'Tis the season to reinvent.
With a crowded and competitive retail scene, that is what some furniture stores are doing to stand out - by coming up with new looks, new labels and new concepts.
For the first time, homeware and electronics retailer Courts will launch two new international brands under its new store-within-a-store concept. French luxury brand Ligne Roset now has its own retail store at Millenia Walk. And smaller players such as The Beuro in Tan Boon Liat Building and the local distributor of Flexa, a Danish children furniture label, have gone in a new direction.
The Beuro owner Hadi Nishaburi had planned to retail custom- designed furniture but decided to sell brands that have an industrial chic look instead. Flexa's local distributor, Ms Koh Gim Yen, has expanded her business and opened a new flagship store selling furniture brands for the entire home.
Life looks at what each has to offer.
In a quiet corner on the third floor of Tan Boon Liat Building, The Beuro has been drawing fans of the contemporary-industrial chic look since it opened two months ago.
It carries eight furniture and lighting brands in its 11,000 sq ft showroom, such as Frag, a 94-year-old Italian label known for its leather furniture and creations by renowned designers such as French interior designer Christophe Pillet; boutique Italian furniture company Loop & Co; and Delightfull, a Portugese lighting company.
The shop's owner and managing director Hadi Nishaburi, who is a Singapore permanent resident, discovered these brands at annual furniture fairs such as the Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan. He had planned to sell his own customised furniture at the store, but decided to shelve those plans after coming across brands he felt would do well here.
Mr Hadi, 37, who also runs carpet and rug store Jehan Gallery next door to The Beuro, says: "Through my years of working in the carpet business, I've an eye for picking out good design. I've been trained to look at the workmanship and design of the carpet before asking who made it."
There is artistry behind the furniture and an exotic element in the wood he uses. ''
MR HADI NISHABURI on Thomas Bina's eco-friendly eponymous label
That is how he fell in love with Thomas Bina, a contemporary, eco-friendly brand that is known for its reclaimed and salvaged wood furniture and which is the anchor brand at The Beuro.
Of the Iranian-American designer behind the eponymous label, Mr Hadi says: "Bina's work is refined. He's not just putting planks together to create an industrial look. There is artistry behind the furniture and an exotic element in the wood he uses, such as that from Brazil - wood that is not easily available here and different from the usual teak options."
He says prices at The Beuro are competitive. For example, a Thomas Bina concrete side table costs $995, while a Frag Heta highback armchair with ottoman goes for $7,335. A Turner table lamp from Delightfull, used as a prop in this year's Fifty Shades Of Grey movie, costs $3,690.
•The Beuro is at 03-09/10 Tan Boon Liat Building, 315 Outram Road, tel: 6222-4500, open: 10am to 7pm daily.
French flair in a standalone store
Well-known contemporary French label Ligne Roset has opened its standalone store at Millenia Walk.
The 3,300 sq ft space carries a mix of classic bestsellers, such as the 1973 Togo sofa by Frenchman Michel Ducaroy and the Ploum sofa by designer siblings Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, as well as newer designs not previously available here. The brand used to be carried at luxury furniture shop Monticello.
Home-grown furniture designer Nathan Yong of Grafunkt took over distributorship of the brand earlier this year. He is no stranger to Ligne Roset, having designed eight products for it, including the Elizabeth armchair (2013) and Parachute ceiling lamp (2014). He first designed the Pebble Table for the label in 2003.
Mr Yong, 44, says he mooted the idea of a standalone store to the family-run brand's creative director Michel Roset.
He says: "I was chatting casually with him over the last three years about getting the newer designs here, instead of just relying on the old pieces, even though they are bestsellers.
"Singaporeans know good design, so they would appreciate the new items... I suggested to Michel they should update their range here."
Mr Roset agreed and, earlier this year, approached Grafunkt to offer it the distributorship.
Mr Yong was unsure about taking on the project because of the considerable investment in areas such as rent. The retail scene is also sluggish.
However, he took the plunge. "Ligne Roset knows we're interested, even though it was just an idea we were suggesting to it casually. In the end, it all came together."
He says the 155-year-old brand's French aesthetic would appeal to shoppers who prefer "softer, feminine" design as opposed to the "hard-edged, masculine" Italian products.
Mr Yong adds: "Ligne Roset has that good balance of styles. After doing this for more than 150 years, it has become one of the key French brands putting out modern, contemporary design."
Prices range from $800 for a chair to $20,000 for a sofa.
•Ligne Roset is at 02-29/30/31 Millenia Walk, 9 Raffles Boulevard, tel: 6238-8372, open: 11.30 am to 8.30pm daily.
