When I first got to Singapore, I thought Chinese furniture was pretty, but I couldn’t really see it fitting into my own home. Then, bit by bit, it all really started to grow on me. I remember visiting a new friend’s fairly modern home and seeing her colourful, showstopping piece of antique Chinese furniture and thinking, “Wow, that looks really good!” And then I went to another friend’s home. Again, she had a gorgeous vintage piece, even though her style of decorating was more “country”. Yet another friend had really huge pieces all throughout her home. And before long, I realised that good antique and vintage Chinese furniture looked good in everybody’s home, no matter the style. And you know what? I decided I needed a piece, too!
Working with Chinese furniture colours
Adding a big, bright piece of furniture might seem a bit daring for you. If chosen well, though, it can be a true centerpiece for your home – something well-decorated homes always have. A pop of colour adds interest and depth and, if the furniture has a history (and most vintage and antique Chinese furniture does), then the piece will also be a conversation starter.
“There’s really no interior style that can’t handle a piece of Chinese furniture,” says CHANTAL TRAVERS, the owner of Emperor’s Attic, a store specialising in antique and vintage Chinese furniture. “Imagine a really interesting industrial loft. How cool would a big, red Chinese cabinet look? It’d be such a contrast and a true feature piece. Or adding a colourful piece to a Scandinavian home? A cosy country cottage or a Hamptons home would both look great with a piece of Chinese furniture, too. The right piece even looks ideal in a sleek, modern Singapore apartment and amongst mid-century modern styling.”
How to choose?
“Take your time and look around before you buy a piece,” recommends VERITY DIBBEN, Chantal’s right hand at the store. “People often make the mistake of buying a piece of Chinese furniture when they first arrive. Take your time and get your eye. Otherwise, you’ll end up with the cheap frying-pan experience. By that I mean, if you buy a cheap frying pan that you don’t really love, you don’t throw it out; you keep it and use it everyday, even though it’s not what you really want and it’s not doing the job. If you rush to buy a piece of Chinese furniture that you don’t really love, you’ll end up keeping it for years and living with it every day, even though it doesn’t really make you happy – just like the frying pan. When you find the right piece, you’ll ‘zing’, and you’ll know it’s the one for you.”
Supplies are limited
If you do happen to ‘zing’, buy the piece right then and there. Most pieces are one of a kind. And don’t wait to buy one until you repatriate. Materials are getting harder to find. Inventory is dropping. Craftsmen are retiring and fewer people are training to take their places. And, of the craftspeople who do remain, each asks for a pay raise after every Chinese New Year, driving prices ever higher. The coronavirus has also complicated supply chains. All this means that there are fewer and fewer pieces available to buy. So, if in the back of your head you think, “I’ll get a beautiful Chinese furniture piece before I repatriate,” you might want to reconsider and buy sooner. The time to buy is now!
Want to start smaller?
If you’re worried about adding a big piece, why not start small? You could buy a ginger jar or a beautiful lantern. There are other ways to bring Chinese beauty into your home.
Learn more about Chantal, the woman behind Emperor’s Attic, in our profile story here, then check out the store’s website.
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