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Local designers unveil new furniture and homeware collections

Check out furniture inspired by India's Mughal architecture, a tattoo-inspired bench, multi-tasking tables by an architect and playful pieces

With Singapore Design Week in full swing last week, many designers and brands took the opportunity to launch furniture and homeware collections.

One of the anticipated launches at the International Furniture Fair Singapore was industrial designer Nathan Yong's work with new brand ipse ipsa ipsum, aimed at a millennial clientele who want affordable statement pieces in their homes.

Inspired by the architecture of India, the 18-piece collection also shone the spotlight on the skills of Indian craftsmen.

For some, launching new furniture meant trying new design partnerships. Take home-grown furniture and lifestyle brand Scene Shang, for instance, as it partnered a tattoo artist to design upholstery for a bench which went on show at design festival SingaPlural.

The Straits Times checks out four brands that made a splash with their new products last week.


Luxurious furniture inspired by India

Inspired by India, award-winning local designer Nathan Yong has put out a new series of furniture reflecting the country's colours, history and architecture.

The 18-piece collection includes the Mahal Standing Full Mirror ($631), which is made of antique brass and references the iconic arches found in Mughal architecture; and the Kochi Fruit Bowl ($561), a homage to the dome that tops the tomb of Humayun, the second emperor of the Mughal Empire.

The largest piece is the customisable Udaipur Sofa set ($4,908), which comes in a brass or nickel frame, with side tables made of marble and leather hides.

The range includes a lamp that runs on solar power and a dining table made from brass and marble.

Given the sensual forms and obviously luxurious materials, the products may seem out of character for Yong, who is known for a more minimalistaesthetic, often executed in wood.

This new collection, titled The Nathan Yong Collection, was done in collaboration with ipse ipsa ipsum, a new range of furniture and lifestyle goods catering to millennial clients who want bespoke statement pieces in their homes.

Of his new works, Yong says: "This is a departure from what I usually do, but people who know my work will see some part of me - clean lines and structured form - in this collection. I've worked with all the materials before, but not all together on one project."

The 45-year-old, who won the Singapore President's Design Award for Designer of the Year in 2008, has his own line of products under the label Folks and co-owns retail furniture store Grafunkt.

India-born Saurabh Mangla, 37, is the creative head behind ipse ipsa ipsum, which means "himself, herself, itself" in Latin.

The brand comes under Sam & Sara, an eight-year-old distribution arm of an Indian silverware business started by Mr Mangla's grandfather. The elder man was a soldier who fought in World War II. After retiring, he made silverware for Indian army barracks.

Today, Sam & Sara incorporates silversmithing techniques into the furniture and accessories it designs and makes.

When the collaboration started in August last year, Yong turned to the Internet and books for reference before sketching his designs.

He later went to Sam & Sara's factories - a four-hour drive away from New Delhi - to meet the blacksmiths, stone carvers, silversmiths and carpenters there to see how they can produce his designs.

Mr Mangla, who is now a Singaporean, says: "It was a huge challenge working with craftsmen because these designs took them out of their comfort zone. We tapped on their skills and gave them an update."

Prices have been kept affordable, he adds, starting from $273 for the Taj Marble Tee Light Holder, which is made with antique brass and has a white marble tray. He says: "We want people to use the pieces and make them part of their everyday life. They are not meant to be kept like museum pieces."

•The collection will be available at Sam & Sara, 03-14 National Design Centre, 111 Middle Road, after April 9. E-mail info@samandsarahome.com for details


Architect-presenter- deejay launches Asian-inspired series

Having a carpenter as a father and designing bespoke items for his clients, architect Khairudin Saharom always knew he was going to have a furniture line.

It was a matter of finding the right time as the busy 41-year-old bachelor juggles being the principal architect and director at Kite Studio Architecture, a presenter on Suria and Channel NewsAsia as well as a radio deejay.

In May last year, when he finally had enough designs that he felt confident about to put together in a collection, he started designing Chrysanthemum by Kite, a 10-piece Asian-inspired series that includes tables, lights and beds.

Prices range from $1,200 for a coffee table to $8,500 for a bed.

The signature pieces are no doubt the two multi-tasking coffee tables.

The first is Bangku (bench in Malay), which comes in three variations, Bangku.I, Bangku.II and Bangku.III.

While the form of the three versions is the same, the slots to stow magazines and books are angled differently in each. All the Bangkus double as a coffee table or bench.

The second table, called Tatami, also has a flexible design because of its modular parts. Two benches can be removed from the centre of the table for more seating. The space revealed in the middle can then be used for storage, as a planter box or as a base for a floral arrangement.

The sides are covered with mirrors, which make the table look like it is floating, and an ash-grey panelled tabletop gives it an industrial finish.

He named it Tatami as the uniform tabletop panels resemble the modular, repeated strips of Japanese floor mats.

Furniture-making was part of Khairudin's childhood. He used to spend weekends in his late father's furniture retail shop and workshop in Braddell, which has since closed.

When the shop was still in business, his father used to upcycle old furniture and make pieces from scratch. "I saw how he meticulously put each piece together," Khairudin says. "That inspired me to bring that craftsmanship into the furniture line."

The pieces in Chrysanthemum by Kite are made to order in workshops here.

Two of Khairudin's clients, whose bungalows he designed, have already bought Bangku and Tatami.

The home owners mixed them with furniture from celebrity designers and brands.

