The Modern Karung Guni

The collective Goni Room turns curated trash into vintage treasure to bring back the value of the old.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel
My Reading Room
At Goni Room, common items like stainless steel spoons or ceramic pots may go for $7-$20 each. More unique wares could be $13-$30 each.
My Reading Room

In Singapore’s early days, most of us were poor. It was then that we had little, and recycling and upcycling were ways of life. Now that we are a first-world nation, we have first world problems like mass consumption, valuing only the new and the latest.

Local collective Goni Room, started in January this year by founders Soufi A’aliyah, 24, and Afiq Ayub, 33 (both pictured above), is trying to change that mindset.

“We started Goni Room to reconnect with the world,” says Soufi. “We want to discourage blind consumerism and encourage people to give thrown-aways a second look.”

Operating through Instagram account @goni_room, their tightly curated inventory of “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” is a vintage trove of the practical (unused matches, gold-hued heart-shaped spoons, bronze bottle openers with animal motifs, pots with angel wings) and the collectible (a melodica from Kyoto, a box of photo slides of other people’s memories) from different eras.

Unlike secondhand stores where products are altered or fixed, Goni Room’s are sold in their original state – not a single scratch is buffed out and no dull silverware is polished – because Soufi and Afiq want you to like the item for what it is.

To keep things varied and unique, the duo spend most of their time combing void decks and beaches for “trash” and foraging yard sales and thrift stores for the super one-ofa-kind. Some of their finds come from as far away as Glasgow.

Afiq also runs woodworking lessons for turning all the driftwood they collect into wooden cutlery.

So far, millennials and vintage collectors have been keeping them busy, and they have to replenish their finds every three to four weeks.

“Goni Room will always be a home for rejects,” says Afiq. “Living in a city where things get replaced so fast, unique and handmade products have become overshadowed by mass-produced ones. We aspire to be the balance. We are determined to make SG a better place.” – HT

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