The common mantra that "cheap is good" is not one that Kiwha Lee Blocman necessarily abjures. But it is one that she will ask you to question, especially when buying furniture for the home.

"A lot of furniture shops will say that something is wood when in fact it is not. It is just a veneer. The surface may be wood but the inside is plywood or chipboard," she says.

Ms Blocman, 38, and the owner of The Flat, a concept store and showroom for her art, furniture designs and a carefully curated line of home accessories, is not likely to be fooled but she knows friends who have been.

"When that happens, I feel a little outraged because manufacturers sometimes don't say what materials their furniture is made of, preferring you to believe it is made of wood," she adds.

The mention of "chipboard" provokes a reaction from Ms Blocman that may seem unwarranted until she explains that it is not only a poor performance material - "it bloats up when it is wet" - but also an environmentally unfriendly one - "it is made with harmful compounds that give off gas".

"Shoppers need to look deeper and investigate before buying something that seems well priced. They must ask more questions and not be sold on the price alone," she adds.

Ms Blocman is a Korean national who moved to Singapore in 2007 for work.

She then met and married her French investment banker husband and now has two young children.

While she says her interest in design was renewed when she started to do research on environmentally sustainable furniture for her children's rooms, her passion for furniture and design stems from the earlier years she put into studying design and visual communications at the University of New South Wales and the University of Technology, Sydney, as well as interior design at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (Singapore).

Then, in 2014, she realised her passion for art and design with The Flat.

Apart from the original works of art created by Ms Blocman and the small range of lighting and furniture she has designed, much of the merchandise in The Flat is sourced through dealers from around the world.

Everything goes through a careful selection process and must embody her personal philosophy of incorporating "integrity and authenticity" in the design and manufacture.

This includes the tapestries from Uzbekistan to swaddling blankets with hand-stitched designs from Japan.

In the vintage and antique categories, there are also 1950's Jielde wall sconces (that Ms Blocman reveals are very popular with architects) and rustic Dutch colonial dining tables with spindle legs.

As eclectic as it all seems, nothing in the The Flat appears kitsch - not even the wooden shorebirds clad in hand-painted batik. Ms Blocman attributes her keen eye for aesthetics to her early initiation to global travel while trailing her father, an academic and mother, an artist/novelist, around the world for work to cities such as New York, Sydney, London and Boston.

"I grew up all over the world on four continents and we were used to adjusting very quickly (to each new environment and finding out what was special about each culture," she explains, adding, "when you have to move around so much as a child and teen, you have to figure out what is of value to you very fast because a lot of things may have to be left behind.

"That's when it started for me, the art of collecting. The appreciation for things that lasts and are timeless, that you will want to hold on to, not only for the story each object tells but also because it has become a part of you."

Looking for "the story" behind the furniture and design objects she selects for The Flat has led her to hold vintage furniture in high regard for its use of better quality materials, skilled craftsmanship and timeless design.

Describing a prized 80-year-old Indonesian teakwood dining table with an ingenious mechanism that allows for adjustable panels, she says: "What's important is the artisanal craftsmanship, it's a skill set that we don't find much of anymore." The said table costs S$3,625.

By way of explaining the ethnic overtones to the merchandise in The Flat, she says: "I like things that are a little more artisanal, made by hand. Sometimes this means they are made by cultures that are a little more ethnic. Not things made en masse in a sweatshop without passion and time."

Interestingly, items at The Flat are not exorbitantly expensive with most prices targeted at the mid-end of the market.

A teak wood chair with leather mesh seating of Ms Blocman's design will cost around S$600.

You can also get original Joan Miro lithographs for under S$1,000.

The designer and artist adds that the raison d'etre of The Flat is not necessarily to make loads of money.

"I don't feel much pressure to sell, sell, sell," she says. Instead, with The Flat, she wants to address the "huge dichotomy" between the appreciation for art and the lack of it for good design.

"We have no problem accepting art as having a certain price tag just because it's on the wall and framed.

You would never think to dispose of it when you move on to your next residence.

However, we can be so careless and thoughtless in the purchase of furniture that may not even be made to last," she adds.

Her solution then is to treat furniture and design the way one might treat art.

She says: "Buy furniture slowly and thoughtfully, with the mentality of collecting art. If these things stay in your life for decades and get passed on to your children, I feel that you would have more than justified the price."

The Flat is at #01-683, Block 2, Balestier Hill Shopping Centre, Singapore.

For more info, call 6259 1549 or visit

Opening hours: Every Tues and Thurs 11am-6pm and all other times by appointment including evenings and weekends