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Wednesday, Feb 25, 2004

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Comfort zone

Furniturewalla comes to town

Pic by T.A.Hafeez

YOU CAN'T really miss this recently opened store on Greams Road. It's got a huge gold-lettered sign screaming "Furniturewalla" and a front window that looks like it's been framed. No prizes for guessing that they sell furniture.

The bright yellow and crimson-edged building accommodates the fifth in Farhan Furniturewalla's chain of furniture retail stores. He's looking to own the largest furniture chain in Asia, but till he gets there, he's content with aiming for 100 stores across India. "My dream is to see a Furniturewalla in every city in the country," says the man who has worked with Aaron Mitchell Associates in Los Angeles and has anecdotes about all his famous clients. At present, he's got showrooms in Mumbai, Bangalore, Pune, Hyderabad and now a 14,000 sq. ft. space in Chennai. By the end of next week, he'll be adding about 30,000 sq. ft. in Delhi to his wooden empire.

The Furniturewalla stores sell sofas, dining tables, beds, wardrobes, occasional tables and lamps sourced from Italy, Spain, Malaysia and the Philippines — a total of 12 factories across the world. The lines are contemporary and classic, with a touch of the antique. The three-level store in Chennai will be concentrating on classical, semi-Colonial furniture, because, according to Farhan, Chennai prefers the large, ornate look with a wood feel. In Mumbai, contemporary furniture is in, not only because of the minimalist touch, it also helps save space.

"Furniture is about comfort and practicality. If a sofa is not comfortable, there's no point buying it," he says. And the over-stuffed leather sofas and comfy couches in his store are definitely the sink-deep-into types. The price tags might make you jump straight up again — the sofa sets are priced between the Rs. 30,000 and Rs. 1 lakh, while dining tables are tagged between Rs. 24,000 and Rs. 1 lakh. But the designs and the quality are definitely worth the price — and the comfort of just getting the furniture delivered at your doorstep instead of having a carpenter sawing and hammering away in your garage downstairs for three months.

"It's fairly exclusive furniture, considering we only stock a few pieces of each design. So there would probably be less than five people in each city with the same set. It's not economically or logistically viable for me to create exclusive, one-of-a-kind pieces," explains Farhan, whose family has been in the business for the past 150 years. The store has three buying cycles a year, so the stark lines, exquisite cane and wood, classy contemporary curves and simple frames you see this time, may not be waiting for you when you visit three months later.

Furniturewalla is at 128, Greams Road, near MRF Headquarters, Nungambakkam.


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