(From left: CH25, Swan Sofa and Bertoia Diamond Chair in Terence Chan's collection)

Family or friends visiting Terence Chan’s home or office will be hard pressed to find themselves short of a seat. Director of Terre design studio, Mr Chan has been collecting designer furniture for more than 20 years. His passion for his acquisitions runs so deep that "I've lost count of how many pieces of designer furniture I have," he says. "I've also stopped calculating how much I've spent over the years. If I feel it is worth paying for a piece, I will get it."

Not one to keep anything in a warehouse, Mr Chan proudly displays his collection, both in his apartment in Pasir Ris, and at his office in Niven Road. And they are not just display pieces, because "all the chairs are meant to be used."

Some of the pieces that he has at home include Barcelona chairs by Mies van der Rohe, a Charles and Ray Eames lounger and ottoman, Tom Dixon's Pylon Chair and a Vitra Suita sofa by Antonio Citterio.

(Terence Chan on the Swan Chair)

In his 3,600 sq ft office, scattered across three floors, are more pieces, such as an Eames rocker, a Swan sofa from Fritz Hansen, a Bertoia Diamond chair from Knoll, and several Wishbone chairs from Carl Hansen.

"I always enjoy collecting beautiful things that tell a story, whether it's its own story or an experience with someone or an event," he says of his passion. " Over the years, I've come to be interested more in the story than the brand, especially when you've collected a fair number of pieces."

The first chair he collected was the Eames Rocker.

"It's price sensitive and everybody loves to sit on a rocker, especially in our hot and humid weather."

Pushed to name his favourite piece, he stops to ponder. "It will have to be the CH25," he finally says, referring to the lounge chair designed by the late Danish designer Hans Wegner for Carl Hansen.

(Wiggle Chair)

Designed in 1950, the CH25 Lounge Chair is bold in its sculptural shape. Wegner's choice of woven paper cord for the seat and back was unheard-of at the time. Paper cord was actually a substitute material used during World War II. It takes a skilled craftsman 10 hours to handweave the seat and back of this chair in a unique pattern using about 400 metres of paper cord.

Explaining his pick, Mr Chan says that Wegner was a "key furniture designer for that generation. No one surpasses him".

When he is overseas for work, Mr Chan makes it a point to visit furniture factories, to "hear the stories before how each piece is made". He, however, buys most of his pieces in Singapore, "to support local retailers", he says. "If you buy online, there may be the risk of damage, which the local retailers will not cover."

Most of the pieces that he has are brand new, but he has no qualms about buying second-hand pieces or even display ones. "It is not too difficult to reupholster or repair a second-hand piece."

(Barcelona Chair)

Mr Chan says he has not regretted buying any piece, "since some can cost quite a lot, so they are bought after consideration". But he admits that some pieces in his collection fare less well in Singapore's tropical weather.

For example, the glue used to keep the veneer strips together on the Cross Check chair by Frank Gehry has dried up and the strips are no longer held in place. Mr Chan has no plans to get rid of it, though.

"The investment value of furniture is that you purchase one that suits your budget and you like it. It gives you pleasure when you see it and enjoy their company."

(CH24 Wishbone Chair)

He believes that some iconic pieces do increase in value over the years, but "I don't research into it, since I don't have plans to sell", he points out.

He describes his style as "eclectic, but controlled". There are pieces that he wouldn't get, one of which is the Dream Chair by Japanese architect Tadao Ando for Carl Hansen. "I like Ando's architecture, but not the chair. I don't understand it. It doesn't look correct nor does it make sense," says Mr Chan.

His tip for would-be collectors is to always test out a particular chair that they like. "Beyond aesthetic, quality and price, comfort level is also important," he adds.


Written by Tay Suan Chiang for The Business Times Weekend