Brick makers feel economic heat

Wed, 15 October 2008
Local industry caught between falling demand and cheap

Local industry caught between falling demand and cheap, illegal imports from Vietnam Tracey Shelton

Locally made bricks use better quality materials than cheaper imports from Vietnam, say industry experts.

Price watch

construction materials
Steel rods were selling in Phnom Penh markets at 3,921 riels per kilogram Friday, a rise of 78.23 percent over the base price for the year, according to figures from the Ministry of Commerce’s Trade Promotion Department. Cement was selling at an average of 19,814 riels per sack, an increase of 23.84 percent over the year’s base price.

Brick makers are suffering from falling prices in a construction market flattened by both the rainy season and the current economic downturn, as well as from competition from cheaper imports from neighbouring Vietnam, according to industry insiders.

"I think imported brick from Vietnam is popular among housing developers in Battambang because it's cheap," said Bou Sophal, president of the Battambang Brick Manufacturers Association.

"But it is not generally used by individuals as it is low in quality and less dense than local brick."

Mao Thora, secretary of state in the Ministry of Commerce, also worried that the smuggling of illegally imported bricks from Vietnam would have a negative impact on local producers. Traders were smuggling cheaper bricks from Vietnam by burying them under other goods, Mao Thora told Prime Location.

"It will kill local brick kilns if they are imported on a large scale," he said.

The owner of a brick-making factory in Kandal province who asked not to be named told Prime Location by telephone interview, "We can't compete with imported bricks because they're cheaper.

"I do not understand why the government allows imports from Vietnam while local producers are able to make them."

Falling demand

His factory was able to produce an average of 400,000 pieces per month, he noted, with about 10,000 bricks per day sold in Phnom Penh and surrounding areas.

"We are selling at a price of US$500 for 10,000 bricks while it was over $1,200 earlier this year due to the high demand from housing developers," he said.

Yim Chanveasna, assistant project manager of Venture Cambodia PTE Co Ltd, said that his company preferred to buy more local brick than imported product, buying 50,000-60,000 bricks per month from local producers.

"To build a one-storey house, you need at least 30,000 bricks and about 70,000 bricks for a two-story villa," pointed out Yim Chanveasna.


"The price of bricks has dropped to below $500 for 10,000 bricks from almost $600 three months ago," he said.

Bou Sophal told Prime Location that brick kilns in Battambang province were currently employing about 3,000 workers and could produce about 10 million bricks per month, to be sold in Battambang, Pailin and markets in the surrounding areas, as well as in Phnom Penh.

Badly fired

He pointed to rising fuel and raw materials costs as other factors having a negative impact on the industry.

The price of wood - the primary source of fuel for brick kilns - was increasing due to the growing scarcity of wood, agreed Mao Thora.

"If they want to sustain their profits they should find ways to deal with this shortage, such as using charcoal or rice husks," Mao Thora said.

Over 20 brick kilns in Battambang province were burning rice husks instead of wood, but with the additional impact of requiring more workers to carry fuel to the kilns, Bou Sophal said.

He was also concerned about a decline in the quality of bricks if they were not well-fired.

The price of clay for making the brick, meanwhile, has also increased from $1.50 to about $1.80 per cubic metre, said Bou Sophal.

"Previously, when people dug wells, we could get the clay cheaply," he noted, but few people are digging wells during the rainy season. Read Original text

Space goes fast for upcoming expo

Wed, 15 October 2008

EXHIBITORS have already snapped up two-thirds of available exhibition space at Cambodia's first real estate expo next month, says the head of the event management company.

Whale Event Management chairman Ly Sok expects the remaining booths for the November 21-23 expo at the Cambodiana Hotel to be sold by the middle of this month.

Exhibition space for the three-day event ranges from US$20,000 for a diamond booth down to $2,500 for one of 15 standard booths.

The event will showcase real estate companies, developers, construction companies, banks, insurance companies and interior designers. UN representatives will also attend to advance discussion about sustainable urban development.

"The expo is a one-stop service featuring everything to do with real estate," Ly Sok said.

Confirmed exhibitors include the Gold Tower 42 and the Grand Phnom Penh International City development projects, banks such as ANZ Royal and Cambodia Public Bank, Alpha Property Construction and Décor Gallery.

