Saturday, 16 March 2013

Furniture Shop: Unicane - Jalan Terengannu, Georgetown (Top Pick)


When I first moved to Penang I spent a long time pondering precisely what style of furniture I would have once I finally moved to my permanent residence.  Would I go minimalist?  Colonial? Chinese Classical?  Burmese?  It was actually quite difficult to decide and it was also difficult to find shops and stores which offered a wide enough range of sufficient quality to allow a decision to be arrived at.

After much pondering I decided to rule out several options.  Burmese, I didn't care too much for the all the dark woods and very bulky nature of some of the examples of furniture I saw.  Classical or Traditional Chinese, not much good quality available and it can look quite cheap and tacky if it's not done well.  Most of my friends here are locals and they grew up with this stuff and as such are pretty sick of it so this was an additional turn-off given that my friends visit often.  Modern / Minimalist also didn't appeal, I really didn't want one of the ubiquitous 'L Shaped' corner units that often make up the centre-piece seating arrangement in many condos.  They often look OK but personally I think are very impractical once you have more than a couple of people visit as the seats in the corner of the unit are largely unusable, knees knocking together and all that.  It's all down to personal taste of course and everyone will have different views.  There's no right and wrong.

For me then it pretty much came down to Colonial.  But while I chose Colonial I decided I wanted that as more of a general theme, the style of furniture that one would associate with the Colonial times, rather than exact reproductions.  I chose that style because it just seemed to fit well with Penang and of course because the design and materials would tend to better survive the distinct climate of the tropics (hot and humid) while at the same time being comfortable to sit and relax on.


Having decided, one of the problems I faced was finding somewhere that sold what I was after and as my searched progressed I was very grateful to my good friends, and intrepid furniture hunters, Jonathan and Sandy for pointing me in the direction of a fantastic shop called Unicane which supplies rattan and cane furniture, the vast majority of which is made on the premises.  Situated on Jalan Terengannu (not far from Penang Free School in Green Lane) the shop is a gold mine for the rattan / cane enthusiast.


The owner Mr Wong Kok Sun and his staff are very helpful and on the first of my many visits to the shop they were happy, indeed proud, to show me the workshops and the furniture which was under construction. Interestingly they also also provide a repair service and at the time there were several items of furniture there which people had had for many many years which Unicane were repairing for them.  They also showed me a repaired item which after they had worked on it looked as good as new.

What is nice about Unicane is that the furniture, despite being quite reasonably priced, is of very high quality.  And being made on the premises much of it can be tailored to suit your exact needs.  In terms of general options, their 'suites' come with either a standard back height or a higher back which will likely be more comfortable for taller folk.  The furniture can also be finished in a variety of colours (stains) which maintain the traditional look of the cane or rattan.  You can also choose the fabric for the cushions and also the density, medium or firm etc.  Prices are very reasonable, as an example, their very popular Bali Suite (pictured left) will set you back around RM 3,000 for a sofa, two armchairs, two foot-stools and a coffee table.

Unicane offers a very wide range of furniture including dining suites, bedroom furniture, tables and patio / balcony furniture, much of it on display at the showroom.  They also have large catalogues of previously 'made-to-order' items which can be reproduced or tailored to match your needs.  As an example a purpose built TV / Hi-Fi unit with glass top, central drawers and, glass fronted AV component shelves at each end will cost around RM 2,000.  They also stock a wide range of matching rattan / cane accessories together with general furnishing items.


I have to say I really like the furniture Unicane produces and the combination of the service, staff and prices really rounds the package off.  If that style of furniture is what you are after Unicane is well worth a visit.  They can be contacted on +60 4 281 3382 and their website (see above link) contains even more details of their products.  Unicane certainly warrants a 'Top Pick' from me.

6 comments:

  1. Great collection of furniture. Thank you for for writing this as even many local Penangite don't know about this.

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    1. Thanks. Yes, I have mentioned Unicane to many people and most had not heard of it. A great find, and it's nice to support traditional / local craftsmen IMO.

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  2. Very good and informative article for those in the market for new furniture. I believe people think they are just limited to the few choices they see in the malls. The furniture is beautiful.

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    1. Yep, the malls have some nice stuff, but some that's not so nice too and the prices are often much higher.

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  3. Hello Pick, this item is of immeasurable benefit to those who are intending to furnish a place in Penang. The price of the Bali Suite places in perspective the cost of moving current belongings versus buying furniture there. I only wish the Unicane website gives more prices.

    Also, the Colonial design esthetic remains relevant to the place and climate; you have arrived at a fact that is often obscured. Thank you very much for such a great useful article.

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    1. Yes, people often forget the climate. I've seen quite a few mouldy leather sofas, particularly where places lack a good air-flow. As you say, the prices certainly do put the cost of moving heavier items here into perspective.

      Thanks for the comments.

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