It’s just gotten a little bit easier to find the finishing touches on your new home or freshly redecorated room. At one time, not too long ago, options for cushions, table linens, china and just about anything else for the home included the mass produced product at IKEA, the aggressively twee stuff at Franc Franc or the monochrome of Muji. That may be an exaggeration but the floodgates to boutique home accessories seems to have opened wider in the last few years to go along with the increased focus on residential interiors. In May, Grange Interiors joined that club.
Located in One Island South, the redeveloped BAT building that’s slowly morphing into something of a second Horizon Plaza, founder and director Catherine Taylor is tapping European artisan labels for her shop, many of which can only be found there. A Scot from London via Singapore, Taylor landed Hong Kong for work (she was in banking) and eventually — like almost everyone not born here — wound up with a family and long-term plans that now include Grange.
“The idea came from the realisation there were so many products from Europe … that were independent businesses, creative small design studios or factories that are over 100 years old, and I didn’t really appreciate how much was still made in Europe,” explains Taylor of the genesis of the store. “You just assume that everything comes to Asia to be manufactured. It’s nice to know there are craftsmen still around doing what they did hundreds of years ago in a process passed down through generations.”
Where many service and product suppliers open businesses to fill a gap in the market (usually for something they want from home) Taylor’s motives were born of a respect for good design and, in some cases, history. In addition, she thinks there is a healthy level of boredom with “Big Box” product out there. “I think there’s an element of that. People are mature in their tastes and have a great appreciation of design,” she theorises. Taylor is convinced individuality and personality — on a personal level as well as what we consume — is an increasingly important factor. It’s similar to the trend toward local foods rather than the same processed items that line supermarkets worldwide. “There’s a lot to be said for people travelling a lot more and having a greater appreciation of what happens in one country and mingling it with something else,” says Taylor of the globalised world. “But the standardisation of things is brain-numbing.”
Taylor is battling McDonalds-ing with a selection of items ranging from chairs to candles, “Stuff made in Europe, not just designed in Europe. Generally I’m looking for quirky design studios that do something a little bit different.” Among the current stock are custom occasional chairs by the UK’s John Sankey, hand-printed wallpapers by Thornback & Peel (UK) and the delightfully snarky Glasgow-based Timorous Beasties — which includes unsavoury scenes in its toile — French designer Marie Daage’s mixand- matchable hand-painted china, home scents and personal toiletries by Ortigia from Sicily, and a range by France’s reinvigorated Les Toiles du Soleil, whose origins near the Catalonian border are reflected in its bright, hand-woven fabrics. “I also think people appreciate things that have a story behind them … I’m quite a believer in [maintaining] intellectual property.”
Grange is a work in progress that will be well served when Wong Chuk Hang station opens in 2015: it’s right across the street. Taylor is indeed looking at other designers and perhaps antiques, but she’s got plenty to work with now. “A lot of the ranges have further depth behind them. I have a selection. So if someone came out and was looking for different wallpaper I can show them [other] options. There’s much more to come.”