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.

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