Furniture is a living record of human experience. That is the view of Monty Ng, design director at Day One Living. Those cushions, sofas, end tables and ottomans that make up our living rooms are the modern equivalent of cave drawings, he says, because they tell the story of where we have been. 'You see a scratch on a table and you think about how it happened and where,' Mr Ng says. 'Furniture has life.' A bit far-fetched? Not really. For a generation of young people who have not owned their own homes, a furniture collection can be one of the few anchors in a world of rapid change. As they move from rental flat to rental flat, they take their furniture with them. They may not own the flat, but they can still customise the environment with their personal possessions, Mr Ng says. The view that furniture is a central component of our lives lies at the heart of the philosophy at Day One Living, a new concept furniture and home furnishings store in Sheung Wan. Shoppers will have no trouble finding the retail outlet, which is on the third floor of the same commercial building that houses the Sincere department store. First-time visitors arriving by escalator are in for a surprise. The entire retail floor has been gutted, the floors and ceiling painted black, and halogen spotlighting installed. The result is a warehouse-like display showroom. All that open space gives Day One plenty of room to play with furniture arrangements that highlight different product categories. The bedroom concepts come complete with bed frames, end tables and bedside lamps. The extensive home furnishings department features German crystal glassware, Thai ceramics, cotton bedding and stainless steel candlestick holders and picture frames made in China. Homeowners and commercial builders visiting the kitchen will find ideas on how to build a dream kitchen. Simply walk through any of the integrated kitchen displays, featuring built-in cupboards, table counters, sinks and dishwashers. These functional units can be ordered for custom installation to fit the dimensions of any kitchen. Choose a favourite colour and pattern of formica (an artificial table-top material that resembles stone), and Day One will send a construction team to measure and install the unit at your home for a set price. 'No other shop provides such furniture quality at such a price, and in such variety,' Mr Ng says. Day One is a joint venture of majority partner Sincere Group and a number of private investors, including interior designer Josephine Ko (who is also managing director). The Sheung Wan showroom had a soft opening last October as a prelude to a full promotional campaign in English and Chinese, which got under way recently. Mr Ng (himself an interior designer) says a second retail outlet will open in Shanghai this month. There are also plans to open outlets in Britain and Japan next year under a franchise agreement. 'There is a niche in the market for people looking for good design quality,' Mr Ng says, explaining why the 100-year-old Sincere Group decided to plunge into the furniture business. 'We want to create a relaxed, luxurious image for home furnishings based on an affordable pricing model.' Day One's target market is consumers in their 30s and 40s who see furniture as a long-term investment but do not want to spend extravagantly. During our showroom tour, Mr Ng pauses to point out a bed-frame made of solid wood. Closer inspection shows the frame to be joined together in a way that would impress any Scandinavian boat-builder. The frame feels heavy, with the stain several coats thick to give the wood a rich, dark colour. In the living section, Mr Ng points to a 1960s-style end table. It is the type of unit designed to comfortably carry a television, a stereo and a CD collection. It is also likely to withstand the scuffs and shocks of an active household. The shelves have the appearance of natural wood, but the inner core is constructed of medium-density fibre (MDF). Surrounding the core is a pressure-moulded natural walnut veneer. Mr Ng says the material is stronger than plywood and more environmentally friendly than real wood. At the heart of Day One's business model is a materials sourcing and manufacturing strategy designed to provide the highest quality furnishings at the lowest price, Mr Ng explains. Wood is imported from Europe, the United States and South America, depending on the look and texture required. Fabrics, metals and other base materials are sourced regionally, depending on price and quality. Mr Ng says Day One's strategy is to give buyers the opportunity to mix and match furnishings for an individual look.'We are trying to educate our target customers to shop and pick out ensembles by themselves,' he says. Most of the furniture is influenced by a European design ethic that emphasises basic form and simple lines. Cast an eye around the showroom and you will see shades of Italian modernism, Art Deco and contemporary French. Mr Ng says the concept is modern but steers away from the radical edge, leaning more towards timeless classics. As a general rule, the emphasis is on dark-toned furniture, with an oriental approach to detailing.