#bedroom armchair

4 years ago · 7 min read
Wen, Gui Xiang, 45 – carpenter.

“I hate having my picture taken – I get very shy! I love to take pictures though, especially of my grandchildren. My son, his wife and their two kids live here with me. Thankfully, I get on really well with my daughter-in-law. She met my son in Guangdong through matchmakers.”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Thăng, 40 – upholsterer.

“There’s no point in stressing about life. Every situation has a solution, and if you stay calm and let time pass, you’ll figure it out.”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Bertil, 30 – designer.

“I came to Vietnam looking for an adventure. I never expected to stay long – I told my dad I’d be here for three months. That was 12 years ago.”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Quôc, 22 – webbing specialist.

“I moved to Saigon three years ago when I was 19. My older brother came too and now we live and work together, but somehow we never fight! We didn’t fight when we were children either.”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Chung, 25 – seating specialist.

“I bought this necklace in my hometown, Thanh Hoá. I was feeling a bit rundown and someone told me that the tooth would ward off fevers and colds. It’s true – it even cures hangovers!”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Zhang Yu Hong, 38 – wood assembler.

“Where I come from in Hebei you can see the Great Wall from my village. It’s 60km away so I never actually went up it that often, but just seeing it there every day, looking down at you, was pretty inspiring. I still remember that view.”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Xiang, Sheng Qiu, 40 – wood laminator.

“I really admire my eldest daughter. She’s 18 and very studious, especially with science and maths. She doesn’t always get the best results, but she’s calm and patient and she keeps going. I think that’s a great attitude.”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Mr Ro, 60, workshop manager.

“I love Sundays. I tend to meet up with my friends and drink coffee. I love a good Vietnamese coffee but these days, you have to be very careful. Lots of places sell fake coffee, made of soy beans and chemicals. I refuse to drink it.”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Under the spotlight – making mid-century style legs.

A tropical garden grows at the front of the workshop with big trees and awnings to provide shade from the extraordinary Vietnamese heat. Inside, planks of oak sit on a carpet of sawdust, waiting to be made into legs for our Mimi sofas, armchairs, ottomans and pouffes. “The best quality wood is marked red,” our […]

4 years ago · 7 min read
Under the spotlight: the driftwood effect.

Jing Hua appreciates having a workstation beneath the workshop window. “I just like to have that little bit of extra light. With this particular job, it helps if you can see every groove.” The arms for the Karla armchair sit beside Jing Hua, who’s responsible for the oak frame’s weathered texture. He refers to it […]

4 years ago · 7 min read
Hand-made from start to finish: crafting the Karla armchair.

Piles of neatly stacked planks of oak stand like towers, spreading across the workshop. Artisans weave in and around them as they cross the workshop floor and we do the same. “It’s strong, hardwearing,” our carpenter tells us as he slides a plank out from the pile. Calling over a colleague, together they carry the […]

4 years ago · 7 min read
What are you most proud of?

“The most difficult colour problem I had to solve,” Kou Tian tells us as he paints the frame of our Karla armchair. “I had to create two very specific colours using water-soluble paint when we’d just started using them. They’re both colours we use today and I’m pretty proud of that.”

4 years ago · 7 min read
What makes you smile?

Preman looks us straight in the eye and says, “my wife’s colourful saris. She’s so vibrant.” He continues to talk about his wife; we don’t even need to ask questions. You can’t help but feel moved by such a display of unabashed affection.

4 years ago · 7 min read
How long have you worked here?

“I’ve been here for twenty years,” Rageevan says with pride. “Coming to work here was one of the best decisions I ever made. When I came here, I met the woman I would marry.”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Tell us about your daughter.

“My daughter’s name is Ameya – it means immeasurable.” Vidya tells us. “Do you know what else is immeasurable?” We offer examples but she shakes her head before beaming at us. “Love.”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Are you married?

Usman is small in stature, with quick movements and a broad smile. He nods his head in answer to our question. “Yes, I’m married,” he says. “It’s a good thing too. If I wasn’t,” he pulls at his clothing, “the women would be tearing my clothes off!”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Have you always been an upholsterer?

“No.” Ram Rich Pal Singh has an abrupt way of speaking, but it’s not without warmth. “I was in the paramilitary for 22 years,” he tells us. “After I retired, it wasn’t long before I got sick of sitting around the house. “He bangs his hand on the table for emphasis. “I think it’s better […]

4 years ago · 7 min read
From fruit to furniture: the magic of mango wood.

The central building of the mango wood workshop is surrounded by an outdoor area, in which young mango trees grow. These particular trees, their leaves dusted with a fine coating of sawdust, aren’t here to be harvested. They’re a symbol for the carpenters and the carvers: men from Uttar Pradesh who honed their skills on […]

4 years ago · 7 min read
Tell us about yourself.

Late afternoon sunlight streams into the workshop, Satya uprights himself from the electric saw and gives us a sober look. “I come from the Rajputs caste, the warrior caste,” he says. “Most of my family is in the army.” We ask him if he’d prefer to be in the army, he smiles and shakes his […]

4 years ago · 7 min read
How did you come to be an upholsterer?

Vijay has a big smile. He’s the workshop’s self-styled joker, the one who brightens everyone’s day. “My Guru brought me here. We came from the same neighbourhood in Uttar Pradesh. He was the one who suggested I learn upholstery and I’m so grateful that I did.”

4 years ago · 7 min read
What would you like to achieve in the future?

It’s almost impossible to get Salim to speak or smile at first. He presented us with a tough exterior, but once peeled away, his softness, and not to mention, his ambition, is clear. “One day, I’d like to be a contractor, I’d like to be my own boss, to lead.”

5 years ago · 7 min read
Under the spotlight: From raw cotton to finished fabric.

In the Blow Room the doors to the outside are open, revealing the intense greenery of tropical southern India. The thick heat wafts into the room, enveloping us in an instant. Women flock to the open bundles of compressed cotton. They start to prepare it, getting it ready for the machine that will move slowly […]

5 years ago · 7 min read
Hand-crafted from start to finish – crafting the Lille armchair.

Surrounded by towers of mango wood planks Sohan, a carpenter in the wood workshop, hand-selects the best pieces destined for the Lille armchair. Studying them, he visualises how many of the armchair’s parts can be cut out without wasting any of the wood. Once satisfied, he takes his collection of stencils and begins to trace. […]

5 years ago · 7 min read
How do you prepare for festivals like Holi and Diwali?

“That’s when my friends and I play kabaddi,” he says, referring to the contact sport that originated in Ancient India and is now an internationally played game. “I’m pretty good at it.” He grins. “I’ve suffered minor bruises but that’s OK, it’s worth it. I’ll always take one for the team.”

5 years ago · 7 min read
What kind of music do you like?

The radio is playing in the background in the upholstery workshop. MD smiles, “I like pop music,” he says. “Indian pop music and even American pop music. I don’t understand the language but I like the tune, and the sound of the music. I like to sing too, but I’m not very good,” he grins. […]