Interior design is being taken to new levels in the Kingdom
By Gavin Coigne
From pink curtains with gold tassels that force the mind back to the 1970s, to huge wooden suites necessitating a burly crew to carry out a simple living room rearrangement, most people living in Cambodia have had to contend with the idiosyncratic attitude to interior design of the country’s landlords.
For those seeking a more refined approach, Beyond has forced its way to the forefront of the interiors market, attempting to utilise the artisanal skills available in Cambodia – such as carpentry and textile production – along the way.
Several years ago, at a trade fair called ‘Buy Cambodia Products’, Beyond’s managing director Bronwyn Blue says she “noted a shift in public perception of ‘Cambodian-made’, a kind of renewal in pride, the idea that locally-made products can be as good as, and in some cases better… than the imported products”.
Over the years, Beyond has responded to design requests from both individual homeowners and high-end commercial complexes. With a predominantly Khmer staff offering the solutions, the company is breaking new ground in the country.
“Design thinking is a burgeoning industry in Cambodia and we are proud to be part of that,” explains Blue. “Our team are an amazing group of young people with good ideas, patience and perseverance. Our goal of upholding high standards in design and quality is not a small thing in any country, but [it is] an even bigger hurdle in Cambodia where there is no formal opportunity for interior design training at all.”
In a country where the manufacturing industry remains firmly focused on the garment sector, Blue is also hoping to move the goalposts by expanding into exports.
“I spent time in the US earlier this year and plan to do more market research in Australia in early 2013,” she explains. “I am looking into how we might act as a supplier to design firms overseas… Our long-term goal is that our products can be competitive in price, quality and timeliness with other exporters in the region. That way we will be in a position to consider looking outside of Cambodia for new markets.”
It is a big step for a company that has, until now, focused mainly on the local market. Yet the opportunity to show the world that Cambodia can compete is driving the business forward.
Another string soon to be added to Beyond’s bow is a move into recycled products. As the world becomes evermore environmentally aware, it is an idea that has certainly taken hold in the West. However, transforming everyday rubbish into the kind of contemporary accoutrements that Beyond has become synonymous with is a far greater challenge in Cambodia.
“When I was in the US, I met an engineer named Eva Hoffman who shared my passion for turning trash into treasure,” explains Blue. “She came to Cambodia to look into the viability of our idea to use recycled materials in our product range. We worked together researching the different avenues that currently exist for recycling waste materials in Cambodia.
“We are currently working with recycled glass and cement to develop a range of outdoor furniture and another product we are working on is a wall tile made from cement and rice husk.”