Ever looked for outdoor furniture in Singapore? If you have, there’s a good chance you will have come across OHMM. With ten years of running this successful outdoor furniture company under his belt, we felt it was time to put owner Kevin Boland in the hot seat and find out more about the man behind the brand.
Where are you from, and how did you end up in Singapore?
I was born and raised in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, of English parents who moved there after the war. I grew up during the independence war, with Bell helicopters and Hawker Hunter jets in the skies as the norm. I still feel it was a privileged childhood growing up in Africa, with para-military discipline at school, lots of sports, and living an outdoor lifestyle.
I joined loyalty-marketing consultancy ICLP in 1996 and was brought to Asia to head up its Hong Kong office. I spent many happy years working there, with great clients such as Cathay Pacific, but after seven years I decided to take a sabbatical, and fulfill one of my life ambitions of building a villa. I managed everything from finding the raw land in Phuket, all the way to the finishing and furniture design.
Why did you set up OHMM?
This sabbatical was a step towards “sailing my own boat”, and having designed and built my villa, I realised that architecture fed my soul. I couldn’t find modern outdoor furniture in Thailand – it was all heavy teak with dated designs that didn’t fit the modern tropical look I had created. I then came across Dedon, a company that was pioneering synthetic rattan with modern and inspiring designs. Knowing I couldn’t live in Phuket full time, I placed one foot in Singapore and started up OHMM with a contract manufacturer.
OHMM is more than just selling outdoor furniture, it’s about providing solutions for clients and the buzz of actually designing, manufacturing and then seeing clients being delighted.
What do you hope the next ten years holds for OHMM and for yourself?
With our own manufacturing facility in Cebu, we want to leverage our boutique capabilities of quality and customisation and go international with partnerships, focussing more on hospitality projects where OHMM products fit well. On a personal front, I met my wife Lishya on a Sunday morning in the OHMM showroom back in 2010. We got married three years ago and have settled here in Singapore – this is our home.
What are your all-time-favourite pieces from OHMM?
It has to be the Fiesta armchair for its comfort, delicate herringbone weave and timeless looks, especially in the new chalk fibre – it’s based on a very old design. I also like the Horizon collection for its modern clean lines and efficient footprint.
Where do you go to feel inspired?
I have a big attraction towards the sea; I love spending time swimming in it, and just being by it. Most of our holidays are geared towards some coastal time. That’s where I can rejuvenate and get inspired – the sea is primordial for me.
Do you have any hobbies?
Top of my list is adventure motorcycling; it’s good for my head, heart, soul and spirit. I’ve done tours around Africa, Spain, Morocco, Argentina and Italy, and this summer I’ll do a trip from Barcelona to San Sebastian and back through the Pyrenees with a good friend – our version of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage!
I’m also a big foodie and I love to cook and enjoy great food and wine with friends. I’ve taken up tennis and it’s a lot of fun with the competitive and social element to it. We’re also learning bridge with friends, and surfing is on the agenda this year after I gave it a try in Siargao last year, and found it wasn’t as difficult as I thought! I keep the weight under control with regular gym sessions with a trainer, yoga and runs around the bay at lunchtime.
What are your Singapore recommendations?
For over ten years I’ve been running and walking in Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. It’s getting busier now but I enjoy being out in the greenery and fresh air, and away from the concrete and air-con. We tend to buy good food and wine and eat in, but we do like treating ourselves with Sunday brunch at the Basilico restaurant in the Regent Hotel – it’s authentic Italian with a huge choice. Otherwise, Singapore is a great base to explore Asia coupled with the utility of budget airlines.
What three pieces of advice would you give a newcomer to Singapore?
I’ve been in Asia 21 years now and landing in Hong Kong was a culture shock, as was moving to Thailand. Each country has its own “operating software”, so you need to accept that that’s the way things work. Singapore is very user-friendly though – I always remind myself that I am a guest here and think how I can add value. Reach out to make new friends – most expats are interesting by nature, and I’ve also made some very good Singaporean friends. Finally, put some effort into exploring what Singapore has to offer; there’s more than meets the eye!
Looking for inspiration for your home? Check out our article on home styling.