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

Prestige (Singapore) - - PROFILE - Gemma koh

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

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