In one house, Bangku is placed next to an Italian Meridiani sofa and the famous bunny chair by Danish brand Normann Copenhagen; while in the other, Tatami is surrounded by a sofa set by luxury Italian brand Minotti.

Khairudin says: "I'm not trying to fight with the big guys, but my furniture fits in nicely."

•Go to chrysanthemumbykite.com to order


Playful Singapore-Italian collection returns

Don't play play?

Not so for Singapore-Italian design studio Lanzavecchia + Wai, which has collaborated with local furniture retailer Journey East to launch a second collection of furniture under the celebrated PLAYplay range.

The six new pieces continue the same bright and cheerful spirit of the original collection, which debuted in 2015. These include a bookshelf which features an extra "grid" painted in shocking orange and a sofa with round blue cushions that will brighten up any living room.

A new element in this happy-dappy family of furniture is bent tubular powder-coated iron, inspired by old playground structures here that were built with metal pipes.

In the second PLAYplay, the pipes run around some of the pieces as a decorative feature and curve down to become legs, such as in the Rail console ($2,480).

Mr Hunn Wai, 36, one-half of Lanzavecchia + Wai, says: "The rails make the pieces look lighter than they actually are and make them look visually interesting."

His design partner is Italian Francesca Lanzavecchia, 33, who is based in Pavia, a city 35km south of Milan.

The first PLAYplay collection received good press coverage. Accordion, a striped console, was singled out by design and architecture magazine Elle Decor Italia as one of its "Best of Design 2016"; and the Hamburger Coffee Tables - which were stackable and retro-inspired - were featured in the pages of Wallpaper*, the influential design and lifestyle magazine.

Journey East's marketing manager Terence Teh, 37, says the furniture retailer has built up a chemistry with Lanzavecchia + Wai and was eager to continue the partnership.

He adds: "Our intent was to, of course, keep the signature fun, playful design flavour of the first part."

Taking into consideration feedback from buyers, they decided to make all the furniture, except the sofa, in oak as it blended better in homes here.

They also designed a sofa as the original collection lacked one. The result was the Polqa sofa, whose armrest has a removable side table for users to place remote controls or drinks.

Mr Teh says: "With the first collection, people wanted to buy complementary pieces. For example, we had a coffee table, but no sofa. Now, with the second PLAYplay, our purpose was to complete the collection."

•Go to Journey East, 03-02 Tan Boon Liat Building, 315 Outram Road or call 6473-1693


Teaming up with a tattoo artist, fashion label and indie studio

Known for its contemporary Asian aesthetic, home-grown furniture and lifestyle brand Scene Shang has worked with three designers for its latest products - a tattoo artist, a fashion label and an indie design studio.

The first product is the Koi Gate Bench, a sleek elm wood bench featuring outlines of a koi and lotus on its leather upholstery.

The pattern was designed by ink artist Joseph Siow of Visual Orgasm, which has a studio in Haji Lane.

The $980 bench, which comes in either tan or nude leather upholstery, made its debut at design festival SingaPlural last week.

Siow, 39, who is known for his freehand illustrative style and has worked on projects with fashion brands such as Fred Perry and advertising agencies, says: "Over the years, tattoos have gained popularity. People now see it as an art form and big brands, especially fashion ones, want to collaborate with tattoo artists."

This is the first time he is designing a pattern for furniture - an opportunity he calls "rare and challenging" - which was why he decided to give it a go.

He sketched the koi and lotus flower on paper before scanning them into a computer to enlarge them and make slight changes in Photoshop. The image was then printed on the leather.

This is the first time Scene Shang, which usually designs its own products or retails other brands, is working with other designers to produce products inspired by craft and tradition, says its co-founder Jessica Wong, 32.

She helms the three-year-old brand with Ms Pamela Ting, 33, her schoolmate from Raffles Junior College.

For its other collaboration, Scene Shang worked with local fashion brand In Good Company to make porcelain rice bowls that are white on the outside and red inside ($39 for one, $159 for a set of six).

Made in Jingdezhen in east China, a city renowned for porcelain production, each bowl has an exterior that is slightly ribbed - an imprint made by a knitted material that was used to shape the bowl.

Mr Sven Tan, 37, creative director and co-founder of In Good Company, says he had been thinking of starting a homeware line for some time and the partnership with Scene Shang was a good way to explore that possibility.

Scene Shang's last collaboration is with forest & whale, an eclectic design and research practice that has done cafe interiors and product design. The company was founded by husband-and-wife duo Singaporean Wendy Chua, 32, and Italian-Argentinian Gustavo Maggio, 36.

Their product is a Chinese chess set with brass pieces that were carved out at a local auto partsmaker, Hup Yick Engineering Works in Horne Road.

The board is made of nyatoh wood and has a nook in the middle to store the pieces.

Because of the material, the set weighs about 6kg. It is on sale for $1,590.

Chua, who used to play Chinese chess when she was younger, says this project was a good chance to highlight the skills of a local craftsman: machinist Yee Chin Hoon, who owns Hup Yick Engineering Works.

Using tools such as a blade that was used to fashion car parts for the Morris Minor, he helped the designers cut out the chess pieces from a solid brass rod and round out its edges.

•This triple series collection is available next month at Scene Shang's flagship store at 263 Beach Road.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 18, 2017, with the headline 'Show and sell'. Print Edition | Subscribe