In search of a style

In 2007, Malaysia found itself the world’s ninth largest exporter of furniture. Now the government, aiming to improve its ranking, is encouraging furniture manufacturers to find their own niche and establish a distinctive Malaysian style. The challenge is to define what is Malaysian in a country with three main cultural groups, Malay, Chinese and Indian, and a variety of languages.

Perhaps reflecting this, some of the most interesting designs at the 14th annual Malaysian International Furniture Fair, held last March in Kuala Lumpur, showed an imaginative combination of different materials and creative shapes. An international panel, judging the annual furniture excellence awards, endorsed this direction by selecting as top prize winner a set of outdoor furniture inspired by the Russian Matryoshka dolls that fit one inside the other, increasing in size.

Some of the prominent trends that emerged at this year’s show:

Less use of rubberwood, with rubber trees maintained for latex production, and more extensive use of other woods, primarily oak. The government is encouraging wood production and has funded a Forest Plantation Development;

More outdoor furniture designs, with furniture that can be used both inside and out;

Interesting combinations of wood and glass and wood and stone;

Adaptable furniture for smaller living spaces;

An increased emphasis on “green” manufacturing and the use of material, like bamboo and wicker, from sustainable sources.

The furniture excellence awards named winners in the categories of dining, sofa, office, bedroom, occasional and outdoors with the outdoor Matryoshka furniture, designed by Holland-based Danny Fang for Kian Contract Sdn Bhd, Kuala Lumpur, taking top prize. The chairs, made out of UV-treated synthetic resin wicker, are light in weight, and suitable for indoor as well as outdoor use.

The next MIFF will be held March 3-7, 2009, in Kuala Lumpur.