Cities may be expanding but our living spaces are now a fraction of what they used to be. Ewins is going big on this trend by going small.

It is hard to say how the world will look like in 2030. Going by current indicators, cities will burgeon alongside the middle class demographic. Consumption will increase, as will waste and global temperatures.

Oxford Economics predicts that 750 cities around the world will receive an influx of 410 million more people, exerting further pressure on the urban space crunch. By 2030, an additional 150 million will join the ranks of above 65s with new demands on dignified living (or dying) and healthcare facilities. Governments in Singapore, Hong Kong and Tokyo have been dealing with these issues for decades, and will need to address them now, soon.

These days, we live fast, but don’t die young. Our apartments are higher, but they don’t accommodate enough. Our parents want to enjoy life with their grandchildren but we want privacy. How can we have it all?

Apparently we can, says Mark Yong, marketing director of Ewins.

“Singapore is used to being small and compact. But what makes us different here is that we are house proud, we still want comfort and we like to invite friends over to show off,” he says.

Ewins offers multi-functional furniture ranging from extendable tables to beds that double up as study desks. These products, marketed under the Roomier brand, exploit the tiniest corner and basically free up more areas for lounging. They can be designed, customised and installed at one go.

Arguably, space-saving furniture are not new. Some years back, Swedish furniture giant Ikea launched a 100m² ‘apartment home’ at both showrooms in Singapore. Other players such as Spaceman, Space-Saving Furniture Systems and HWB also provide similar furniture for increasingly dense and impermanent living quarters.

Addressing market competition, Mark says, “We offer a competitive price range, we can build furniture to fit any room and we can do it fast. Our components last too. Being agile is important. I believe this is something the major retailers can’t do.”


Going big, going small

Ewins is 51 years old this year. It is as old as Singapore and, like its home city, has been reinventing itself to keep up with modern times. The first generation owners were mainly distributors of hardware – taps, handles, fittings, slides and so on.

Subsequently, the company moved on to big-ticket items such as furniture because “we are likely to lose our competitive edge if we just stick to the distribution business,” Mark says.

In 2011 Ewins opened a new showroom in Sin Ming Lane, inviting home owners to explore its range of custom furniture solutions. Architects and designers are also often invited for product launches and talks. Ewins also worked with designers to develop its own range of materials such as anti-bacterial, low formaldehyde panel tops. Where it used to participate in trade shows, Ewins has now moved into a new era of branding, preferring to target global design showcases where collaborations with trend gurus can take them to new markets.

The team later identified three mega trends that could also take their business forward – small apartments, dignified ageing and smart homes. The Roomier range was a product of this research, targeting shoebox apartment owners.

Having received positive reception from the market, Ewins is now exploring solutions for the elderly to live better. In fact, the materials developed for Roomier can also be applied to hospital furnishing. For instance, hypoallergenic, breathable foam pads for bedding and seating can help reduce the risk of infection. They are also lighter, making it easier for caregivers to change the sheets.

“Basically, small tweaks can solve big problems in our daily lives,” Mark says. “Overall, you help patients get better, and caregivers are less miserable.”

Mark, who is also the president of the Singapore Furniture Industries Council (SFIC), says his company’s strategies are just some ways the local furniture industry can adopt to remain relevant in today’s ephemeral tech-inspired globalised environment.

“You won’t last very long if you just depend purely on manufacturing as a business because the region will always be cheaper,” he says. Collaboration is key, he adds. “Working with the right partner can help you communicate your niche to the right audience.”

He also advocates travel and learning from others. By seeing what is out there, what is clear too, is that a bed is not just for rest, but a piece of furniture reminiscent of the times we live in now.