Treasures For Your Home On Bassac Lane
The latest addition to Bassac Lane is not another expertly designed watering hole, but a corner dedicated to design itself. Aptly named ‘Trove’, this little lifestyle and interiors shop is filled with unique items for the home that are full of character. The collection reflects the travels, interests and personalities of its owners, Ellie Dyer and George Norbert-Munns. I sat down with Ellie and George to find out about their passion for design, travel, Cambodian craftsmanship, and to hear about their experience breaking into Phnom Penh’s interiors scene.
What are your backgrounds and what were you up to before you opened Trove?
E: I’m from the UK and I’ve been in Cambodia for seven years. Before working in design I was a journalist for ten years, working at newspapers and editing magazines.
G: I’m from New Zealand and I’ve lived here for six years. Before I moved to Cambodia I worked in Australia in sales management and media sales. In the time I’ve been here I’ve set up eleven businesses mostly bars and restaurants, and now, Trove.
What kind of design do you do Ellie? George, do you have a connection to design too?
E: Graphic design. I loved being a journalist, and there were many creative elements to my work, but eventually I decided I wanted to transition into design, so I did a distance course with The Tractor Design School in Australia. I’m now a freelance graphic designer and offer branding services as well. I’ve always loved art, design and interiors, and collecting beautiful things. It’s wonderful that my job now involves all the things I loved to explore in my spare time.
I remember when I first met you Ellie - it was at a Drink & Draw life-drawing session, our model was an Apsara dancer!
E: Oh yes! That was amazing.
G: Before I left university (where I was studying product and environmental design) I designed, manufactured and sold ashtrays that went on the wall (this was prior to the smoking ban in Australia!) I had to find a way to make the best (and most cost effective) version of these ashtrays, which involved a lot of research and experimenting with various parts. I worked together with mechanics and locksmiths to manipulate random parts of these ashtrays in order to achieve the final design. I pitched the ashtrays to factories and industrial parks (where “smoking zones” were littered with cigarette butts, due to lack of appropriate receptacles) and it took off! It’s a nice process to go through… having a problem or finding there’s something you need or want and creating a solution for it. It felt good to be able to design and make my own thing.
Awesome. So how did Trove eventually come about?
E: We’d spoken about opening a shop together for a long time!
G: We needed an office, and we knew we wanted a shop, so we thought, we’d do both!
(George and Ellie’s office sits at the back of the shop.)
I like the name “Trove” and your logo (nice work, Ellie!) How did you decide on your name and brand?
G: Once we started buying things for the shop and putting it all together the whole brand started coming together too.
(“Trove” means: a collection of discovered valuable things.)
E: Some of the items we sell are things we collected years ago, and that have special value to us. There are some really unusual antiques! We also really value the work of the Cambodian artisans whose products we sell… We’ve travelled to villages and seen what they do. There are a lot of amazing Cambodian craftsmen out there that don't get the exposure they deserve, and we’re happy we get to show off some of their work.
G: And we have things from all over really… things from the region, things from Europe...
E: Our logo is like a compass, which symbolizes travel, and direction… (our collection has come from all different directions!)
How you would you describe the shop you’ve created?
E: We’ve created a space that brings together our love of design, with our love for collecting unique things, and for Cambodian craftsmanship.
We call ourselves a gift shop (as well as a home decor shop) because we think when you’re shopping for presents you’ll find a range of things here for special gifts - even something very small. We have a mix of things at a range of price points, we want there to be something for everyone here.
G: There’s nothing worse than walking into shop and and feeling like you can’t really afford something! Most people should be able to come into Trove and find something for someone at a price they're happy with. They could spend $180, they could spend $5.
E: Our notebooks are $3.50!
I love those notebooks! I might get one for myself...
Tell me more about the collection you’ve put together - what kinds of items have you got in here?
E: We have handmade ceramics from Siem Reap, quirky antiques, cushions, a few accessories and clothing items, and we sell some Bodia products too. We’re selling all the furniture in the shop as well, which is all made here. We have some framed, signed limited edition photography by Todd Brown (all Cambodian scenes), and beautiful woven blankets from Banteay Meanchey province.
G: These candles are from Cambodia, and could probably burn non-stop for about three months I reckon!
(George gestures towards the giant pillar candles that stand approximately 5 ft. off the ground.)
Tell me about the yachts!
G: They’re sourced from the region, and they were very satisfying to put together!
Wow, I love that you put these together yourself!
G: We put a lot of effort into building them. It’s very satisfying to create a physical product that you value - and that you hope others will value too.
E: Our shop is a reflection of us, our travels and our lives... And whenever I think of New Zealand (where George is from) I think of sailing, and the waters.
Do you have any favourite items in the shop?
E: The parasols. I especially love this red one. A few years ago I went to Myanmar on this epic trip to see the rural town where my dad was born. I found lots of parasols there which I loved. I bought some as a memento of my trip and they mean quite a lot to me. I love the pattern underneath that the threading makes… They always remind me of that trip, and of my dad.
G: I quite like the Bugle! It works!
(George picks up an antique bugle and blows… A loud, if harsh, noise is emitted... But it works alright!)
As new-comers to the interiors scene, what are your thoughts on interior design in Phnom Penh?
E: Certainly the whole design sector has really expanded and taken off. It was pretty hard to buy anything seven years ago, things have changed so much since then. That’s good to see. There’s more diversity, it’s quite pleasing from a design sense to see there are so many people who are doing different things in different ways and that makes the whole environment aesthetically richer for everyone. We feel really glad to be a part of that.
I know Trove is still brand new, but do you have any plans for how your collection might expand in future?
E: Eventually we’ll look at repurposing some of the unique things we collect on our travels, and designing items to sell in the shop too!
Awesome. In the meantime, Trove certainly contributes a lot of charm and personality to our growing interiors scene... I do think there’s a treasure in here for everyone.
Speaking of which... I really will have that notebook please!
Trove is open Friday - Saturday evenings 5 - 10pm, or by appointment.
Cover image by Ellie Dyer.