Ikea is great and all, but there comes a point in life where you don’t want to own the same side table and lounging chair that everyone else does. Yet, designer furniture can be too pricey for most people’s budget. Thankfully, these artisanal furniture makers in Malaysia have that sweet balance of being unique yet at an affordable price point.
Some of these artisanal furniture makers in Malaysia pay tribute to traditional materials, such as rattan and wood from our native trees. Others pay homage to the traditional style of furniture often found in the homes of our grandparents — including the iconic string lounge chairs that our grandfathers often took naps in.
Even the rattan furniture is nostalgic — how many of you remember lorries essentially being moving furniture shops and carrying its rattan wares around? Search hard enough and you might still find a rare few today.
So whether you’re moving into a new home or just planning to update your house’s interior with new furniture, we think this list will come in handy. Previously we spoke about adding rugs from local rugmakers into your space and even handmade ceramics for your dinnerware, but now we’re upping the ante with bigger pieces of furniture.
Established in October 2014 by two primary school friends, Fine Grit Studio specialises in custom designed furniture made out of local wood, metal, glass, and any other material that its customers wish to have. However, local wood was what they started out with, using the likes of meranti, nyatuh, and kasah. These are the long-lasting wood variants, which mean that your furniture will probably survive longer than your lifetime. A quick look at the store’s gallery shows that the herringbone wooden table is their most iconic work, alongside open cabinets and racks.
Kedai Bikin’s most prominent exports are its string chairs, reminiscent of the ones that our grandparents used to have in their homes. Instead, these ones have been reinterpreted with higher-quality, sturdier materials, and given modern looks such as duotone colour blocking as well as a mixed medium iterations. We say get the Grandaddy Lounger to have your very own snooze chair at home.
But beyond the string chairs, Kedai Bikin also has many other furniture series using materials such as rattan, concrete, and marble. Its owners champion using local artisans and craftsmen to ensure that their work and tradition never dies in the ever-changing modern world.
Fun fact: the two initial founders of Kedai Co — Rizal Sufar and Izat Arif — never had any training in carpentry. Rizal was from the advertising industry and Izat, his nephew, a fine arts graduate. But with the power of YouTube, they began learning the basics of woodwork and started creating their own custom wood pallet furniture. Later, they roped in Shah Izwan to be the senior designer behind the custom furniture in Kedai Co. You might have seen some of the shop’s furniture in cafes around Klang Valley, including the white-socked tables and chairs in Cream by The Roast Things.
“Lain” in the Malay language translates to “different”, which is what founder Hani Ali wants to embody when she designs her furniture. As a result, her pieces are stunning, yet practically designed that it will never go out of trend. Most of her wooden designs are also made with upcycled wood for a sustainable aspect. Recently, she has also started venturing into other materials including marble, as seen above.
Hani Ali brings with her experience from JamFactory Contemporary Craft & Design in Australia, a nonprofit organisation that nurtures talented emerging designers. It is thanks to her time there that she wanted to educate people on the basics of woodworking, which you can take the time to learn at her workshop.
Similar to the guys behind Kedai Co, Nolin Teh is also a self-taught carpenter and a full-time mother. You’ve probably seen her wooden herringbone trays around, as well as her hexagonal stools, and geometrically-interesting lamps. While Nolin Teh doesn’t have her own store, she showcases her work via her Facebook page, and you can check out some of the ready stock items. Otherwise, you can also get her to remake some of her older creations.
Are you a fan of industrial-looking furniture pieces comprising hardwood and steel? If you are, then you’ll like Raw & Rustic Concept Store. You can find their store hiding out in Sungai Buloh, a little haven that looks like the rustic home of your dreams. The store not only sells furniture crafted by experienced local carpenters, they also provide interior fittings to your home and shop. The store in Sungai Buloh also sells several home and kitchen wares, as well as decorative items.
Go back to our region’s basics with rattan furniture, which is a current trending material often seen on the likes of Pinterest and Instagram. The Rotan Lot takes rattan materials and breathes modern life into them, designing pieces that are contemporary-looking such as Eames-inspired chairs, butterfly chairs, woven planters, and unique-looking bed headboards.
Not forgetting its roots, the Rotan Lot also designs vintage pieces that hark back the 50s and 60s, such as rattan weaving armchairs and cabinets. It certainly brings back a lot of nostalgia while looking at these pieces.