The Mohamed Sultan area is known for its dining establishments and watering holes, but it is also fast gaining a reputation as a furniture and design cluster.
The newest kid on the block is HomesToLife, which has been opening its four-storey flagship retail and warehouse space in phases since March. The 45,000 sq ft space takes over the premises of the former Le Mercier House, which was home to high-end furniture store Le Mercier Fine Furnishings.
HomesToLife joins more than eight furniture and homeware establishments in the enclave. There is also a handful of interior design studios.
Along the main street, Mohamed Sultan Road, there are retailers such as Hansgrohe Boutique, which carries showers, bathroom and kitchen fittings brands hansgrohe and Axor; and luxury furniture retailer Macsk Singapore, which has brands such as Italian company Molteni&C, has a two-storey shop in commercial building Sultan Link.
In the neighbouring streets, one can find Lights Collection and AF Home in River Valley Road; and Tempur Sleep Boutique in Seng Kee Building in Martin Road.
In Muthuraman Chetty Road stands the APS Building, a five- storey building that is home to kitchen appliance store APS Lifestyle Gallery; fabrics and accessories label Romanez; and interior design firm Suying Metropolitan Studio.
Then there is The Herencia in Kim Yam Road - the former premises of Nan Chiau High School were redeveloped into a commercial building in 2013.
It has attracted the likes of office furniture retailer Work Wonders; E & A Interiors, an interior design studio which also carries fabrics and wallpapers; and Australian brand Stylecraft, which provides furniture for commercial, educational, hospitality and residential spaces.
Mr Phua Bo Wen, senior manager of retail excellence at HomesToLife, says the company did explore options to open in a mall, but "rental rates were prohibitive".
HomesToLife has smaller outlets at Westgate mall in Jurong East and I12 Katong in East Coast Road.
And even though the Mohamed Sultan area does not have high daily foot traffic like in a mall, it is still a good location, says Mr Phua. "Our store in Mohamed Sultan is a destination location and is centrally located so we draw people from both the east and west of the island."
Since the store opened, he says the number of shoppers has been "healthier than expected". He anticipated about 30 groups of shoppers on weekdays and 60 on weekends, but more than twice that number have walked through its doors.
For some businesses, setting up shop in the area means having their target clientele at their doorstep.
High-end interior design firm Royal Living Singapore, which specialises in hospitality design and show suites and also does private residences, can attract home owners in the River Valley area.
The firm has a 900 sq ft showroom on the ground floor of Sultan Link, where it moved into about six months ago. It is also the sole distributor of bespoke furniture from Portuguese brand Paulo Antunes and is a partner of Daum & Haviland for home decoration and tablewares.
Previously, it bought two condominium apartments in the River Valley area, renovated them and used them as show flats, where its designers worked out of.
Ms Rainee Li, design director at the firm, says: "We wanted our designers to be in this neighbourhood so they understand the lifestyle of our clients. They can create better spaces if they are in their clients' shoes."
Long-time retailers in the area welcome the new entrants, many of whom came in when the new buildings, Sultan Link and The Herencia, opened in the last few years.
The Hansgrohe boutique has been at 69 Mohamed Sultan Road, a pre-war warehouse, since 2005. Previously, it was around the corner in Martin Road.
Mr K.C. Lee, managing director of Hansgrohe Singapore, recalls how the area has evolved from a nightlife hub. "In the later half of the last decade, clubbers moved on to new areas. Today, Mohamed Sultan Road has become a rather buzzing location with a good collection of high-end home furnishings showrooms," he says.
"Being in a fast-developing part of the city fringe, we are easily accessible to corporate clients in the central business district. It is also easy for customers from around the island to find us."
With so many high-end players in the same area, would the competition be too fierce?
Ms Elaine Ong, assistant marketing manager for APS Lifestyle Gallery, says the brand is not worried.
The APS Building was built in 1949 and used as a warehouse until 2002. It was then turned into APS Lifestyle Gallery's kitchen appliance showroom. It is spread across two floors, with other businesses taking up the other floors.
