Partner Spotlight: For The Common Goods
Partner Spotlight: For The Common Goods
A conversation with Tommy and Angie Huang
Ever looked at a piece of furniture and felt an overwhelming amount of love and respect for it? That moment of appreciation was the genesis of For The Common Goods. In 2011, the couple found themselves drawn to a pretzel-shaped rattan bench at the International Furniture Fair. “Its form, narrative, and quiet beauty — something about it just satisfied the soul.” says Angie. Designed by Abie Adillah, principal designer at Studiohiji, the pretzel bench eventually found its way to Angie and Tommy’s home in 2012 — after much persuasion from the couple.
To start off, how did For The Common Goods come about?
Well, you could say the bench started it all. The appreciation of good design is something that comes naturally to us, and we are drawn to the process behind making a piece of furniture — conceptualizing, designing, prototyping, and production. So, in 2014, we bit the bullet and started For The Common Goods, premised on two ideas: for the common good, and goods for the common folk.
What were some of the goals you had in mind when the business first started out?
We wanted to bring thoughtfully designed, well-made furniture closer to the common folk. We wanted to enable better appreciation for good design and lasting craftsmanship, which both require time and skill.
What made you decide to partner with PickJunction?
We were looking for new premises for our studio, and as luck would have it, we came across the refurbished Singapore Handicrafts Building. While we were viewing the premises, we met the PickJunction team, and learned about the plans they had for the Experiential Centre. The key factor that drew us into partnering with them was their plan to attract design/furniture-related businesses.
We liked that PickJunction seeks to champion good design no matter the size of the business or how established it is. There was good potential for synergy and commonality to emerge in a community such as this, and as a small business, that was very important to us.
Why did you want to have a physical touchpoint for your products at the PickJunction Experiential Centre?
There has been a swell in the number of local online furniture stores and consumers are spoilt for choice, which has its upsides and downsides. For all its perks, online shopping is not for everyone. For the tactile or discerning consumer buying an armchair, nothing can replace the experience of sitting in the armchair, feeling the texture of the fabric, or admiring the wood grain. Which was why we felt the need to feature our products at the Experiential Centre — to allow consumers to see and feel the furniture before deciding whether to purchase (which can then be done online later on).
How do you select your products?
We don’t have strict criteria when it comes to selection, plus we don’t want to be pigeonholed to a particular style or era or look; that will just take the fun out of what we do! However, a product has to engage and connect. It has to make sense. Good design is key, but there is more than the aesthetics of a product — its functionality and its narrative. We are committed to establishing and nurturing sustainable relationships with our brand partners so it is important that their brand narrative resonates with us.
Tell us a little about your brand philosophy.
We believe in pricing responsibly to reflect the materials and the process that go into making a piece of furniture. We also greatly value sustainability — for the environment and for the industry. It will be great for brands and consumers to become more respectful of natural resources and local communities, like the time it takes for a tree to grow to maturity, and the labour poured by a craftsman into bending rattan poles to make a chair. Thus, wherever possible, we want to support new and/or young designers, craftsmen, small producers, and local economies in the hope that a greater common good can be achieved and shared by all.
Achieving a greater common good is a noble but ambitious pursuit. Have you managed to achieve that?
Our partner, Studiohiji, has. They are a great example and a nod to the slow furniture movement. Abie identifies with rattan as a raw material, and he is passionate about working with rattan. Through his contemporary and innovative designs, Abie seeks to renew consumer interest, preserve traditional skills, and revive the waning rattan industry in Indonesia. It is a challenge changing the public’s perception of rattan furniture as cheap or mass-produced, though. Rattan, like hard wood, comes in various grades, and Studiohiji works with premium grade rattan to create heirloom quality contemporary rattan furniture. Each piece is made to order by skilled craftsmen using time-honoured techniques.
We heard you also do customised furniture! Tell us about that and how that came about.
Yes we do, specifically custom pieces using natural stone. It is an extension of the business that harnesses Tommy’s stoneworks know-how from his 8 years in the natural stone business.
We always knew we wanted to explore this and it kind of started with our collaboration with Bordbord, a small, independent Swedish design studio founded by Camilla Ödmo. We came across Camilla’s BT-03 steel trestles, which she originally paired with plywood tabletop. After learning we share a common appreciation for the use of natural stone, we teamed up to rework the design of the original tabletop and to elevate and redefine its aesthetics by using marble instead of plywood. The challenge was to achieve lightness with marble, and we are pleased with the result of the collaboration: a pink marble worktable paired with powder-coated pink BT-03 trestles. It inherited the playfulness of the pink trestles, the grandeur of marble, and a newfound levity.
Often times, people are pleasantly surprised to learn that natural stone is not as unwieldy or prohibitively costly as they imagined. It is heartening for us to change people’s perception of natural stone and its use as a material beyond just wall cladding and flooring.
We are big fans of your PDM mats. How do you use them at home?
We have a PDM mat (Inari) in our kitchen and we love it. It lies neatly between the island (where we wash) and the counter (where we cook), and it fits like a glove in that space. It’s a hardworking mat. It’s our mighty mat, and we aren't afraid to get it dirty. You can imagine that in that high-traffic area water and food bits get on it frequently but because it is so easy to care for, it never bothers us and we really like sitting on the mat in the middle of the kitchen! Much like sitting on a picnic mat, be it for a midday or midnight snack or to play with our two year-old. It also adds warmth to our concrete island and flooring — easy on the eyes and feels nice under our feet.
What are For The Common Good’s top three best-sellers?
The PDM Brand mats, Studiohiji Grid side chair, and Studiohiji Pretzel bench.
Three design resources you visit most and would recommend to our readers?
PDM Brand mats are available for purchase online; Studiohiji products can be viewed at the PickJunction Experiential Centre at 72 Eunos Ave 7, from 2pm to 5pm on weekends.