Meet The Former Chanel Staffer Who Started A Singapore-Based Homeware Label
byPolly SweetAugust 05, 2020
After almost a decade at Chanel and InStyle magazine in London, founder of The Grey House, Claire Warren recounts her journey towards establishing a retail space dedicated to stylish homeowners in Singapore.
When former fashion PR and editor Claire Warren moved to Adam Drive in 2015, she was stumped by how impossible it was to find rugs for her new home. “I didn’t want IKEA anymore but the only other option seemed to be really expensive, really elaborate carpets and with small children that just wasn’t going to work for us”, she explains.
After almost a decade at Chanel and InStyle magazine in London, Claire was used to deploying her creative cunning and so she travelled to India and then Indonesia to find the solution, coming home with a small selection of wool dhurries and a handful of teak dining chairs. Unwittingly, her company The Grey House was born.
Having some experience with owning a business, Claire was aware of the challenges of a start-up and initially adamant that she wouldn’t do it again. “Working on my own, with no colleagues to bounce ideas off is probably the thing I find hardest about what I do,” she admits. But her financier husband spotted the demand for affordable yet high-quality homeware that, crucially, could be customised and the orders just kept coming. Barely a month after launching The Grey House, an offer came through from Charlotte Cain to take a stand at Boutique Fairs and there was really no going back.
Key to Claire’s success has been her refusal to expand too quickly. She’s kept her business lean, her costs down and her offering simple – a sleek e-commerce site proposes just a few key pieces of furniture in a limited number of styles and colours and it’s a formula that works. As almost everything that she sells is bespoke there is a lead time but customers are happy to wait a couple of months for the perfect piece.
Seven years working for Chanel has clearly left its mark on Claire, who favours a pared-back style in varying tones of beige, black and grey. Black woven leather banquettes and matching lounge chairs are more than a little reminiscent of the brand’s iconic quilted 2.55 bag, but Claire is quick to laugh off any parallels between the Parisian powerhouse and her diminutive showroom in the middle of the jungle. “It’s just what I love and what I’m naturally drawn to. I think it’s timeless really, simple, clean. Don’t get me wrong, I love Anna Spiro and Beata Heuman and I really appreciate their design aesthetic, but I could never live with that much colour in my house. It just isn’t me”.
In 2017, Claire teamed up with interior designer Marie Pauline Mongon and the two of them began tackling residential projects, which is an exciting new direction for the business and one which Claire is growing. But for now, rugs, furniture, and an ever-revolving selection of curated home accessories from the likes of Madam Stoltz, Mungo and Maison Balzac take up most of her time. It’s the age-old belief that less is more, a distinctly Parisian approach that has somehow found a home in a steamy Singapore enclave.