Thinking of indulging yourself with a spot of home decorating? Phnom Penh’s plethora of homewares stores offer paper photo frames through to custom-designed-and-built furniture
ELEANOR AINGE ROY
Two girls put the finishing touches to a shelving unit at a store on Sothearos Boulevard.
The furniture industry took a beating two years ago, when the cost of Cambodian timber doubled.
The price hike was further compounded by the pressure of the economic crisis. Since midway through last year, furniture makers in Phnom Penh have reported a 20 to 60 percent loss in business.
But what this means is prices are now coming down across the board, as manufacturers and importers work hard to move stagnating stock.
Below is a list of hard and soft furnishing choices in Phnom Penh to deck out your home.
But keep in mind prices vary greatly, and upmarket furniture stores may inflate the price of a simple piece of locally made wooden furniture.
Shop around, take your time and have fun. There are still some gems out there waiting to be discovered.
Sothearos: a good start
The section of Sothearos Boulevard between the Russian Embassy and Norodom Boulevard is a good place to begin your hunt.
Here you will find a range of options, from upmarket and custom-made furniture to simple, durable rattan.
There are half a dozen rattan furniture shops trailing up to Norodom Boulevard, all offering similar prices and quality. But be sure to bargain, as most prices are negotiable.
#85, Sothearos Boulevard
This stylish store, opened in late 2003 by Belgian architect Stephane Dawant, has earned a reputation for producing high-quality furnishings.
IChing offers ready-made and custom designs, with prototypes on display in their showroom. Everything from desks to beds can be built in their workshops, and a trained team of Cambodian workers will complete a sofa or desk in two to three weeks.
IChing uses high-quality timber, and the workmanship is fine, with attention to detail and finish. Their unique desks and coffee tables rate a special mention, with their interesting yet discreet designs.
Smaller goods such as glasses and cotton linens are imported from Thailand and Vietnam. Director Dawant says there is no production market for such goods in Cambodia.
And the prices? A three-person custom-made couch takes two to three weeks to build and costs US$650. A coffee table is $300, while a wooden double bed without a mattress is $750.
Items such as vases, kitchenware and candleholders can be bought for as little as $1, and storewide discounts are available on selected items through the Coupon Book.
IChing also offers complete interior home design.
99 Sothearos Boulevard
La Deth inherited Moonlit from his parents and opened this branch of the store eight years ago.
He says trade has decreased by 60 percent in the last year, and while timber prices doubled in the last two years, he has only raised the price of his goods a little.
"This is a hard time for the furniture industry, but there is nothing for me to do but wait for change to come," he said.
La Deth described his furniture as of ‘European design' and has a good selection of wooden desks, beds, cabinets, bookshelves and dining room furniture.
While his work is of a high quality, it lacks the flair of IChing's designs. But for standard pieces the prices are more reasonable. A standard desk will set you back around $250, as will a fine, tall chest of drawers. A dining room table and six chairs costs $650.
Moonlit also offers custom design services.
Cambodia Modern Rattan
#11, Sothearos Boulevard
Lip Cheang's large, modern shop has a wide selection of rattan and wicker furniture and household goods.
The staff speak excellent English, and prices are reasonable, with all sofas and chairs coming with cushions included in the price.
Prices have increased in the last year as the shop has found it difficult to secure materials.
Small goods have increased by $1, and larger items such as chairs by $5. Since the economic crisis business has decreased 5 percent, but Mr Lip's daughter says the loss has not been significant.
A wicker, glass-topped coffee table costs $35, while a wicker armchair with cushions is $60. A large wicker bookshelf costs around $75.
National Centre of Disabled Persons Retail Outlet Store
3 Norodom Boulevard, on the corner with Street 110.
Established in 1995 with the assistance of the Canada British Fund, NCDP works with Cambodians with disabilities to produce a range of small homewares such as lamps, cushions and silks.
Of particular note are the cheap and pretty paper photo frames, priced between $1.30 and $2.50, skillfully carved wooden lamps from $15-$18, and delicate wall hangings from $20-$22.
A few small items from here would brighten up any home, and a made-to-order service is available.
Chez Artisan is a crammed, lively little store offering furniture, lamps, home interiors and framing services.
The lamps, priced between $50-$70, are truly unique, and can also be commissioned.
Crafted out of china pots, statues - anything really - the lamps have the merits of an artwork. A range of pretty, china pots, vases and statues can be purchased for as little as $5, although furniture such as bookshelves and chairs is expensive.
ELEANOR AINGE ROY
Beyond Interiors offers products for ecologically minded customers.
#14, Street 306
Opened at the end of 2008, Beyond Interiors aims to produce long-wearing, eco-friendly and stylish furniture.
The shop is an interior designer's dream, with eye-catching imported rugs, textured walls and complete mock-ups of the interior of a small apartment, with bed, sofa, dining table, chairs and a coffee table in a range of styles such as Scandinavian, classic or Italian.
The shop has been designed with a nod to Khmer architecture of the '60s and '70s and is an inviting space in which to browse. Managing Director Bronwyn Blue says her shop hasn't been affected by the economic crisis and business has remained steady.
She says Phnom Penh offers a range of furniture options, but there was a hole in market for those shopping for ecologically produced furniture.
"Our products are for ecologically minded clients with an interest in buying products made from plantation-sourced woods that don't skimp on style and versatility," she said in an email.
Much of Beyond Interiors furniture is sleek, and modern, but despite its simplicity, prices are high, as many items are imported.
Some of the woods featured include English oak and Indonesian teak. A coffee table imported from Vietnam is $800, while bookshelves range from $675-$885.