Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Furnishing the Apartment

We have an interesting "problem".  As part of our expatriation package, Elaine's employer has provided a sizeable budget for purchasing furniture to outfit our living quarters during our stay here.  (I won't say how sizeable).  Our problem is that there is some urgency by the relocation company and Elaine's employer to have this expenditure off their accounting books, so to speak.  Our four week absence in December/January has delayed our ability to go spend this money, and yet we would like to take advantage of this benefit.  What a problem!  So for the past two weekends we have slogged all over Singapore, visiting furniture stores and malls in an effort to get this done (in some cases multiple visits-  arghh!).  This requires some planning and navigating, as we are traveling by public transport and foot to do the shopping.
On our first furniture Saturday we purchased two items from two stores, and on Sunday three items from three stores.  Our second weekend we made purchases at two stores.  Sounds like a lot of furniture for a 1000 ft apartment, doesn' it?  Deliveries can only be made during weekdays, so the weekdays following the purchases were logisitics of cooridinating delivery times.  Because of Chinese New Years, some of our new furniture will not be available until March.
A disparate set of ideas on styles and function on decoration for Elaine and I has made the process "interesting" (we're still speaking), but in the end we have converged on agreement for purchases made thus far.  The amount of leg work required to do the shopping has helped expedite the decision and agreement process, I think.  Shopping with someone else's money is a bit of a high, but has some hang-over feel for me when the dollar amounts are considered.
Although there are many styles of furnishings available here, Modern seems to be most common.  Leather sofas and chairs are widely available.  Some shops have Italian modern styles from Italy.  There are also Italian modern styles from China.  Lots of glass, chrome, and high gloss lacquered surfaces.  On the more classic front there is a lot of teak and rattan furniture from Indonesia and Malaysia.  We also viewed some Asian antique reproductions from China that were quite spectacular.
IKEA has two stores here, and is an extremely popular place to shop.  Elaine has been told that the Singapore IKEAs are the largest revenue grossing stores of all IKEA stores worldwide.  We made the mistake of visiting IKEA on a weekend, when the place is packed.  On weekends, there is a large queue of people waiting for taxis at the door, and check-out queues are large as well.  I'm not overly keen on IKEA, but one of their modular wall units was considered, which would have worked well.   However, the components are out of stock at the moment.  We have something else on order from another store.
We've seen a lot of furniture and upholstery colors that are....   not our style.  If you are a die-hard BSU Bronco fan though, you would be in luck.  Here are a leather sofa, love seat, and couch that would go nicely together in the family room.  (Howard & Patti--  you should consider these...)

I would like to have more pictures to share.  However, most shops have signs indicating photography is prohibited.  It is common practice to have furniture or other items replicated by manufacturers in Malaysia, Indonesia, and China at significant cost savings, despite shipping charges.
If we had more time perhaps we could stretch our furniture shopping dollars farther by making a shopping trip to one of these locales.

Virtual Furniture Tour:
Here's a virtual tour of our apartment furniture, thus far-- more on the way:

Tan leather love seat.  Like the styling we chose?  (Nope--  a loaner from the landlord.  Also very uncomfortable.   It goes)
Brown leather arm chair  (another loaner-- it goes)
The dining room--  another loaner, but it stays.
A shoe cabinet (another landlord loaner piece).  A common practice here is to remove your shoes before entering the residence, a custom which we are following.  We have our cabinet near the front door, inside.   (OK, somebody didn't put their shoes away!).  At many apartments, including our neighbors you will see shoe racks outside in the hallway, keeping shoes completely out of the house.  Apparently shoe theft is not a big problem.  (Keep the Gucci's inside, though)  This piece stays.

Technology Central-- in the office/spare bedroom.  The desk and roller-drawer are loaners.  The shelf is our first furniture purchase in this campaign (yea!) neatly housing the computer, UPS, and the new HP All-In-One (AIO).  (Which replaces the printer I burned up in the 240 volt outlet.)

Teak chairs (2), another purchase.   Hopefully constructed from sustainable plantation teak.  We intend to redo the cushions in fabric which matches a couch we have on order.  After purchasing these and getting them delivered, we found another shop (actually in an industrial building basement, out in the sticks of Singapore) where we could have purchased these same chairs (or ones extremely similar-- perhaps of  lesser quality workmanship).  However for the same price we paid for our two chairs we would have also received a matching couch (two-seater) and a coffee table.  Such is the art of shopping.  (In fact we didn't care for the table and couch, and wouldn't have a place to put them).

UPDATE:  The back cushions have been replaced by these.  The penquin theme is a little reminder of Susan as she braves the Antarctic winter (soon, anyway) at McMurdo Station.  (Susan--  it continues!)

The brass floor lamp with silk shade

Have oven, will travel--  Many Singapore apartments, particularly older ones, do not have built-in ovens.  Although of relatively recent construction, ours is sans built-in oven.  The apartment came with the combination microwave/convection oven (on top-- and what a nice reflection!), but it is very small, by our standards-- it can only accomodate the smallest of the baking dishes and pans we own.  So one of the "furniture" purchases we have made is decent sized (51 liter) built-in convection oven.  Only this one isn't built in-- it is housed in a wooden cabinet, on wheels.  This is also something that is done quite frequently here.
The oven is Italian made, and is very simple, although it will take some getting used to.   There are hieroglyphics for the knob on the left, which describe its various operating modes.  (For help, refer to the Rosetta Stone oven manual that comes with it).  There is a mechanical timer knob (center) that must be used in all modes--  this oven, in its simplicity, will prevent you from forgetting to turn it off and waste electricity.  Finally, the temperature for the thermostat (right) is calibrated in Celsius not Farenheit, so don't get that confused.  (For example, 350F is about 175C.  On the other hand 350C is... really hot!)

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