She says: "Each retailer is different. Rather, our products complement one another. This is a one-stop spot to get what you need."
Four stores to check out
1 STYLECRAFT SINGAPORE
Where: 46 Kim Yam Road, The Herencia, 01-09, tel: 6511-9328
Open: By appointment only This Australian company's extensive range of furniture includes workstations, chairs, tables and lighting.
In 2014, the company, which started in Melbourne more than 60 years ago, moved its design office from Magazine Road in Clarke Quay to The Herencia.
It has been in Singapore for eight years and represents more than 20 brands from Australia, Europe and Japan. They include Warli, a rug company with products designed in Italy; and Stua from Spain, which does contemporary furniture.
Those looking for something more classic can check out Japanese furniture manufacturer Ritzwell.
Stylecraft collaborates with many Australian designers such as Ross Gardam and Keith Melbourne and has its own range of in-house collections designed and manufactured Down Under.
2 MACSK SINGAPORE
Where: 63 Mohamed Sultan Road, Sultan Link, 01-14, tel: 6443-2282
Open: 10.30am to 7.30pm daily The who's who of the furniture world can be found in this 8,600 sq ft store spread across two floors.
Opened in January last year, Macsk now carries 10 brands, including Italian brands Molteni&C, which has furniture by Spanish designer Patricia Urquiola; and Dada, which made its name doing kitchens. The brands are exclusive to Macsk Singapore.
Other notable labels include Kettal, a Spanish outdoor furniture design brand; Fendi Casa, the furnishing range of the Italian fashion atelier; and famed Danish lighting brand Louis Poulsen.
To celebrate National Day, selected products are going at 51 per cent off until Aug 10, while there are discounts on display sets until Aug 14.
Where: 65 Mohamed Sultan Road, tel: 6635-5050
Open: Noon to 8pm (weekday), 11.30am to 8.30pm (weekend and public holiday)
Spread across four levels, the 45,000 sq ft space has been opening in phases since March. For now, just the first and second levels are open, with the other two levels slated to be open by September.
Shoppers can browse more than 20 in-house brands and foreign labels, which carry everything from furniture to bedding.
On the first level is the Chair Gallery and the Floor Essentials selection, where home owners can check out seating options and carpets. There is also a range of Scandinavian-style furniture from in-house brand Fabbrica.
The floor above houses high-end German brands Domicil Collection and Domicil Designer Collection.
The Domicil Collection, exclusive to HomesToLife here, features furniture in different styles. Classic pieces such as the Alfred Armchair, which would complement a country- themed home, are on display.
The Domicil Designer Collection has furniture pieces by recognised designers such as Pisa-born Roberto Lazzeroni and Japanese industrial designer Ken Okuyama.
When the other two levels open, shoppers will find more furniture, mattresses and wardrobe solutions. They can also get a free cup of coffee at the Tasting Bar on the first level and pick up food products such as olive oil and honey from Greece.
There are plans to hold lifestyle workshops in the store and there will be a playground on the fourth level.
Open: 10am to 7pm (weekday), 10am to 5pm (Saturday); closed on Sunday and public holiday
This long-time tenant of the Mohamad Sultan area is housed in its own building. The 6,700 sq ft store is spread over two floors, featuring kitchen set-ups as well as a private dining area.
The store has five brands, such as Whirlpool from the United States, which makes kitchen and laundry appliances; and Italian label Smeg, known for its colourful refrigerators.
In October, the store will launch Smeg's line of small domestic appliances such as toasters and blenders.
Wine lovers should check out Danish label Vintec for its refrigerated wine cabinets and Transtherm from France, which makes high-end wine chillers.
Kuche is an in-house brand, with appliances such as washers, dryers and refrigerators that are made in Europe and China.
Also, mark in your calendar the store's annual pop-up market, which has been organised four times. The event will be in March next year.
The previous one, The Market Hop, held last month, was co- organised with another furniture retailer. There were more than 50 booths selling food, jewellery and homeware accessories at the stores of both retailers.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 30, 2016, with the headline 'Sultan of style'. Print Edition | Subscribe
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