Interview: Belle Waring and Cheu Koh

A treasure trove of revamped and wildly unique vintage furnishings, visiting the Like That One store is a bad idea if you’re trying to rein in spending. Owners and long-time buddies Belle Waring and Cheu Koh spoke to us about the origin of their business and their favorite pieces.
What was the inspiration behind Like That One?
CK: We’d known each other for many years after becoming friends in the Bay Area in California, and reunited in Singapore. We wanted to start a business that would fill a gap here; something that would hit the sweet spot between junk shop and pricey high-quality design. We didn’t feel anyone else was offering a well-curated mix of vintage, re-imagined and cool new pieces so we went in that direction.
Tell us how you source your pieces and revamp what you find.
CK: Sometimes we’ll find a classic 60s piece, where the teak is in good condition, and we do only the minimum. We fix scratches and love it up and we just put it out there. When there are good features but technical problems, be it 80s upholstery or banged-up wood, we get creative—painting and distressing, changing the fabric, gluing pictures of plastic Japanese action figures all over—you name it, we’ve done it. We acquire things from estate sales and from connections with movers and carpenters who know to sell us their unwanted older pieces. We also source for new stuff, particularly in the industrial vintage style.
What do you enjoy most about the process?
BW: I think seeing our handiwork integrated into a beautiful, well-loved home is extremely satisfying.
CK: I enjoy channeling my nervous energy into making sure the pieces we put out there are loved by every customer who brings them home. It’s a vindication of our creative vision when people get what we’re doing and the value we’re offering them. Just last week, a new customer came into the store and told me his first impression walking in was “wow, so steampunk!”
Looks like the store’s in the midst of a change. What have you guys been up to here?
CK: We were up on the ninth floor previously, and we’ve just moved down to the first floor. It was a good spot but this is much better because it has way more visibility and ramp-uploading. We hope to be receiving containers of cool stuff in the future so this will really help. Of course, we’re still out in a light industry building in Bukit Batok but that’s just how we roll.
What are your favorite pieces?
BW: An Art Deco… thing… that we’re basically in the dark about. It’s round, coffee table-ish and has a mystifying arrangement of shelves and solid spaces. It looks as if it should spin around but it doesn’t. It’s just cool and mysterious.
CK: Our version of a Chesterfield sofa in one of our favorite color combos—brown and aqua teal. It’s ultra suede and it’s classic, super comfortable, fresh and friendly.
What kind of customers do you attract?
CK: All kinds but we hope to continue appealing to Singaporeans who are design-conscious and want something unique for their home, as well as expats who are looking for something genuinely Singaporean. There is an element of nostalgia in what we do but we also love going in the direction of industrial vintage and even steampunk so it’s not just a retro store.
And what usually catches the eye of your customers in the store?
Ironically, everyone always fixates on Belle’s daughter’s retro tricycle, which is not for sale.
What are your plans for the future?
We have several directions we might go. We might like to do more extensive interior decoration for clients, beyond just suggesting things from our own store. We are also moving into sourcing more new items that are made in other countries, and curating the selection so that our customers can combine stuff, confident that they’ll end up with a good eclectic look and not a mish-mash.
Famous last words?
We’re ahead of the curve!
CK: Buy at first sight—because we won’t have another identical piece most of the time!
Visit Like That One at #01-02 Skytech, 2 Bukit Batok St. 24, 6560-9168. Open Wed-Sun 11am-5pm. Or log on to their website