What started off as a plan to build an eco-resort took an interesting turn for the owners of Usang Collections, Yuva Kuthayan and her husband Kathi Swaran.
“We had purchased a piece of land in Raub, Pahang, and intended to build an eco-resort there. While on a business trip to Indonesia to source for furniture for the resort, we chanced upon some pieces that were made from recycled materials and immediately fell in love with them,” recalls Yuva.
Usang Collections’ range is made from reclaimed boat wood and crafted mostly by hand. The result is a collection with a touch of Javanese flavour, unique in colour, texture and pattern. “Each piece of reclaimed boat wood has its own characteristics and you will find that no two items in the store are alike,” explains, referring to an array of bar stools and chairs in the store.
Environmental sustainability is at the heart of the business, which was launched in September last year. The teak wood used to produce the old boats, sourced from primary forests, is of a better quality than farmed teak wood that is harvested to mass-produce furniture today, say the couple. They believe reclaimed wood is not only more durable but also richer in history with the pieces coming from different boats and telling their own stories.
Usang Collections occupies two floors at an office/home space in Centrio Pantai Hillpark. The space is bright with ample light streaming in through floor-to-ceiling glass panels on the first floor and filled to the brim with furniture pieces. Tables and chairs are stacked atop each other, creating a colourful organised clutter.
Photo frames and mirrors with wooden frames hang on the wall along the stairs that lead up to the second floor, where more items wait to be explored. Both the floors greet customers with a burst of colour owing to the hues from the various boats that are maintained in the finished product.
Some of the furniture is also on display outside in the yard, serving as a great showcase for how the pieces are unaffected by outdoor elements. Says sales executive Felix Almer, “The furniture here is made from materials that can withstand sun and rain, hence making it versatile as it can be placed both indoors or outdoors.”
No two pieces are the same. Each is distinctly different because of the nature — the lines and texture — of each piece of reclaimed wood.
The items at Usang Collections are indeed one of a kind and there are pieces for both home and commercial spaces, and these pieces include coffee tables, one and two-seaters, bar chairs and stools, half boat benches, full boat benches, dining tables, wine racks, side tables and mirrors and frames. Minimal work, if any, is done to the surface of the boat wood. The craftsmen try as much as possible to maintain the distinctive colour and grain of the pieces, thus preserving their natural beauty.
The journey of each piece begins at sea. Once the fishing boats are deemed unseaworthy, they are stripped down to pieces of wood, which are auctioned off to the highest bidder. The wood is then sent to the craftsmen who work on the creative aspects of design, turning each piece into furniture.
The uneven texture and holes found in the furniture due to the years of exposure to seawater give each piece a distinctive character, thus ensuring its authenticity. The ridges and marks tell of harsh conditions endured at sea, as a result of which this type of wood is long-lasting.
Usang Collections’ wooden furniture is quirky yet functional and practical. Above all, each item gets a new lease of life in the home of its next owner.
Note: The store will be moving to a new location at No 92, Jalan SS2/55, 47300 Petaling Jaya, Selangor soon. Tel: (012) 833 1380
This article first appeared in The Edge haven, on Issue #73 June + July 2015.