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Gadgets & Home Improvement

Living with teak

Mrs Ellen Allen, owner of furniture shop Gaia Living, had always wanted to design her own furniture.
The Straits Times - September 7, 2012
By: Imran Jalal
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Living with teak Mrs Ellen Allen at her shop Gaia Living (above) which sells quality teak and wooden furniture. -- ST PHOTOS: PANDORA WONG

What: Gaia Living

Where: 780 North Bridge Road, tel: 6296-8842

When: 10am to 6pm (Mondays to Saturdays), 11am to 4pm (Sundays)

Who: Mrs Ellen Allen, 50, had always wanted to design her own furniture - even while the Briton was working in a bank in London and Hong Kong, and running a real estate firm with her husband who worked in a bank in Perth.

When the couple moved to Singapore in 2008 with their two boys, aged 13 and 10, she toyed with the idea of setting up a furniture business here. In February, the now full-time furniture retailer and designer opened her store in a two-storey shophouse in the Kampong Glam area.

This seven-month-old furniture shop may be a specialist in quality teak and wooden furniture.

But one of the best-selling items here are wooden blackboards which Mrs Allen created from pieces of parquet when she opened the store in February.

She was inspired by a range of wooden furniture that she had seen in Indonesia which were made from old boats.

Of the blackboards, the soft-spoken retailer says: "The customers immediately loved them. You never know how many people actually use blackboards at home." The boards are priced between $85 and $175.

Her store also carries a range of wooden furniture made from the wood of old boats, known as the "broken boats" range. Prices start from $225 for a coffee table.

Mrs Allen's 2,400 sq ft store carries furniture made from the wood of teak and tamarind trees and decorative items made from palm and coconut fronds. Prices start from $5 for a wooden bird figurine to $3,500 for a four-post teak bed.

She sources for the pieces from Java and Bali in Indonesia, but is looking to get new designs from the Philippines and Thailand too.

The self-taught designer also custom-designs furniture such as dining tables and cabinets.

You can choose from five finishes for the wood, such as a distressed white finish or a dark chocolate one. Orders can take six to 12 weeks to arrive.

Her design philosophy is simple and contemporary. She says: "You lose the beauty of the grains when you carve the wood into something too ornate and over-adorned. I want to keep it clean to enjoy the beauty of teak.

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