16 Nov 2004
Furniture(HKTDC Houseware, Vol 01,2005)
Interior decoration is a universal pastime for home owners the world over, and choosing the right piece of furniture can be no easy task. Whether the taste is for Chinese or European style, Hong Kong's furniture makers are ready to kit out homes with a wide choice of ready-made pieces.
Finishing touches help 25-year-old Foochow Lacquer Ware & Furniture Ltd stay ahead of the pack. "Presently, we are using burl finish - which is a finish not used by many other companies," claims sales executive Shirley Ho.
In its early years, this manufacturer of living and dining room furniture focused mainly on Chinese-style pieces. However, in more recent times it has expanded its range to encompass European styles.
All Foochow's pieces (regardless of style) are hand-painted; a process that takes approximately a week for one piece.
Elaborate and intricate designs are the signature of Foochow's Chinese furniture, while the European-style pieces feature floral themes. All items are made from medium density fibreboard (MDF), which is given a wood finish.
Minimum order size is one TEU, while delivery time is 45-60 days after order confirmation.
To complement its furniture collection, Foochow has a developed a line of decorative items such as porcelain, vases, clocks and candlesticks. These comprise about 30% of production at the firm's 100,000-square-metre factory in Zhongshan on the Chinese mainland.
Although Foochow's furniture is primarily aimed at the US market and is, as Ho says, "suited for big houses overseas", the company is steering away from larger pieces.
"We make our furniture small so that we can fit as many pieces as possible in our showroom," he says, adding that pieces can easily be scaled up.
Meanwhile, small pieces have been the focus for the past eight years at Manhattan Furniture & Accessories Ltd. However, the company is now embracing a general market trend towards larger pieces. This company is known for its decoratively patterned furniture "and we want to incorporate that into our larger pieces," according to manager Simon Chan.
Manhattan produces both Chinese and European-style pieces, which are all its own designs and available in any colour. "We have 5,000 designs and I don't think there is another company in Hong Kong that has a collection the same as ours," claims Chan.
The dedication to intricate patterns is also extended to textiles: Manhattan creates about 20% of its fabric designs, while a steady supplier provides the remaining 80%. Five senior designers in Hong Kong, supported by a 100-strong R&D team on the mainland, handle the design work.
"It's a mass production line," Chan says, adding that monthly output at the firm's 300,000-square-foot Shenzhen factory totals 50 FEUs.
Most pieces of furniture are made of MDF, although some items are made of plywood and rubber wood sourced from the mainland, Indonesia and Malaysia.
The majority of items are given printed finishes, but selected items such as end tables are given an antique paint finish that, Chan says, is a speciality of this ISO 9001-certified company.
Main markets for Manhattan include the US, the Middle East and Europe, for which the minimum order value is US$5,000 and delivery time is 60 days after a confirmed order.
At Oriental Arts & Furniture, the philosophy is that you can only create a great product from a strong foundation. This explains why wood plays such a major role in Oriental's products.
American hardwood, plywood and, to a lesser extent, MDF are the main materials used by this 32-year-old manufacturer.
"The main difference between American hardwood and other types of wood is that hardwood is of better quality and lasts longer," says marketing and shipping executive Jo Hung.
Oriental's designs are delicate and precise with an elegant look. Many items feature gold leaf designs. Chinoiserie makes up 80% of production but, says Hung, the future will see some expansion and buyers can expect to see a secondary line of pieces mixing contemporary and antique designs.
With these plans, Oriental is also looking to double its factory space to 80,000 square feet. The current mainland factory employs 160 workers and produces 600-700 pieces of furniture per month. Main markets are the US, Canada, Kuwait and the UK.
Instead of focusing on the high-end, Oriental is looking to supply the hotel and wholesale sectors. "For those buyers who want cheaper pieces we will be using less expensive materials such as plywood and MDF," says Hung. The minimum order value is U$5,000 and delivery time is 50-60 days.
Whatever the budget or style preference, Hong Kong manufacturers make the furniture that makes any man's home his castle.
WRITTEN BY TAMARA CHEUNG
Foochow Lacquer Ware & Furniture Ltd
Jetson Int'l Ltd
Manhattan Furniture & Accessories Ltd