PHUKET: When purchasing new furniture, it is always wise to keep an eye open for poorly made or refurbished goods in disguise.
Some seemingly brand new, imported furniture is in fact a renovated secondhand piece with a big price tag, says Niwat Aunprueng, interior designer and executive partner of PIA Interior Company.
This means that overseas dealers and local importers are raking in huge profits from unsuspecting buyers.
European furniture business owners, who this well-known interior designer met during his frequent overseas trips, confirmed that they are completely refurbishing and repainting old pieces and making them just like new.
“I just came back from America and saw that they too are doing this. They even bid at auctions for old pieces that hostels or hotels are getting rid of and completely reupholster or leather over the structure and resell.
“This happens – I think they have been doing this for a long time in Europe but Thais aren’t familiar with it. Even some foreign villa owners don’t really know about it,” Mr Niwat added.
The profits that these foreign furniture dealers and local importers obtain by simply not telling buyers that the classy furniture in their swanky showrooms is not new, is almost triple the original cost.
However, the ostensibly new European and American furniture is often stronger than locally made pieces, which despite being new, are usually badly proportioned, weak-jointed copies of Western designs.
Buyers are advised to bargain and not blindly pay the asking price, while also checking the quality of the wood to determine whether it is truly solid or has plywood within.
While the general impression is that the mass-produced contemporary furniture that is widely available across the country is made right here in Thailand, Mr Niwat has found that they are in fact mostly imported from China.
“They are adding 100 per cent profit and then retailing here. Not many people are aware of this, they think that it’s made here when in actuality it is almost all made in China,” he said.
“And although it’s cheap and has the desired look, there is no guarantee of the quality.”
When comparing Thai and Balinese furniture Mr Niwat praised the latter for having clear character while what is made in Thailand is more contemporary and on the safe side of design.
“Balinese sell furniture – wood, rattan and bamboo – and lots of it. They have a process to make these materials withstand the tropical heat,” he said.
“It’s not like Europe which gets hot and cold. When we buy from Europe and place the pieces outside, they pressurize in the heat and crack.
“That is why outdoor chairs at many places in Phuket are fake rattan, a synthetic material made of plastic, but this doesn’t give a true tropical feeling – it’s contemporary.”
Mr Niwat added that although Thais are not yet making quality wooden and bamboo furniture as the Balinese do – who use a lengthy process to dry and coat wood – this is in fact a good business opportunity for those willing to follow suit.
“There are many people right now who are importing Balinese furniture. I find that a lot of Westerners like a design with a tropical look – they want a natural touch.”
— Nina Suebsukcharoen
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