Talking global decor with Kathrin Bruce

Kathrin Bruce is our very own nomadic world traveller and founder of Water tiger. She is highly regarded for her refined taste and focused approach to her work.

We caught up with Kathy to discuss her travel experiences and find out just what ignited her career change into the global decor industry. 


You worked in the fashion industry in South East Asia before you discovered your love for global decor. Can you tell us a little about your journey into the vintage homewares industry?

“So I moved to Asia when I was 27 and worked in the entertainment fashion industry in Malaysia for American based companies like Walt Disney and Warner Bros.

“I later moved to Sri Lanka, Hong Kong and Singapore and during that time I discovered the beautiful products in Asia and fell in love with everything.”

“There was one restaurant I went to in Malaysia called ‘Bon Ton’. Everything you sat on you could buy. It was all such beautiful colloquial furniture.”

“I think admiring the history of Asia is how it all began.”


What do you look for in your collections?

“After a strong history in commercial business based on working with major entertainment companies across the world - I know what sells.

There are three rules to the way I have always bought:

  • Do I like what I see?
  • Can I sell it?
  • Can I sell it for a good price?

  • I think it’s important to find a balance between the three but it always comes down to buying what I love.”


    Handmade Chinese antique wine jars. Hand painted with traditional designs dated around 200 years ago.

    How do you source your collections? And how has your approach developed over time?

    “It has always been a very hands-on experience. I’ve travelled to several different countries and saw these pieces of global decor at the source. Whether it be in the factories, markets or warehouses, and then I’d end up buying what I liked.

    My approach hasn’t changed a lot over time. The way I buy now is the way I bought 20 years ago.

    The offering has to be authentic, that’s why I make an effort to avoid any kind of manufacturing.

    I don’t agree that we need to keep making furniture, I think there’s already enough from the past that holds incredible history and stories.”


    Can you tell us about some of the highlights of your travel experiences? And were there any standout experiences with accumulating special pieces?

    “That night at Bon Ton was certainly a determining factor.

    The first time I travelled across China (even though I had lived in Asia), I went to Beijing and it was mind-blowing. The history of these countries and their global decor is overwhelming.

    I think every new place is fascinating. Some of the highlights on my travels were India, China, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Turkey and Morocco. I just have so much appreciation for what these craftsmen have created - I never know what I’m going to find.”


    Collection of antique furniture pieces. Including rustic, antique bed head, side table, turquoise door and display cabinet.

    What do you have planned for your next venture/ collection?

    “With the current climate considered, fortunately, I have long-standing relationships with my suppliers overseas. They know what I like and they know what to show me.

    I’ve been considering venturing into an Airbnb type category. Perhaps Water tiger for home and rent…”

    “Though, COVID has certainly changed the way everything is going to happen. Luckily, I am confident I have enough product coming in this year to remain stable for a while.”


    Do you have a favourite country decor? If so, what is it and why do you love it?

    “Yes, it’s definitely China. It’s the first place I bought from and I just love the product and the Chinese pieces.

    Most of my global decor pieces come from China.”


    What draws you to vintage pieces? 

    “The history and the artisans.

    When they made a bench, they really thought about it and cared about what they were doing.”

    They were sensible and made things to last, whereas mass-produced furniture is just made for money.”

    Do you have your own question for Kathy? Feel free to get in touch and ask away.