reach a point where annual turnover was an eight-digit figure."

Testament to its growth here, the company went on to do well enough to open its stunning Woha-designed Space Asia Hub in Bencoolen Street in 2011. The 40,000 sq ft showroom cost $50 million and now stocks about 20 core brands, including Poliform and B&B Italia.

Xtra's founder and managing director, Mr Lim Choon Hong, feels that the luxury furniture market here has room to grow. His store first stocked mod-Italian furniture brand Alivar in 1990 and brought in well-known Italian brand Boffi in 2012.

He says: "The Singapore market is very sophisticated and mature enough. Buyers do not only look for well-known brands to buy, but they are also open to new trends, styles and fascinating materials."

Indeed, home owner Amjad Baig is glad that his options to do up his bachelor pad have expanded.

The 39-year-old banker, who moved from an Upper Thomson condominium to another unit in Serangoon Gardens, says: "I was excited to hear that Roche Bobois was opening a store here. I really like its style of furniture, where I can build my furniture the way I want. I was even contemplating shipping its furniture here."

He visited the store's showroom four months ago and bought seven items, including a Jean Paul Gaultier throw and a Teapot Grouping Lamp by British designer Peter Bowles. He estimates that he spent between $30,000 and $40,000.

He says: "I found that other furniture stores were too expensive. Their quality couldn't compare to Roche Bobois'. If I'm going to spend that much money, I want my furniture to last."

natashaz@sph.com.sg


Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.

VIDEOS TO WATCH

SERVICES