Published on July 30, 2007
Martha Stewart's Thai "apprentice" has passed muster. Nirin Phornprasit is celebrating the first anniversary of Bangkok's Martha Stewart Furniture store, where she's the brand manager.
The home that Martha made at Siam Paragon has become a meeting place for fans of the American diva of domesticity, Nirin says.
"Some customers come in just to have a chat with our staff or their friends. The store is decorated in homey style, so it's very welcoming. We don't stick prices on the furniture, so people who come to visit don't feel like they have to buy anything - they're Martha's guests."
Most Thais know Stewart through her magazine, books and the cable-television show "Martha Stewart Living". Nirin, who loves to cook, has been a fan for more than a decade.
"Apart from being such an outstanding businesswoman, I like how she's very attentive to details, whatever she does - cooking, decorating, gardening. I don't know how she got so talented!"
To some, Stewart is the definition of neatness, but Nirin sees her as supremely organised.
"For example, when we buy clothes, normally there'll be a spare button. Martha puts the button in a plastic bag with the clothes tag attached and puts that in a folder. You might think it's complicated, but it's not. I really admire that kind of orderliness."
The Martha Stewart furniture line - no jokes about jail-cell bunk beds, please - is high quality, distinctive in its Americana appeal and on the expensive side. Everything is scaled down to suit the modern lifestyle.
Nirin, an interior designer, points out that the furniture doesn't take up a lot of space. It's fundamentally functional and has plenty of innovations, like the intricate motif designs.
The cupboards have lights and ridges against which plates can be displayed. The upholstery comes in more than 100 patterns, all at the same price.
"I appreciate customers who use their furniture according to their needs and its functions, rather than being afraid to use it because they might damage it," Nirin says.
"We guarantee that all our products will arrive in perfect condition through our distributor, the Chanintr Group, and we have a support team too, including interior-design consultants."
Prices start at Bt20,000, and the "turnover" is high - it's rare that anything stays in the store for more than 45 days.
Nirin says the Martha Stewart Signature collection enjoys terrific customer loyalty. The latest line, Opal Point - with its early-20th-century California style - drew lots of pre-orders. The shapes are delightful, with simple, pared-down outlines.
"The new collection is lively," Nirin says. "It's modern-contemporary and has some Asian influence."
Her favourite corner of the store is the bedroom decor, but she looks over the whole place as though she were a customer.
"I always consider what I would expect in the furniture, the service and the price," Nirin says, "including what I don't like. That's why our customers feel like they're guests in Martha Stewart's Bangkok home."