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The rise of Suresh Nandwani, founder of furniture company Royal Interiors

Audrey Simon
Audrey Simon11/3/2021 09:08 PM GMT+08  • 11 min read
The rise of Suresh Nandwani, founder of furniture company Royal Interiors
The rise of Suresh Nandwani, founder of furniture company Royal Interiors
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From selling furniture door-to-door to creating a home and furniture company is a story of the rise of Suresh Nandwani, founder of Royal Interiors

Suresh Nandwani takes us on a tour of his home and furniture retail space that spans across a few units in Tan Boon Liat, a place that is the holy grail for those looking to furnish their homes. With the fervour of a proud homeowner, the founder of Royal Interiors stops to point out minute details of each piece of furniture such as the grain of wood on a dining table or the detailed stitches on the leather of a sofa. Things that only Suresh’s eye is trained to spot in his 21,000 sq ft showroom that currently represents more than 20 European brands which he knows each one intimately.

All the brands are non-self -competing as every brand is known for its unique value, from Fiam Italia which is the Rolls Royce of glass, to Riva 1920 which is the creme de la creme for wood. Suresh explains that the focus is on partnering with the best companies that specialise in certain materials, and this is how Royal Interiors grows its brand portfolio over the years. “As we speak, we are also in discussions to extend our portfolio to a few more brands next year.

The road to success was never an easy one for Suresh as he reveals that he was chased by dogs, scolded by strangers, braved various weather conditions as he pounded the pavement selling furniture via catalogues that he would collect on his visits to the various furniture trade shows in Italy; all this while working out of a small office he rented on Arab Street.

Suresh recalls, “Back in 2001 I decided to go door-to-door but only landed homes because I could gain access to them. I wanted to find out whether my taste was relevant in Singapore, and I tried to sell the items from the catalogue. So if they could be sold, then I would be able to tell whether I am on the right path or not. And they sold really well.”

As he started gaining momentum in the business, he was also receiving offers from furniture brands for Royal Interiors to represent. The selection process can be quite a daunting task as Suresh says he receives emails and Whatsapp messages every day asking if he would represent their brands.

He says that selecting a brand is a holistic process built around creating relationships with the brand, customers, and Royal Interiors. He says, “For each unique brand partnership, there is a different set of criteria that we must study before investing and committing. Quality is always at the forefront of consideration, just as much as the craftsmanship behind every piece. At the end of the day, it’s less about collecting a plethora of famous brands, and more about cultivating a subtle balance in our portfolio that will allow us to cater to a wide range of options for our customers in terms of design, and price.”

Customers first

From the get-go, Suresh always puts the customer first. It is not just a matter of selling them an item but selling them an emotion too. Staff will advise customers to start their interior design journey by focusing on one integral piece of furniture. Whether it’s a dining table or a sofa, once you pick the main piece of furniture then that becomes the key focus of the living space, then you’re able to curate the remaining spaces around it with complementary pieces.

From his observation, consumers will usually visit all the showrooms in Singapore. “They will look at every piece of furniture. Every time they go to one showroom, they will like something. So they say ‘okay, I like this’. Talk with whoever is there, get a quotation, then visit another showroom. And they will spot something else that they like and this confuses them.”

Suresh’s advice to them is, “You can visit all the showrooms in the world, but you need to find something that you need, stop and commit to that one piece that you really like. Once you settle on this piece, you can begin to build around it.” For example, if you choose the grey leather then, of course, you will have to match the grey with another piece, and that helps you build.

He says by focusing on one integral piece of furniture — whether it is a dining table or a sofa set — then that becomes the key focus of the living space for you to curate the remaining spaces around it with complementary pieces that can be as exciting, or tedious as you’d like to make it. The key focus of the main piece must always be based on the functionality of how all the moving parts fit together.

One of the things that are encouraged at Royal Interiors is to sit, touch, and have the customer visualise this piece of furniture in their homes and how it is going to look. He says, “If you come here, and you’re not able to imagine how it’s going to look in your own house, then the job is made more difficult for us. But the moment they start to tell their stories or us explaining to them about the furniture then only can they visualise it in their homes.”

One of the ways he does this is by asking them to sit on a sofa and take a picture of them. This is more impactful especially when there are kids. With the photo, they can then see themselves with the sofa at home and that becomes emotional.

Whether you bought a new home or plan to renovate your current space, or are a designer, Suresh wants everyone who walks into his showroom to be able to assimilate with a piece of furniture that speaks to them. Each piece has its unique value, and while he can offer a huge variety of pieces from each brand, what is important is that each individual can curate a living room that is entirely their own, reflective of their own style which no one can duplicate.

