KING OF THRONES
Gani Atmadiredja has steered W. Atelier onto a new course, adding designer chairs and kitchen systems to its sanitary ware. He shares his plans for his onestop furnishing realm with
gani atmadiredja was in a bathtub when Prestige last photographed him seven years ago at his newly named W. Atelier along Bukit Timah Road. Today, the firm’s managing director is snapped again by the same photographer, but this time, among Arne Jacobson’s Egg and Drop chairs from iconic Danish furniture brand, Republic of Fritz Hansen.
“You’ve got that boy band look,” says our photographer. “You look 25.”
“Alamak, that was not what I’m going for,” says Atmadiredja. I think he’s trying to roll his eyes. But they’re smiling all the time.
Behind the 38-year-old’s youthful looks and trendy hairstyle, now with distinguished hints of salt and pepper, is a business-savvy that’s taken W. Atelier into a new age.
We’re shooting Atmadiredja in an adjacent unit that’s been added to accommodate kitchen systems and European furniture. This synergy with sanitary ware from Japanese brand Toto, that they only carried previously, makes complete sense. “If you are building a house, one of the first things you’ll need is sanitary ware. Kitchens are second and after that, wardrobes, furniture and lighting,” he says.
Some of the kitchens are from the family’s factory in Indonesia, which has been making kitchens for over 15 years, initially as the original equipment manufacturer ( OEM) for Toto in Japan. “Japanese kitchens are only used in Japan because of the small size. We told Toto we would stop doing kitchen OEM. We wanted to use the European matrix that was more suited for Singapore,” he adds.
They invested in a machine from Italy; brought in chipboard from Austria infused with melamine to make it moisture- and termite-resistant; and used paint from Italy. Toto would eventually lend their brand to it. “It was a vote of confidence when they let us use their name,” he states.
Besides value-for-money pricing of Toto kitchens against other imports, customers shopping for kitchen systems at W. Atelier benefit from being met by interior designers who are able to draw and advise, instead of salespersons.
Retailing to direct customers is a key area for growth. “You’ll be surprised, people are spending $100,000 on fitting their kitchens. Imagine how many toilets I have to sell for that,” he says.
Retail also stems some effects the company feels in terms of project work, as property developers venture outside the island — a trickledown effect of the government’s cooling measures. Hospital projects and hotel renovations, however, continue to do well. The company has supplied sanitary ware for the integrated resort at Marina Bay Sands and ION Orchard shopping mall.
W. Atelier is now a world away from the small shophouse along River Valley Road it occupied when Atmadiredja arrived in 2004 as a 26-yearold to see if he could turn around the family’s Singapore business. It was then known as Inhwa Marketing (a nod to their Indonesian-chinese heritage) and had been run for close to 30 years by a Japanese who was near retirement.
The Singapore entity started when Atmadiredja was just a year-old. He’s no stranger to the island, having attended primary and secondary schools here. His baptism into the business included making cold calls and getting scoldings from designers who didn’t realise he was the new boss. In six years, he brought the company out of the red and made it profitable.
“In fact, we’ve outgrown the current showroom,” says Atmadiredja. Come this year end, it will move to one almost double its size at Apex@henderson.
The first level will carry furnishing, kitchens and wardrobes. Schüller kitchen systems from Germany will be added to the Japanese Toto and German Siematic ones. Spain’s Santa & Cole will be an additional illuminating choice to Denmark’s Lightyears.
Sanitary ware, still the company’s “bread and butter” contributing to 80 percent of sales, will take up the second floor. Topping the stable of mid- to high-end lavatories — some with automatic cover openers, air dryers and self-flushing functions — will be even smarter bowls glazed with a special zirconium coating and disinfected by intermittent UV light, and likely to cost upwards of $30,000.
As it is, toilets with bidet functions and heated seats are gaining popularity not just in hotels, but also in homes, “A lot of Singaporeans