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Fitting out a place to retreat in a bustling city

Ellie Dyer and George Norbert-Munns at Trove: ‘classic, elegant’.
Ellie Dyer and George Norbert-Munns at Trove: ‘classic, elegant’. Athena Zelandonii

Fitting out a place to retreat in a bustling city

The newest addition to Bassac Lane’s ever-growing empire is not another cocktail joint, but a shop for home décor and other objects. Its owners – graphic designer Ellie Dyer and bar owner George Norbert-Munns – spoke with Audrey Wilson this week about the business, and the challenge for expats of making a temporary home in the capital

Why did you decide to open a home-goods shop, rather than another bar?

Ellie Dyer: We found that sometimes when you want to buy someone a gift, something nice for your home, sometimes it took a lot of searching: between markets and stores. There were so many gems in Cambodia that were spread out. I’ve met so many amazing artisans around the Siem Reap area, people making amazing products. And I didn’t see them all in Phnom Penh, which was a bit of a shame. It can be a bit of a logistical challenge [to decorate] here . . .

George Norbert-Munns: . . . to find sheets, pillowcases, towels, pots and pans, plates, knives. Setting up a house can be quite a challenge.

ED: We have got stuff from all around the region, and quite a few items handmade in Cambodia.

How do you design the perfect – and somewhat temporary – home in Phnom Penh?

ED: Perfect is different for every person, isn’t it? But what I like in a home – and especially when you’re talking about expats, because they do leave quite a lot, and they won’t necessarily take their stuff with them – is that it can still be a place that you love, that you can retreat to. And hopefully feel comfortable, and happy. Say you’ve just moved in, and it’s completely a blank canvas – even if you just have a few items you really love, it will be something that suits your personality.

All a home needs. Photo supplied
All a home needs. Photo supplied

And how have you differentiated yourselves?

GNM: Our style is quite classic and elegant. We’re not trying to be cool. We’re not really cool. [Laughs]

ED: What we think is really good, is that there’s now diversity when it comes to home furnishings. Each shop that’s opened has its own identity. We have our own identity, too – which is classic, elegant. Hopefully chic. And timeless. We’re also offering services for people who have just moved here. We can help people find things like rugs or mirrors, or get them made to order. We’d like to be able to help people find things they might not be able to find otherwise. In their home countries, there’s normally IKEA.

Who is your target customer?

ED: We’re catering for anyone really, who just wants something nice for your home. We’re certainly catering more for the expat market. But there’s definitely a mixture around here.

GNM: [On Bassac Lane], we’re about 60-20-20: 60 per cent expats, 20 per cent tourists, 20 per cent locals.

In your opinion, what are the advantages of being a long-term expat when opening a business like this?

GNM: It’s taken – maybe not six years – but it’s taken a while to know where everything is, and to know where the good things are. And the places not to bother with.

ED: You really get to know how great the skills of the artisans are, and where they are located.

GNM: You also go to some very weird places.

And on that note, what’s the weirdest object you have for sale in the shop?

GNM: The nutcracker? The bugle?

ED: We have a ceramic lobster. I’m not sure if it was made here, but we certainly located it in Cambodia.

Trove is located at the corner of Street 308 and Bassac Lane. It will initially be open from 5pm to 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays, or by appointment. Tel: 077 555 447. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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