June 4, 2013Posted by Bernard Baskin
Like many expats on this tiny island, I’m a bit sheepish about admitting that even though you can cross Singapore east to west in an hour, there are several neighbourhoods I’ve never set foot in – Bukit Batok in the west being one of them.
However, in recent weeks I’ve heard that there was a compelling reason to visit – namely a design mecca for locally restored and repurposed vintage furniture that would scratch my constant itch to shop, give me ideas for my new apartment, and open my eyes to retro, one-of-a-kind things from the days of yore. Three birds, one stone. So off I went in a cab, feeling a bit like I was entering unchartered territory. A mere 30 minutes later we pulled up to an industrial estate. So far, so quirky. The cabbie turned around and looked at me quizzically. “Eh, what you go here for?” I smiled, “There’s a great furniture store here.” He looked at me doubtfully, “Missy, you sure?” and passed me the change. Like That One is on the ground floor right by the entrance, and I could already glimpse the furny- feast that awaited.
I was greeted by Cheu, one of Like That One’s affable proprietors, who grew up in the Bukit Batok ‘hood. She ushered me in and prepared espressos, explaining that they showcase a mixture of hand-made pieces, restored period furniture from Singapore, a small collection of Danish furniture, and industrial effects rescued from defunct stores and the like. Total visual viagra. I could feel my pulse quickening and a febrile swoon building up as I took in the kaleidoscope of colors and textures around me.
As we made our way upstairs to the divinely kitted-out office, I met Belle, the other half of the vintage dream-team. The duo explained that they feel strongly about sustainable living and design, and this venture is a perfect amalgamation of the two ethos.
Rescuing furniture that might otherwise be destroyed from homes here in Singapore is like reviving a slice of the country’s history, and talking to the girls is a lesson in it. Belle holds multiple degrees in Greek philosophy and classics, and has a real penchant for anything historic. She tells me that unlike other countries, Singaporean furniture designs featured Art Deco influences well into the 1960’s and the quality of teakwood and craftsmanship available was superlative.
Belle is also an expert saleswoman, and managed to convince BB (the Big Boss) to purchase a little something for the Gatehouse Publishing office. Her sales pitch was impeccable: “This is a Danish bar hand-crafted of the finest Brazilian rosewood in a feat of cabinetry no one now living can do—it is a lost art, much like the Egyptian cotton-weaving from 2000 B.C. which no machine loom now, however finely computer-calibrated, can replicate. A lost art. Ninja-level carpentry.” She had him, hook line and sinker at the first five words: ‘This is a Danish Bar.’ How could he say no to such an enticing spiel? Said Scandi bar is now resting beautifully in the office, just begging to be used.
The Like That One showroom boasts handwritten display notes explaining the provenance (and sometimes the function!) of the pieces. You’ll stumble upon items you’ve never seen before, like portable gramophones and turn of the century cash registers. They have really authentic industrial wares as well as industrial inspired pieces, like this multi-drawer cabinet. It’s actually newly-made, and offers convenient storage AND label-holders – handy, Andy I say.
With the growing popularity of anything vintage in the last decade or so, the v- word itself has become synonymous with wallet-crippling. Not so at Like That One. Of course, everything is relative, but they are very fairly priced given the care that is taken to source and refurb these unique, individual pieces. And if space is an issue and you’re not after the bigger furnishings, there are a ton of intriguing home accessories like movie posters, vintage books, 50’s sunglasses and more. I have my eye on an old typewriter, which I think would look just fabulous on my dressing table.
So where do they get all of these gorgeous pieces? Well it depends, each one has its own story. Cheu explains that she goes to swap metal places to collect window grills. “It’s called ‘guerilla sourcing,” she says with a glint in her eye. These gals are furniture whisperers. What on earth would I do with this vintage wrought-iron 60’s window grills you wonder? Pop your jewelry on it, et voila – a beautiful display come storage system for your bedroom. Nowhere to keep extraneous kitchen utilities? Hang ‘em here. What about hooking all your handbags on it? Pretty nifty.
They are also full of great tips on how to care for your goodies. Having confessed to a major furniture no-no, (shot glass on a polished wood table sans coaster during a particularly rambunctious dinner party) they recoiled in mock horror. Neither looked surprised when I bemoaned the lack of progress I had made in removing the dreaded circular stain. Apparently, Belle’s Grandma owned an antique store back in the day, and recommends a mixture of mayonnaise and ash. Yes, mayo and ciggie butts. Check back for my progress… But before that, check in to Like That One. The gals are on hand to realize your deco dreams and you’ll emerge nothing short of triumphant.
Like That One
2 Bukit Batok St 24 659480
+65 6560 9168