"Cambodia is a frontier market, a land of opportunity," said Ly Sok. "The time now is right."

Whale Event Management, a member of Whale Group, was formed this year and plans to hold at least six expos annually focused on real estate, trade, technology and education.8Read Original text

One step beyond

Wed, 15 October 2008


Beyond Interiors offers designs that look ready to be lived in

Photo by: Rick Valenzuela

The showroom of Beyond Interiors groups its home-furnishing collections into homelike rooms and arrangements that suggest how they might look in your own home. Australian-born owner and manager Bronwyn Blue says it's all about "trying to keep the space light and bright, using colours that are really of the earth and the sky."

NEW storefronts in Phnom Penh are often created from pre-existing structures but respond to nothing more than necessity. Beyond Interiors is a display of what can happen when a designer absorbs an existing structure with a fresh and contemporary vision.

"The main crux of the design was about bringing the garden into the showroom," says owner and designer Bronwyn Blue.

Landscaper Bill Grant created a tropical frame around the building, and glass walls and mirrors not only bring the garden into the showroom but also help create Blue's vision of freshness and lightness. The colours in the showroom also display these themes.

"It's all about freshness," she says, "trying to keep the space light and bright, using colours that are really of the earth and the sky." Although the showroom has many contemporary themes and ideas, "the building was inspired by original architectural shapes that are seen all around Cambodia".

And indeed the sea of glossy green pagoda tiles covering an interior wall does present Cambodian elements in a contemporary and inventive way.

If there's only one vase in a room, then that’s all you need. It's beautiful the way it is.

Shapes found in the original house can be seen repeated throughout the showroom, Blue notes.  The wide arches, for example, above the plate-glass windows are in theme with the original ornate archway to one of the several spaces.

The showrooms themselves have been created to emulate different rooms in a house, Blue explains, "as your bedroom might be, as your living room might be. So people don't have to visualise ‘how would this work in my house?'"

The collections

"It's not just a table or a chair, it's a lifestyle concept. It's for people who know what they want in their head, but perhaps they can't find it in a magazine or can't really express it." Beyond Interiors is a showroom of collections.

"If you're someone who likes things just a little bit more simple, then you might go for the Classic Collection which is just straight lines, beautiful wood, simple shapes but very elegant. And then if you're into something a little bit more designer, you might go for the Scandinavian Collection.

"All of the collections include living, bedroom and dining ... so you have the dining table, dining chairs, bookshelf, coffee table, sofa, bed, bedside table; that's a home setting."

Blue travelled Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and Cambodia to develop her collections, which she says evolved out of the fundamental needs for timeliness of delivery, and high-quality products and raw materials.

There are five collections in all, but the showroom also features individual pieces that stand alone and that could be integrated into any of the collections.

In choosing showroom merchandise, "it was really about trying to use materials that we knew were reliable, materials that we knew had been treated for ageing, for heat, for air conditioning. So the products themselves are durable and can live in different climates."

All of the furniture in the showroom can be flat-packed to make shipping easy, giving people an option to have quality furnishings here that they that they can take with them when they leave. "It's not about offering more chairs and more tables, but a different level of quality that I don't believe has been previously available here."

Running throughout the collections is a consciousness of the tropical climate of Southeast Asia. The chairs, for example, are designed to allow for better airflow.

Some of the collections were inspired by a trip Blue took to Bali where she was captivated by the chic simplicity of Balinese styling. "If there's only one vase in a room, then that's all you need. It's beautiful the way it is."

Looking ahead to design trends for the coming year, Blue sees things as being natural and organic but chic, simple and elegant, a continuation of the lightness and freshness displayed so brilliantly in her showroom.

The principles

Fine wood is a central theme throughout the showroom.

Having worked in the furniture trade for several years, Blue has seen her share of old wood turned into benches, tables and chairs.

"You need to give people the security of knowing that your sources are coming from certified government-commissioned forests or plantations. If you have a social conscience today, it's just something that you are aware of," she said.

