How Castlery Does It – Fine Furniture, Price, & Quality
Since Castlery, a first-class online furniture retail space, launched in Singapore, there has been a ton of excited chatter going around. We managed to experience much of the hype during the official launch at their furniture experience centre in Alexandra. It was an honour sitting down with co-founder Declan Ee and creative director Edoardo Arricale in a cosy little corner for a brief interview. We discovered that a large part of the Castlery story revolves around its use of technology to cut down unnecessary costs along the supply chain in order to make designer furniture accessible to everyone. Many great ideas were shared and we were very much inspired by their immense enthusiasm and passion for what they do. Read on for the full scoop as well as event highlights!
Declan Ee (Co-Founder)
Disclaimer: Some sentences have been paraphrased or shortened for clarity.
Could you share some current demands as well as a few trends of furniture shopping nowadays?
Previously, when you went to a store, you were shaped and influenced by what you saw but the digital age has changed that a lot. Consumers now are increasingly more single-minded about knowing what they want, how they want it, and even the price point at which they want it. No one will just go to a store and look around without knowing what they want. I think 60% of the research would be done at home. That’s the biggest shift on a broad level.
What is the driving force behind Castlery? What fuel does it run on?
The core driving force is the desire to bring great design to everyone. Because a great piece of furniture, a sofa for instance, should not cost $5,000. My first job was in London over 10 years ago. Apart from Ikea, I couldn’t afford a nice piece of furniture because they start from at least 800-1000 pounds (well over S$3,000 based on the exchange rate during that time). So I thought it would be wonderful if I had the ability to bring great quality, affordable, and well-designed furniture pieces to as many people as possible.
As a business, what drive us are creativity and love for design. We are also very aggressive executors. When we want something done, we really get our hands dirty and go out to do it. A big focus on execution and a big passion for creativity are what drive us.
Were there any huge challenges faced in the process of building up this business? How did you overcome them?
[We] needed to identify the parts of the manufacturing process that required tight control because that makes all the difference. More importantly, cost. How do I ensure great quality but at the same time create it at a cost point that makes sense so that I can bring it to as many people as possible? Understanding that QC process took us a long time. I guess the most difficult thing any business faces is finding a way to emotionally engage the consumers, to convince them you’re a brand they can trust. I think we made a good start but there’s still a lot to do. We’ll continue to work on that. In the long term, it boils down to building the right team. For any business, it’s challenging to find the right people, keep them together, and keep them motivated.
What makes Castlery different from other furniture brands and stores?
The simple answer would be: we care a lot. Putting forth a good design that’s great comfort takes time. We spent 9 months developing our own enterprise and resource planning software, and integrating our own supply chain. One of the outcomes of that is when you visit our website, the lead time can be easily tracked. We’re the first and probably (right now) the only furniture company in Singapore to provide such a service. Here at Castlery, you can be assured of a great shopping experience and transparency of pricing. What you see on the website is what you see here. We’re proud of what we want to build.
Edoardo Arricale (Creative Director)
Why furniture design? Is it a field you are particularly interested in?
I would say I’m probably addicted to it. I’m incredibly passionate about it. It’s one of the very few things I find truly rewarding because you go through the entire process of concepts through to prototyping. When you see the smile on someone’s face when they sit down on something you’ve designed and they’re like, “Wow, this is really comfortable!”, your whole heart explodes [from joy and satisfaction]. That kind of feeling, you only get if you truly have found what you’re meant to do. And furniture design is definitely 100% what I was designed to do.
You have done interior design and worked on quite a few residential projects. What do you think is different between that and furniture design?
The end product is different but I think it’s a common misconception to think that there are differences in design. I think design as a system, as a process, as a journey, is the same. It’s the medium that changes. So for me, the same passion, the same process, the same meticulous attention to detail goes into a sofa as it did into the showroom. It’s the same thing, just a different medium, kind of like the difference between acrylic paint and oil paint.
What are the main challenges you face while trying to come up with designs? How do you overcome them?
Whenever the creative team is panicking or struggling, we just relax, and completely reset the brain. I think the problem with the world today, especially if you’re in something like design, is that it’s so fast and it’s so busy, and it’s very difficult to fully absorb what is going on around you. Like when I first came to Singapore — I’ve been here 3 years — the first year was jaw-dropping. Everything was different, the food, everything. And to be able to stop and breathe and absorb it makes you a better person; it makes you more creative, it makes you a better designer. Just stop and open your eyes a bit, and slow down. And you’ll find your way.
Who / What inspires you the most? Specific examples?
Roberto Lazzeroni is my go-to designer. He works for people like Ceccotti and Flexform, and he’s just awesome. The things he creates, the way his process goes — I’ve met him once — he’s an artist that just makes furniture and he’s incredible.
For the business side of things, what inspired me to join Castlery was definitely the people. Nowhere in my 10 years of design experience have I ever seen a company like this, with people so dedicated, so passionate, so creative.
Any words for aspiring designers out there?
At the point where you wanna just quit, don’t. Because that’s the point where beautiful things happen. It’s that moment of utter shock or panic or when you think oh, my god, I’m not doing it right, something’s gonna go terribly wrong. If you push through that bit, that’s when you find design. It’s when you’ve gone through all of the hardship before that you can be exceptionally proud. Just keep going, keep moving forward, keep with your rhythm. And you’ll get there.
Brick and mortar duplex-style showroom sprawling a floorspace of 7000 square feet
Fun and engaging lucky draw (yes, we won)
Allan Wu facilitating panel discussion
Celebrity guests: Jovany Javier, Tat Tong, and Nat Ho
Meticulously packed Christmas gifts
Live, personalised illustrations by Organisation of Illustrators Council
Exhilarating after party at Trace
[All images courtesy of Castlery and RenoNation]
This launch was beyond successful and we had a ball of a time. The RenoNation team would like to thank Castlery for the invitation and extend our heartfelt congratulations once more. We’re looking forward to even more future milestones and successes!