Trends and the pandemic

With Covid-19 here to stay for a while, trends for interior design and furniture have shifted too with more and more choosing sustainable furniture. Suresh observes, “While we have noticed that there has been an increase in mixed materials between organic shapes, metal finishes and mineral touches, the key consideration at the top of every buyer’s mind is how we can determine efficient and effective use of space by creating a beautiful home with low environmental impact.”

Suresh says that the home has become a safe place for them, like a sanctuary. They know that their house must be a space where they feel safe, where they feel comfortable.

As Covid-19 became more rampant, work from home became the new normal, and what was initially a space that people would return to after a long day, is now a space that needs to be multifunctional and diversified enough to have different indoor and outdoor zones to live, work and play.

“The home office used to be a luxury back in the day, today it has become a necessity,” says Suresh. It’s also about redefining space so that everyone can have their own space inside the house. As for dining, he says that homeowners want a better space to welcome their friends.

The growing up years

By his own admission, Suresh says that from a very young age, he was always fascinated and passionate about architecture and interior design. “My father bought and sold apartments in the 1980s. He would then sell it after renovating it; so he was a contractor, interior designer, and architect.”

His father, who is in the fabric business would bring a five-year-old Suresh to the construction sites, where Suresh would be fascinated by the process of how a home transforms. “I think that process of the transformation made me like the business more, because people used to come in, and people used to appreciate it so much. And they were sometimes even shocked at how the property could be transformed,” he says.

He watched his father tell the contractors what to do by instinct as he worked alone, without the help of interior

designers. Suresh says that he would spend days observing how his father purchased bare properties and turned them into spaces with beauty and function. He would renovate the empty structures and bring them to life with a curated combination of furniture and lighting.

“Even though he did not have any formal interior design training, he took on the role of contractor, interior designer and architect all in one. To the extent that he would build homes and shops that people would visit, and have the immediate urge to purchase a space based on their first viewing. His friends would fall so madly in love with his freshly curated spaces, that they would ask my father to name the price and buy it on the spot.

Suresh says that he probably inherited his father’s sense of style and passion for redefining spaces into beautiful homes. “If Singapore had Ins- tagram back then; my father’s spaces would be the most Instagrammable,” he says.

From accompanying his father in his growing up years, the valuable lesson Suresh has learned is that integrity is a core value that he holds close to his heart and applies it till this very day. He says, “Regardless of whether it is our customers, suppliers, brand partners or colleagues — for me to sustain and grow relationships, they must trust that I know what I am doing and know how to operate a sustainable interior design business. By exuding a strong sense of integrity, we can go the extra mile and serve our customers better which keeps them coming back for more.”

Moving ahead, Suresh says he is fast running out of space at Tan Boon Liat Building as brand partnerships grow. Roy- al Interiors plans to double the space within the next six months, and “to potentially buy our own building shortly to cater towards all of our custom- er’s evolving needs,” he adds.

As we come to the end of the tour of Royal Interiors, Suresh’s parting words stay with us, he says that he would like to focus on bringing the best deals for customers to enjoy a piece of high-end furniture in their homes. He says, “I want to share stories with everyone that walks through their doors. Make your living royal.”

Pictures by Albert Chua

Royal Interiors

315 Outram Road #06-07/08/09
Tan Boon Liat Building Singapore 169074

Contact: +65 9235 3535

Email: [email protected]

At Royal Interiors

Fiam Italia Designs develops and produces bent glass furniture in collaboration with renowned designers and architects such as Daniel Libeskind, Massimiliano Fuksas, Philippe Starck, Marcel Wanders, and Cini Boeri.

Riva 1920 is known for its classic style solid wood furnishings created through an artisanal process of enhancement of natural wood. Alongside the woods from planned and controlled cuts, the company introduces the reused woods such as the millennial Kauri of New Zealand, the Briccole of the Venice Lagoon, and the Cedar of Lebanon.

Gamma started out as a small leather sofa manufacturing firm that is aimed at the medium/high-end segment of the international market. Their exquisite leatherwork is done with the creativity, expertise, and skills of our designers and craftsmen.

Catellani & Smith Lighting products are the result of continuous creative and technological research focusing on contemporary craftsmanship and a personal interpretation of lighting.

Walter Knoll for end-to-end furniture that is done with consciousness and based on a tradition that is a hundred years old. Leather, fabric, and wood of the highest quality are expertly crafted with designs that have been featured in outstanding architectural projects around the world.

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