If you ride the tram going west, the chances that you’ve caught a glimpse of The Wood as you whiz around the corner at Des Voeux, near the new Ibis Hotel are pretty high. The distinct teal storefront sticks out among the dried fish vendors, almost like a Welcome to the Neighbourhood sign. Admittedly tucked away on an awkward corner in Sheung Wan, The Wood is nonetheless seeking out if you’re in the market for non-mass furnishings.
Just about a year old, The Wood manufactures its stock from elm beams reclaimed from derelict houses in northern China. General manager and co-founder Edith Ho opened the shop for the same reason a lot of businesses open in the SAR. She couldn’t find what she wanted and so she did it herself. “When I moved into a new home about 10 years ago I wanted some good wood furniture and found nothing,” explains Ho. “So I went to the mainland and it was the same thing. But they could custom make anything for me. So that was the beginning of the business.”
When Ho refers to the “same thing” she’s talking about the dominance of Chinese style interiors. “Up until 8 or 10 years ago, all the solid wood furniture you saw in Hong Kong was ‘Chinese’ type: Ming Dynasty, Qing Dynasty. Not like this,” she recalls with a glance around the store. We all know the type. Hollywood Road is crowded with dealers (both antique and “antique”) peddling cabinets, dining tables, seating and beyond, all with a decidedly Imperial vibe. There’s nothing bad about Ming style, but it’s like butter: all in moderation.
At the Wood, the items are designed by Ho and a clutch of other local designers and lean heavily to the modern. Traditional and A-frame tables are sleek, cabinets aren’t over-accessorised and bed frames don’t aim for the dysfunctionally fancy. Which doesn’t mean anything is boring. The single beam material gives each piece a unique finish in addition to its inherent solidity. Pieces are finished with iron and leather (and the occasional ceramic) and the wood itself is rarely stained, sprayed or painted, with the exception of a protective oil treatment. The final look and feel is of natural, raw wood, glorious knots and all.
The Wood doesn’t mass produce its stock and each piece is built when it’s ordered — which means it can also be customised for size. Ho only keeps so many designs on hand at any given time and it usually takes up to seven weeks for a new piece to be made and shipped. And despite the customisation and small lots, Ho’s furnishings could be a great deal more expensive than they are — on average pricier than IKEA, less so than TREE. “People do want this kind of stuff,” Ho sums up. “And I think my customers are buying for life.”