"There are issues here that need to be addressed and there are loads of different ways of addressing them. So it could be by being a business that is more conscious in the way it sources products, or it could be by being a customer that buys their products in a more conscientious way." Read Original text

Do it yourself: Giving things a splash of paint

Read Original textWed, 15 October 2008

MANY homes and apartments in Cambodia are beautiful, with high ceilings and open spaces, but too often they feel worn and tired. Adding colour to the walls is an excellent way to refresh a room and - although painting can seem like a colossal task - the results are worth the effort.

Choosing a paint color is the first and sometimes most difficult part of painting. Room size and wall space are important factors. Smaller rooms lend themselves well to soft colors and earth tones. Shades of violet, blue and green create the sense of a larger, more airy space. It is often said that blue-green shades are the lightest and airiest. Earth tones - browns, beiges, greys and taupes - add elegance and sophistication to a room while also giving it a larger appearance.

Strong, bold colours work well in big rooms, especially with high ceilings. Reds, oranges and yellows are high-energy colors that bring a room together and create a sense of closeness. These colours are good for common areas as they increase social interaction. Bolder shades add a dramatic effect to a room, while lighter shades create a sense of movement.

Natural lighting plays a big factor. Rooms that get a lot of sunlight can appear hot and small if they are painted in dark shades, and rooms with a lot of shadow can feel cold without enough contrasting colour.

Dulux paints from Singapore are high quality paints, and the Dulux store on Monireth off Mao Tse Toung Boulevard can match any color using computer technology. This store also carries the best painting supplies and has over ten years experience in the business.

On a roll

After you have decided on colours, you'll have several options of quality and sheen to chose from. Satin, eggshell, matte, flat, semi-gloss and high-gloss are different types of sheen. The best interior paints are eggshell and matte. Eggshell reflects light more but it can also appear a bit shimmery, so it's best for lighter colours. Matte gives the paint a flat, dull appearance and is better suited for darker colours. Ask which types of paint are easy to clean, as some will spot when washed with water.

The basic tools you'll need are brushes, rollers, masking tape and a putty knife. When choosing brushes, make sure that the bristles are even and solidly held in the brush. Nylon brushes with longer bristles are best. There are a huge number of roller covers and handles to choose from, and the first thing you will want to do is test the roller handle for rigidity. A weak handle will leave lines when it rolls the paint onto the wall, so try to find one that doesn't flex. Roller covers differ in their nap, and the texture of the walls will determine what nap to use: longer for porous or uneven walls, and shorter for smooth walls. Buy the widest masking tape available and a narrow putty knife.

Before you begin painting move everything out or to the centre of the room and cover the floor. Make sure that all surface areas are clean and dry including door and window frames. Mask off the floor, electrical outlets and door and window frames using the putty knife to press the tape down especially where it meets the wall. Paint from the top down and start by cutting in the ceiling. Find a container to paint from - do not paint directly from the can. A cut-up bleach bottle, for instance, has a handle and is a good size.

When cutting in, try not to have too much paint on the brush and slowly work around the edge of the wall where it meets the ceiling. This is the most skilful part of painting and requires a steady hand. Keep about a half-centimetre from the ceiling and paint about ten centimetres down the wall. Next paint corners and around all taped areas.

The key to a good rolling job is making sure that the roller is not over-saturated with paint. It helps to fill the paint pan only about half full. Keep the pressure on the roller firm but not heavy. Use long vertical strokes and watch out for thick paint lines that your roller might leave. After the first coat has dried, go back with the brush and touch up any thin spots. After the first coat is dry, apply a second, and then sit back, relax and have a glass of wine in your bright new space.

Featured Property: Malis

Wed, 15 October 2008


Restaurant creates a living Cambodian style



much of Cambodia's culture is bound nostalgia that it's refreshing to

enter a space where the design styles are wholly Cambodian and

absolutely alive. Malis restaurant balances wide airy spaces with deep

rich wood and stone creating a lively contrast, the effect of which is


"It's not old, it's not fusion, it's not modern... it's

living. We don't forget the old, and we are not going too far into the

new," says Malis executive chef Luu Meng.

