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Having your own living space that provides a respite from life’s stresses and a haven where you’re free to dream is good. Having a home that also helps promote community development and environmental sustainability, however, is even better.
Home decor startup brand Tahanan Furniture makes all these possible. What was previously a dreamcatcher studio collaborating with students in need of extra income transformed into a furniture and home decor business at the height of the pandemic in 2020.
Drawing inspiration from the intricate beauty of dreamcatchers, Thea Yu, founder of Tahanan Furniture, embarked on a journey to create unique pieces that evoke "a sense of nostalgia" and capture the essence of traditional Filipino craftsmanship.
In an interview with The Philippine STAR, Yu said the startup company started working with artisans from Pampanga, known for their exceptional workmanship and creativity.
From there, Tahanan expanded its reach while staying faithful to its philosophy of working with communities by sourcing high-quality materials locally from different parts of the Philippines for their home decor line. “We want our pieces to last, hopefully a piece that can be passed down to your loved ones.”
Tahanan Furniture's nito trays and planters are made by weavers from an Iraya-Mangyan village in Puerto Galera, while their rattan organizers and placemats are made by weavers from Mountain Province, Cebu, and other provinces.
Its dining set named “The Flow and Waves” was inspired by the tear drop-shaped island of Siargao and the soft curves of its famed waves. The Petra dining chairs’ and Pilar dining table’s curved angles took inspiration from the warm embrace shared by lovers.
There are even furniture pieces named after songs by the Eraserheads: a side table named “Magasin,” a bed called "Alapaap," and a shelf dubbed the “Paraluman.”
She noted that customers who buy from Tahanan Furniture not only get to bring a little piece of the Philippines into their homes but also contribute to the growth and development of local communities.
Tahanan’s design philosophy
Yu said Tahanan’s design philosophy is rooted in a profound respect for local craftsmanship, traditional works, and indigenous materials. She noted that they take this approach and incorporate a contemporary perspective for their designs to be suitable for modern use.
What sets Tahanan Furniture apart from other furniture and home decor brands, Yu noted, is the philosophy behind their collection. "Per collection, we make sure to collaborate with either Philippine communities or designers. We love working with others because it makes our pieces unique.”
But their commitment to design doesn't stop there. The furniture brand also prioritizes creating pieces that evoke warmth and coziness in the home.
"We are a fan of our culture and one aspect of our culture that we want to translate into our pieces is the warmth of a Filipino home. The laughs, memories, and people that surround the home," she said.
The brand’s premier collection, Things You Call Home, was born out of the idea of adding warmth to any space and serves as a reminder of the innate playfulness of Filipinos.
Since the collection’s launch, Tahanan has produced patchwork collections ranging from strong, standalone home goods like their abaca lamps, to seasonal products that reflect how Filipinos celebrate Christmas.
When asked about the challenges her furniture business has faced over the years, Yu admitted that the biggest hurdle arose with the entry of the Swedish home furnishing giant IKEA into the Philippine market.
“It posed a threat to our sales and market, however we're still pushing and growing because our items have more quality. We cater to client's unique customized furniture pieces from the intricate ukit design or incorporating local weaves to their specific finishes and shades," she said.
She also emphasized the importance of originality and urged aspiring furniture business owners to resist the temptation of copying, as doing so would only dilute their brand and make it indistinguishable from competitors.
Exploring new avenues
Recently, Yu said they have explored new avenues to showcase their brand, such as joining trade shows like Manila Fame and participating in the online marketplace Maison&Objet (MOM), which hosts a variety of furniture brands. “Traditionally, we market through Facebook and Instagram but we've become creative by joining trade shows.”
Yu added that they have also leveraged the power of pop-up shops and word-of-mouth advertising to connect with potential customers.
To kick off the new year in style, Tahanan Furniture teamed up with renowned stylist Charina Sarte to create a stunning five-piece collection that complements the designer's sophisticated, feminine, and tropical aesthetic.
In Feb. 3 to 7, Tahanan participated in Ambiente 2023, the world's largest trade fair platform of its kind in Frankfurt Messe, Germany.
According to Yu, the company hopes to join Manila Fame this October as it will be the first physical trade show since the pandemic. She also plans to join more trade shows in other countries and continue collaborating with local designers.
Tahanan Furniture's journey from a dreamcatcher studio to a furniture and home decor haven is a testament to the resilience and adaptability of small businesses during trying times. It has become a brand that not only offers respite and inspires dreams but also promotes community development and environmental sustainability.
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Editor’s Note: BrandedUp is designed to provide you with insightful, inspiring and educational content created by PhilSTAR L!fe in collaboration with brands like Tahanan Furniture.