A visit to China Collection’s Chinese antique furniture store is like taking a trip down memory lane! The store is now in a shophouse in Joo Chiat, and the neighbourhood’s brightly coloured shophouses, with their quaint details and feature architecture, is the stuff of postcards. This particular shophouse stands grandly on the corner with a fresh lick of blue and white paint; and the window dressed with Chinese antique furniture, as well as some beautiful home accessories, draws you in!
For many years, China Collection was in an impressive black-and-white house on Malcolm Road. We chatted to owner DOUG LOCKETT about new arrivals and other in-store developments at his new(ish!) location.
You’ve been in this store for almost a year; how’s the new space going?
A year has sped by, to be honest, but the store is looking good, with a totally different vibe to our previous black-and-white house setting.
What made you go for a shophouse this time?
We just loved all the original features on the outside of the building, and the lovely natural light makes the store bright and airy. I think we stand out because we’re on the corner – which also means we have an extra bonus space upstairs.
We wanted to retain a “homely” vibe, so we had to be creative, and we distinctly tried to keep the look of downstairs and upstairs a bit different.
What treasures are in store right now?
Well, there’s always something special in store, but right now we have a very rare piece from Northern China; there’s also a beautiful rare altar with original carvings retained. We have some lovely, elegant, natural elm cupboards, as well as our usual home accessories.
What do you like about dealing with Chinese antiques?
I like the fact that every piece is individual; so, once it’s gone, it’s gone. That’s why the shop is continuously changing its look. I also love travelling to China to source pieces.
Is there a particular part of China where most of your furniture comes from?
The style of furniture we like originates from Northern China. It tends to have a simpler form without being overly ornate or carved, which we find to be more elegant and beautiful. Our clients also seem to prefer those types of pieces, as it allows them to integrate distinctly Chinese pieces without overwhelming a space.
How do you restore your antique furniture?
We work with our partners in restoration. Our team are really experts when it comes to working with old furniture. They understand the materials, history and cultural significance behind each item.
When we find pieces, we assess them and may upcycle them, refurbish, modify or add new colours. Every piece starts off by being completely pulled apart, and then rebuilt. We then clean the woodwork, sand away any old residue, and decide whether a new finish or colour is to be applied. Having said that, we always err on the side of originality where possible, so the very finest antique pieces are kept in their original form and maintain their original finishes and patina.
How easy is it for someone to display old and new pieces in a contemporary setting?
We always suggest that you don’t overwhelm each room in your home with too many Chinese furniture pieces in general. You can achieve a nice balanced mix of contemporary and old, with maybe just one or two Chinese pieces, to give the space a really nice accent.
Our recommendation is to buy slowly. If you take your time and come for a few visits before you decide to buy something, you’ll actually end up making a better buying decision.
What’s your favourite piece in the store currently?
We have a beautiful side-cabinet from Northern China that was formerly a trunk used to hold grain. It was actually almost twice as deep as it is now, so we modified it to function as a reasonable sized piece in a modern home.
We preserved the unique artwork in the front, which has a very Mongolian influence. I also love that the hardware is still intact and complete, which is rare to see.
Are there any particular pieces that clients love most?
Everyone has their own unique taste; however, I would say that our altars always seem to be popular. They are statement pieces that clients enjoy styling with accessories or lovely pieces of artwork above them.
You have a shipment arriving soon; what treasures are in the container?
One container has some natural elm wood furniture, which is simple and elegant. The other has all our restored painted furniture. We also have porcelain and our colourful jade and silk tassels coming in. We’ve always loved those tassels! They’re always popular gifts – for all occasions. Our clients love the symbology behind them, and of course the choice of colours and sizes.
What else is new for China Collection?
We’re excited about the new e-commerce website we’re launching right now. We’ve always had a website, but having an e-commerce platform helps our clients to armchair-shop before they pay us a visit to inspect the antique pieces.
China Collection is at 252 Joo Chiat Road. Opening hours are Monday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm, and Sunday, 12pm to 5pm.
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