Lighted pillars stand at

the front of the restaurant behind which is an open courtyard and a

trio of fishponds. Dark wood tables are set up around the courtyard

under the overhanging tiled eves of the renovated villa. Malis is a

union of inside and outside spaces spanning three levels. The top two

floors harbour elegant private dining areas and balconies.


and trees are ubiquitous throughout. Champe trees twist out of lush

green grass and oversized vases with bamboo line the walkways of the

dining areas. The sound of fountains in the fishponds along with soft

lighting creates a serene ambiance.

Hand-woven Khmer silk fabrics

cover lampshades and chair cushions, and locally made tiles adorn the

floors. Malis Restaurant is elegant in design and succeeds in creating

a living Cambodian style. Read Original text

Let there be light

Wed, 15 October 2008

For design-conscious Cambodians, lighting up your home is no longer just a matter of putting in some new fluorescent tubes

IN a place where natural daylight begins to wane between 5 and 6pm, home lighting is essential. In the past, fluorescent light bulbs have been sufficient illumination, but interior lighting options are growing with Phnom Penh's skyline.

Lighting trends have evolved as light-bulb technologies develop and diversify, and a wide variety of lighting effects are now available. As more options for home design become available in Cambodia, people are able to create their own interior styles and themes.

Here are some lighting ideas for three distinct home interior styles along with suggestions on where to purchase lamps and fixtures.

Tropical chic

Tropical-style home decor typically suggests images of rustic bamboo and palm leaves, but the latest spin on this style of interior design brings together concepts of wide airy spaces and rich woods. Light, natural earth tones such as ivory and tan create a restful feeling when offset by darker shades of natural greens and browns tying in the old tropical ideas of bamboo and palm trees.

Select natural, subtle lighting for this style of design. A combination of low-watt opaque and translucent bulbs creates a restful look reminiscent of the calming themes associated with tropical design. Backlighting combined with simple floor and table lamps is all that is necessary.

Choose lamp covers that are made of light and airy fabrics but with few accents. Lamp tables that are made of wood, stone and other natural materials bring together concepts of the beach and the ocean.

The shops along Mao Tse Tonge between Norodom and Street 354 sell rattan furniture and lights that can be incorporated into the Tropical Chic style of interior design. There are also a number of handiraft stores around Phnom Penh that feature Cambodian-made lights using local Khmer silk. Combining function with handcrafted elegance, these lamps add local tropical flavor to any room and come in a number of different designs and a wide range of colours.
Asian themes

Japanese style interior design is currently very popular. Its central focus is on minimalistic elegance. The simplicity of Japanese design is often accentuated by the use of high contrast, so, although the colors are primarily neutral, they are highlighted with black linear accents. Single strokes of colour are also used to create high contrast, thus accentuating the minimalist feel.

Japanese design is often elusive in its simplicity, creating elements of mystery. Effective lighting in this style continues themes of high contrast. Soft backlighting can be used as a canvas for directional halogen lights that cast shadows across a space, thus creating an ambiance of serene complexity.

Floor and table lamps are used sparingly in Japanese interior design, but they can provide a vehicle for accents. Colourful bases, stems and shades combined with globe bulbs can become the contrast that is essential in tying together Japanese-style rooms.

Edison Electric Cambodia light store on Street 214 carries collections of light fixtures that work well with Japanese interior design. Phnom Penh General Electrical Accessories on Monivong Boulevard is another store that carries a variety of lights, some of which would work with a Japanese-style room.

French colonial

The French colonial interior design is a collision of traditional French styles with those of the "exotic" regions and cultures they colonised.

The dominating theme of French colonial interior design is fineness. Soft draped fabrics offset by highly polished veneers adds a feeling of luxury to this style of room. Strong Egyptian colors blended alongside traditional pastels, especially lilac, create the French colonial color palette.

Classic ornamental laurel wreaths and urns combined with collections of Egyptian sphinx heads, Angkorian statues and other ancient artefacts are typically on display, so lighting choices will often highlight these antiquities.

A vast combination of floor and table lamps along with ornate sconces and ceiling fixtures complete the style. Candle lights and flicker and flame bulbs accentuate this decor.

Both Edison Electric and Phnom Penh General Electric carry lights that work with the French colonial style, but the antique shops around the Russian Market may offer the genuine article. Read Original text