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Friday, October 7, 2011

Multi purpose furniture for today’s compact living

When the times call for innovation, Nestor and Francia Flores of Naga City respond with transformation. The couple was faced with the prospect of soon sending their eldest child, a 15-year-old girl, to study hundreds of kilometers away in the bustling Philippine capital of Metro Manila.

They recognized that a lot of adjustments would come by the way of their daughter, and wanted to give her some comforts of home. Condominium units and modest apartments in the big city often provide limited options for space.

But Nestor, a civil engineer, started to think out of the urban box. Why not have a single bed breaks into a three-piece living room set? Plus, why not throw in a couple of drawers, too, for extra storage options? The pieces must have wheels so these could be moved around easily, yet all of them had to fall into place as nicely as Lego blocks and interlock securely.

This concept was a bold and exciting one for the Floreses, who had been registered in the furniture business for about 16 years. After a month of conceptualizing, they decided to finally bring their design into production and then promptly to a bigger stage.

The very next morning after coming up with a finished unit, they loaded their creation on the back of their Asian utility vehicle and took an eight-hour drive to the SM Megamall shopping complex in Mandaluyong City to participate in the One Town, One Product (OTOP) National Expo of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) on September 21 to 25.

There, Francia and Nestor unveiled the Transfo-Bed – a modular sofa-bed made of Philippine marine plywood and built specifically for small residential spaces.Put together, it is a standard single bed that is 36 inches wide and 75 inches long. Unfasten the wheel and panel locks and it provides a coffee table and two sofas that each comfortably seat a pair of adults. In all, six drawers are incorporated.

For the expo organizers, the Transfo-Bed was a perfect fit worthy of being called the event’s Most Innovative Product in the furniture category. The Floreses also earned the Best Dressed Booth award in the same category for presenting the Transfo-Bed and its functions in a simulated condominium space.

Francia was elated to be chosen as the best among the participating furniture makers from the different provinces. “It’s inspiring because people appreciate what we have created. It came from our imagination, and now, here it is. We can touch it, we can see it. And people can use it,” she said during the expo.

Impressive as their feat is, the Floreses are no strangers to winning in an OTOP expo. They also won the innovation award last year for their race car-inspired pull bed. This piece was similarly started because of their children, particularly their young boy who fancied toy cars. They also felt that a pull bed would open up more space than a double deck.

As for the Transfo-Bed, its dimensions and carvings can be customized while the wood can be changed depending on the client’s preferences. However, Francia said this product was developed with Philippine marine plywood in mind because it is environment friendly, sourced locally and very durable.

“As furniture makers, we have to think of other materials for our products. We are running out of forests. There’s this feeling of guilt if manufacturers keep relying on wood taken straight from trees,” she said.

Asked how durable Philippine marine plywood is, she said that, “It’s used to build fishermen’s motorized outriggers so it’s very tough and moisture resistant.”

Innovation and environmental responsibility go hand in hand for the Floreses when coming up with new products. “You have to be aware of your surroundings. These days, living spaces are getting smaller, so you should think of things that will go well with the times. Also, discussions on the extent of the logging ban linger, so you have to think of what’s available for your business,” she said.

Opening up possibilities

The DTI is currently helping Francia and Nestor to forge large business deals with condominium property developers to supply the Transfo-Bed.

Francia expressed gratitude for the support provided: “The DTI has been continuously bringing us to the larger markets, matching our products with buyers, and helping us establish connections that lead us to bigger orders.”

She added that the DTI has also been providing them other forms of assistance that has enabled them to take their business to the next level. These come in the form of comparative product pricing advice, management training, seminars, and creating exposure on media including the Internet.

In today’s age when the next great idea can be easily ripped off, Francia said this was also a reality of the furniture industry that they had to deal with. However, she felt unfazed.

“The world is out there for everybody. If somebody copies our product, well, then it got copied,” she said, adding that, “you just have to work hard and always keep a foot ahead of the competition.”

From the looks of things, Francia and Nestor intend to keep on leading the pack with fresh ideas. Right beside the Transfo-Bed display at the 2011 OTOP National Expo was another creation – the Four-in-One Table as Floreses call it.

This item reveals a shoe rack on its side, tilts its top for drawing table, flattens out as a study table and a dining table to boot. Indeed, there are just some things that even the craftiest thieves won’t be able to steal from these furniture makers who like pushing the envelope every time.

Nestor and Francia Flores accept home visits to plan furniture pieces that meet client specifications. For Francia, going to Manila for business is “just eight hours” away. Interested parties may call (+63917) 8503353 and (+63922) 8525880 or e-mail Public Relations Office, Department of Trade and Industry

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