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Gadgets & Home Improvement

Decked out

Furniture stores report that sales of outdoor furniture are on the rise.
The Business Times - August 18, 2012
By: Tay Suan Chiang
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WHEN it comes to furnishing a home, it used to be enough to just pick a sofa or a nice bedroom set, but these days, making sure your patio furniture looks just as slick has become the norm. Lincoln Chan, who lives in a 21/2-storey bungalow at Siglap is one example. "There is a lot of timber decking around the home, so the house needs furniture even on the outside," says Mr Chan, a distributor of gym equipment.

Among the pieces that he has bought from Vondom, a Spanish outdoor furniture brand include Faz, a sculptural-looking settee made of plastic placed by the pool, and Pillow - which are plastic seats, shaped like inflated pillows, on the balcony of a bedroom. He also has an outdoor dining set from UK brand, Gloster. "I spend a lot of time outdoors, so the furniture serves their function too," says Mr Chan.

Furniture stores tell BT Weekend that sales of outdoor furniture are on the rise. "Developers are building homes with more balconies, so homeowners will need outdoor furniture to fill these spaces," says Erricson Wong, marketing and communications manager at Xtra furniture store.

In 2008, Xtra opened a showroom at Winsland House dedicated solely to outdoor furniture. Among the brands that it carries include Dedon from Germany; Vondom from Spain; Kenkoon from Thailand; and Tribu and Royal Botania, both from Belgium. Mr Wong says that sales for its outdoor furniture pieces have increased by 15 to 20 per cent compared to five years ago.

Last December, Proof Living furniture store opened Great Outdoors at Devonshire Road, also dedicated solely to outdoor furniture. Marketing manager Wong Wanjun says, "Great Outdoors was the result of feedback from clients who fell in love with our indoor concept at Proof Living Ion. We tried to dedicate a space for outdoor furniture within the Ion store but couldn't cope with the demand from clients who wanted to see more options," she says. Great Outdoors carries four brands - Kenneth Cobonpue from the Philippines, Kettal from Spain, Manutti from Belgium, and Paola Lenti from Italy.

On outdoor furniture's popularity, Ms Wong says, "The old barriers and clear segregation of outdoor and indoor furniture have blurred with the change in the design of homes today where there are larger patios and semi-outdoor areas carved into the homes. Dining outdoors is also a growing trend and that has influenced the dining and entertaining lifestyles at home too. All these add to a stronger demand for outdoor furniture in recent years."

Over at outdoor furniture store Ohmm, marketing director Kevin Olliver says, "People buy outdoor furniture to create an oasis of calm away from the daily noise. We expect this trend to rise as people become more busy and need a place to unwind."

Ohmm retails its own brand of furniture, but has since expanded its repertoire to include more brands, such as Raush from Germany, Barlow Tyrie from the UK, and Harbour Outdoor from Australia. Clients get a choice of materials such as synthetic rattan, stainless-steel, powder-coated aluminium, teak, and mesh, says Mr Olliver.

He adds that Ohmm's business has "grown substantially" over the last five years. He was unable to give specific figures, but adds that the company has doubled its showroom space, since moving to its current location at Riverside Point.

Jumping on the bandwagon is F1 Recreation at Sin Ming Lane. The six-year-old company branched out into outdoor furniture last year, after establishing itself in the fitness equipment business. Apart from Gloster and Vondom, it also carries Cane-line from Denmark and Woodline from South Africa.

A year into this new business, its marketing executive Muhammad Ikram Kalil says, "The response has been extremely positive." Apart from attracting industry players such as landscape designers and property developers, Mr Ikram says condominium dwellers and landed property homeowners have also bought pieces.

Syddal Wee, general manager of Space Asia at Bencoolen Street, says that the store has seen "double-digit percentage growth" for its outdoor furniture range. It recently added Point, a Spanish brand specialising in synthetic wicker furniture pieces, to its stable. It has another five brands that also offer outdoor pieces.

In 2008, Space flew Spanish designer Patricia Urquiola to Singapore to launch her Canasta outdoor collection. "Having her present during the launch raised more awareness about outdoor furniture setting," says Mr Wee.

The range in outdoor furniture is comparable to indoor furniture pieces. There are modular sofas, armchairs, chaise lounges, sofas with canopies to benches and tables.

Due to its hardy nature, wood remains a favourite material for outdoor furniture. Synthetic wicker, aluminium, and plastic are other popular materials as they can withstand rain and sun well, are easy to maintain, and generally remain rust-free. But those who want something luxurious can opt for Tribu's Natal Alu Sofa, which comes in specially treated leather.

Furniture stores say that even homeowners without big gardens or balconies are snapping up pieces meant for the outdoors. "A number of our clients purchase our products for indoor use. They want to create a relaxing resort feel or want something that looks contemporary and is extremely durable and easy to maintain," says Mr Olliver.

With outdoor pieces being brought indoors, manufacturers are introducing pieces that are less bulky. For example, Dedon's SeaX collection has foldable lounge chairs which can be easily carried around and stored away when not needed.

Ohmm's Mr Olliver says, "We are currently developing more scaled-down lounge chairs and tables in powder-coated aluminium and synthetic rattan."

One homeowner who has taken to her outdoor furniture is Aleece Liu. She recently redesigned her garden and bought new furniture, a lounge set and modular lounge chairs from Ohmm to go with it. "The pieces sit well with my new garden, and I'm using them everyday," she says.

F1 Recreation
Blk 20 Sin Ming Lane, #01-57
Midview City
Tel: 6846 7666

Great Outdoors
20 Devonshire Road
Tel: 6735 0330

30 Merchant Road #03-09
Riverside Point
Tel: 6836 2747

Space Furniture
77 Bencoolen Street
Tel: 6415 0000

3 Killiney Road #01-01/02
Winsland House I
Tel: 6836 0288


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