SINGAPORE (March 6): Asiatique’s Chin Chelliah Bottinelli recounts how her luxury lifestyle emporium became the first showroom outside Italy to host a dedicated Ceccotti space.

Ask a man what his favourite piece of furniture is, and the reply might be “lounge chair” for unwinding after a long day or “study table” for work. Rarely would you hear “wardrobe”, even in an age of dandy, image-conscious clotheshorses.

But that is probably because he has not set eyes on designer Guglielmo Ulrich’s Gentleman, a sublime feat of woodwork handcrafted by the master artisans of Ceccotti, a family-run Italian marque that celebrates its 60th anniversary this year. Encased in rosewood, with an interior in maple, handles in ebony and polished brass hardware, the double-door unit is the epitome of a perfectly ordered universe, where there is a place for everything and everything is in its place.

Only 10 such exemplars exist in the world, and one of them — the last available piece — is right here in Singapore at luxury lifestyle store Asiatique, which last December became the first location outside Italy to host a dedicated Ceccotti showroom. Incidentally, there are also phenomenal renditions of lounge chairs (the TwentyTwo) and study tables (the Bean) to tempt the so-inclined. As with the Gentleman, they are worked and finished to such a degree as to render them almost sculptures, so sinuously smooth and sensuously tactile are their surfaces.

Bringing Ceccotti to Asia
It was this meticulous craftsmanship that drew Asiatique founder and owner Chin Chelliah Bottinelli to the brand. “I’ve known the brand for more than 10 years,” she says. “But a couple of years ago, my brother-in-law reintroduced me to it. He was in love with the brand. He built his house in Switzerland to fit the pieces!” In the summer of 2014, Bottinelli happened to be in Switzerland for Art Basel. Coincidentally, renovations at her brother-in-law’s home had just wrapped up, so she got to witness the furniture being installed in an actual home.

“I just couldn’t believe the level of workmanship,” she says, gushing. She met some of the brand’s representatives during the installation and told them about her business in Singapore. “So, Franco [Ceccotti, the brand’s second- generation owner] checked us out online, and his nephew Gianluca, who is also very involved in the business, came to visit us in Singapore soon after. He liked the way we did things, and was very interested in partnering us to build the brand in Asia. It didn’t take us long to get the process started.”

For her part, Bottinelli also did not take long to arrange a visit to the factory in Cascina, a small town 60km west of Florence. “When I was at the factory, I saw how everyone was so passionate about making furniture. It was incredible and it’s hard to find these days. A lot of companies have moved on to mechanised production, but they keep to their manual traditions. The factory has only 40 carpenters, so it’s a boutique-sized business. Many great brands have approached them to do their private labels, but Franco has had to turn them down because he wanted to dedicate all his resources to building the brand and producing his own pieces.”

By the third quarter of 2015, details of the exclusive distributorship were finalised, and Bottinelli set about remodelling Asiatique to accommodate the incoming Ceccotti collection. She was well aware of the risks, but forged ahead anyway. The brand was launched on Dec 1.

“In this slow retail economy, we had to think about whether this was the right thing to do.” Renovations cost more than $200,000, and there was also the cost of procuring the showroom pieces. “Fortunately, it was the right thing to do. Sales have been steady, so I’m happy.”

Complementary partnership
Bottinelli is understandably proud that her boutique was cho sen to represent the brand. “Asiatique has come a long way,” she says. “They [Ceccotti] complement what we do very well. We’re known for using interesting materials to make furniture — galuchat, parchment, bronze and so on. And here we have American walnut. So, that adds to the variety.”

American walnut is used in many of Ceccotti’s pieces, with the source plantation in Pennsylvania reserving choice logs for the brand. Franco personally selects the best logs and ships them back to Italy. The logs are then left to dry out for two to three years before being worked on.

Bottinelli attributes the steady sales to the support from her customer base and debunks the notion that Ceccotti’s furniture is suited only to larger properties. She points out that some pieces have been sold to apartment dwellers as well.

Among the most popular items is the Flying Circles bookcase, which consists of six to seven wooden shelves supported by metallic circles that resemble Olympic rings. The rings come in finishes such as blackened nickel, bronze or brass, and the entire unit can be joined to several others to form a continuous wall of shelves.

Bottinelli’s perennial favourite remains the Golden Cage, a freestanding bookcase composed of a skeletal brass framework. The bookcase, which has developed a lovely patina over time, has pride of place in her holiday home in Nusa Dua, Bali. It is where she holds a book exchange with her friends when they visit. “I’m always telling my friends to sign off with the date once they’ve finished reading a book, and when they come over, swap their book for one of mine, and sign off on that as well.”

Two pieces from Ceccotti’s 2016 collection stand out for Bottinelli: the Peggy G sofa and the Set screen. She says, “The Peggy G sofa is a beautifully proportioned piece of furniture that will fit any home and, with different materials, it creates different looks.

“The Set screen is such a versatile piece of furniture: You can use it as a divider, wall panel at the entrance to your home or to screen off your powder room. Again, different materials create different looks. They even did a collaboration with [French footwear maestros] Berluti using their leathers.” That is probably something that will appeal to dandies.

Besides chronicling developments in the luxury watch industry, Aaron De Silva also runs The Time Traveller SG on Instagram (@thetimetravellersg) and Facebook (

 This article appeared in Issue 768 (Feb 27) of The Edge Singapore.