PEOPLE – HANI ALI
The design director of Lain Furniture creates bespoke furniture for her customers.
Hani Ali has a big order to fill. She is busy putting finishing touches to about a dozen tabletops, to be delivered to her client the following week. The tabletops, which feature alternating blocks of pine and reclaimed wood forming chevron, and sometimes, herringbone patterns, are for a cafe in Shah Alam called Kopimeo, opening soon.
Creating bespoke furniture forms the roots of Lain Furniture’s business model. Just tell Hani what you want and she’ll have it constructed to your specific needs, be it tables, chairs, book cases, sideboards, sofa frames or coat hangers, for your home or for your office. “Nothing is impossible,” declares the amiable designer. “Well, except furniture pieces that require steam bending; we don’t have the machine.”
Her bespoke designs can be found at eateries like Rubberduck and Sitka and in the JHC offices while some readymade ones are available at retail stores like Outdated and Sundays. “My designs are contemporary but with a vintage twist,” she says, citing Tom Dixon as a designer she looks up to. “Designs are not just about colours, but also the materials you use.”
A big part of Lain’s furniture is made of locally-sourced timber like nyatoh, balau, resak and merbau. Imported ones are rarely used. Hani sometimes mixes fresh timber with reclaimed wood. “It’s upcycling. I like bringing seemingly useless things back to life,” she shares. “I’ve designed tables with new tops but legs from old tables. And some of the cabinets from Lain feature new wooden frames with reclaimed metal doors.”
Hani began designing furniture while she was an intern with the Quill group in the late 1990s. After obtaining a diploma in interior architecture, she took a program in furniture design at the Central TAFE in Australia before enrolling herself for an industrial design degree at the University of Adelaide. She later worked at Jam Factory, an Australian organisation that provides workshops in woodworking, pottery and glassmaking.
In 2009, she returned to Malaysia and worked as an interior decorator before establishing Lain Furniture in 2011. Today, besides running Lain, she teaches at the Wood Industry Skills Development Centre (WISDEC). She also helps review design students’ works, such as those from Saito College.
ABOVE Hani Ali, Design Director of Lain Furniture. TOP RIGHT Materials of various sources in the Lain workshop. LEFT Hani says she’s traditional; she prefers sketching on paper with a pen rather than using a computer software.