Functionality is key
Singaporean Koh Gim Yen, 44, has been selling one brand - Danish children's furniture brand Flexa - for the last nine years.
Recently, she decided to expand her inventory and opened an upmarket multi-store concept in the Dempsey area selling furniture for the entire home.
The 4,000 sq ft showroom, Mobel Story, carries six European furniture brands, including Flexa. It opened last month.
She has two other Flexa stores - at United Square Shopping Mall and I12 Katong.
Mobel is the German word for furniture and she named the store as such because she says each piece has been designed with a story behind it. She has brands such as contemporary German carpet brand Kymo, which has high-profile clients, including jewellery company Swarovski and luxury fashion group Escada; 81-year-old Dutch brand Leolux, which does sofas and armchairs; and Paola.C, an Italian accessories brand.
She has also brought back German luxury furniture manufacturer hulsta, which used to be sold at another multi-concept store until two years ago. The brand's cheaper range, now! by hulsta, is also available at Mobel Story.
Ms Koh, who took less than a year to set up Mobel Story, says while prices are not cheap, the response has been good. A classic bunk bed from Flexa starts at $2,000, while a library unit customised by hulsta can go for as much as $70,000.
"Nowadays, the market is very different. Singaporeans are willing to buy such pieces as they consider furniture an investment and are looking for quality."
In particular, she wanted the hulsta brand for its "craftsmanship and simplicity".
"Unlike Italian brands which can place more importance on style, the German brands make functional products well. Functionality is my top priority," says Ms Koh, explaining how she picked the brands for her store.
For example, much of hulsta's range can be customised to suit various room sizes and the pieces incorporate smart technology, such as cupboard doors that close automatically when a user walks away.
The showroom in Loewen Road is modelled after rooms in a home, with different pieces from the brands decorating the living room, bedroom and children's area.
Ms Koh says the quiet Dempsey area is a good place to host her flagship store, which is in an old army barrack. "It's a tranquil area and has beautiful scenery. I think shoppers will be very relaxed when they come here."
•Mobel Story is at 01-02, Block 71 Loewen Road, tel: 6634-3835, open: 10am to 7pm daily.
Courting home owners with new brands
Homeware and electronics retailer Courts is launching a "store-in- a-store" concept with two international brands that are new to the market.
Danish household and furniture chain Jysk will open its first store, a 9,000 sq ft space at Courts' new Bukit Timah outlet, next month. Prices for its products range from $1.40 for a toilet brush to $3,000 for a pair of Box Elevation beds.
Later this year, American hardware company Ace Hardware will make its debut with a 8,000 sq ft space in the market hall of Courts Megastore Tampines. There are no prices yet for the brand, which will sell paint, storage products, gardening and power tools, bathroom accessories and more.
Group furniture director of Courts Asia Steve Church, 52, says these two brands will give shoppers the "A to Z solutions for total home packaging as we will now offer everything from a towel holder to full bedroom suites at a range of prices".
It's not going to be luxury furniture and expensive prices. The products are for the mass market and everyday living.''
MR STEVE CHURCH, group furniture director of Courts Asia, on the new labels Jysk and Ace Hardware
He adds that the new concepts are a way for Courts, which has been in Singapore since 1974, to remain fresh. "There's that constant push to innovate. The retail scene here is so competitive. We have to offer customers a reason to keep coming back."
This launch comes off the back of a series of new product lines such as the Struocfurniture launch last year, where there were new products in a variety of decor themes from industrial to vintage, and Courts' collaboration with British celebrity designer Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen on a furniture line.
While both Jysk and Ace Hardware have huge inventories, Mr Church says the products sold here have been selected to suit the Singapore market.
For example, while Ace Hardware has a sizeable Do-It-Yourself (DIY) section, its Singapore store here will be much smaller. Based on focus group findings here, Mr Church says Singaporeans prefer to buy things ready made.
He explains: "With most home owners living in condominiums or HDB units, there's no space like a garage or a basement where they can do DIY work. So it's not practical for us to bring in those items."
At least five Ace Hardware stores are planned for the next four years, while Courts will open another 19 Jysk stores in the next five years. There are plans to launch some as standalone stores.
Mr Church is confident that these two brands will appeal to shoppers. "It's not going to be luxury furniture and expensive prices. The products are for the mass market and everyday living."
•Jysk will open at Courts Bukit Timah, 191 Upper Bukit Timah Road, on Sept 12. Opening hours are from 11am to 10pm daily.