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Gadgets & Home Improvement

Have your pick of furniture in Paya Lebar

From the swanky to the traditional, shops make beeline for revamped area.
December 14, 2012
By: Goh Shi Ting
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Have your pick of furniture in Paya Lebar Myriad furniture shops in Paya Lebar include Mr Ong's Executive Living (above), which appears to be among the swankiest; the 7 Stars recycled furniture store; and Samtat Shanghai, which sells antique-style rosewood furniture. -- ST PHOTOS: MUGILAN RAJASE

FROM used double-decker beds at bargain prices to full-grain leather sofas at five-figure sums, there is something for everybody at the Paya Lebar furniture hub.

A quick count shows more than 30 stores, big and small, stretching across Tanjong Katong, Eunos and MacPherson, with a concentration of newer offerings in the Tai Seng area.

Those near the three-year-old Tai Seng MRT station on the Circle Line appear to be the swankiest of the lot.

"Furniture shops here are more beautiful and adopt an open concept," said Mr Alvin Ong, chief executive of the three-year-old Executive Living store in Harper Road.

"Elsewhere, it is messier with shopfronts facing different directions, but we focus on the front store display that faces the main road to attract passers-by."

His 5,000 sq ft showroom is a head-turner. It has elaborate lighting, a carpeted floor and mid- to high- range white-themed leather sofas.Visitors are greeted by a woman's confident voice - emanating from a television set - to introduce the range of furniture.

Down the road from Executive Living is Lush, situated on the third floor. As its name suggests, the store has a delightful display of contemporary furniture that caters to the young, modern family.

Across the road is the sprawling 22,000 sq ft Marquis Furniture Gallery located in the Qsquare building, which belongs to the furniture group. Visitors are drawn to a second-floor, open-air cafe to check out the sleek, grey-and-white building.

Unfortunately, the cafe is not open to the public as it belongs to a commercial tenant, but visitors are still impressed by the luxurious Italian brands with their five-figure price tags.

Just five years ago, this level of upmarket showmanship was non-existent in what was then the undeveloped Paya Lebar industrial area.

This attention to appearance and design is a reflection of the new image being adopted by the Paya Lebar commercial district. It boasts brand names such as Sakae Sushi and Charles & Keith, which set up their corporate offices in classy buildings normally found in the Central Business District.

"Nowadays, the landlords are very picky," said Mr Ong. "They want to look at your renovation plans and range of goods before deciding to rent the space to you. They want to make sure they attract the right crowds - mainly the white-collar, corporate people - to this area."

But this emphasis on exclusivity has not stopped mid- to low-range furniture shops vying for a piece of the up-and-coming Paya Lebar.

Cozy Home, a mid-range furniture store in Harper Road, opened its doors about three months ago to join the growing furniture hub.

Owner Edwin Chew said: "Unlike other industries where businesses would rather be away from their competitors, furniture shops prefer to be close to one another.

"Customers like to be able to walk from one shop to another easily. But we don't bring in the same range of goods to compete head-on."

The former general manager of a furniture megastore said business seems to be slower this year, despite now being the usual period when home owners change furniture for the festive season. He blamed it on the uncertain economy.

Traditional furniture shops have a slower turnover than their contemporary counterparts.

Samtat Shanghai's showroom, in MacPherson Road, is filled with antique-style rosewood furniture, leaving little space to manoeuvre.

"Two other rosewood furniture shops have closed down over the years," said Mr Lim Siew Peng, 48, who helps his father run the two-decade-old shop.

"It's about outlasting one another. The middle-aged affluent people come to us, but the younger families go to the modern shops."

While most furniture shops in Paya Lebar are quiet on weekdays, one nondescript warehouse was doing brisk business when The Straits Times visited on two weekday afternoons.

The 7 Stars recycled furniture store employs a team of about eight uniformed employees who either attend to customers or move mattresses and bed frames onto delivery vans.

The three-year-old ground-floor warehouse space, housed in a commercial complex, expanded about two years ago in the same building, to cater to the increase in demand.

With more foreign worker dormitories and apartments built in the past few years, there has been a corresponding increase in demand for cheap furniture.

"Double-decker beds are the best- sellers," said store manager Saiful Rizal, 27. "Once, we brought in 110 double-decker beds that cost $95 each and they were all sold out in four days."

With more property owners renting out their apartments to foreigners, business is set to continue improving. "They know their tenants will not take care of the furniture so they buy cheaper items," said Mr Saiful.

Mr Ong, who has two Executive Living outlets, one in Tai Seng and the other in Balestier, is also optimistic about business prospects. He plans to open two more branches elsewhere in Singapore.

The expansion is in anticipation of the boom in housing projects set to be completed in the next three years.

"I already have customers ordering leather sofas to be delivered in 2015 because the price of leather keeps going up," he said.

"We plan ahead but the customers are one more step ahead of us."

stgoh@sph.com.sg

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