In the crowded dining, nightlife and retail scene in Singapore, good products and services are not the only way for shops to distinguish themselves.
Decor plays a big part too. In the past year, a spate of restaurants, bars and shops have been rolling out impeccably designed spaces to provide a total experience for customers.
The Atlas Bar in Parkview Square in North Bridge Road pays homage to the Art Deco era with sleek gold trimmings, an illuminated ceiling and a jaw-dropping chiller that is three storeys high. In Orchard Road, design agency Asylum fashioned clothing store Surrender, taking inspiration from an art gallery, with its white walls and cement flooring.
Here are four other businesses with stand-out interiors.
The Proof Flat
Located on the second floor of an old shophouse at 43A Hongkong Street, The Proof Flat is a specialist shop that stocks everything a drink aficionado needs to build his hobbyist bar, including bar tools such as cocktail jiggers and, well, the booze itself.
The main retail area, a living room-like space, has a masculine scheme of wooden floors, dark- blue cabinets as well as a stuffed deer's head.
You could think of this place as the home of a slightly dangerous gentleman who knows his drink - for displayed in the cabinets are the bottles of alcohol, including tequila, bourbon and whisky (all for sale, of course). And a mirrored door opens to reveal a hideaway storage nook where there are more shelves lined with alcohol bottles.
The Proof Flat comes under the same collective that runs the award- winning bar concept 28 HongKong Street. This retail shop used to be the company's office.
The group roped in its old collaborators designers, Mr Matthew Shang and Mr Paul Semple of multi- disciplinary design practice Hassell, to create a shop where customers could feel at home.
Both Mr Shang and Mr Semple are veterans of Singapore's luxury hospitality scene. They worked on a revamp of 28 HongKong Street, a speakeasy cocktail joint.
Mr Semple, 42, who is a design principal at the firm, says the concept of The Proof Flat is a "reaction against a homogeneous style" that most businesses gravitate towards.
More than just a bottle shop, the space is also used for tastings, events and workshops by visiting international spirit-makers and bar experts.
Mr Shang, 42, who is also a design principal, says: "You're getting an intimate experience rather than making an anonymous buy."
The design team and its client added elements to personalise the space, such as glass door knobs from London.
Mr Semple adds: "There's so much attention to detail that makes this space personal, as if you're actually in someone's home."
With more than 200 artworks and objects in its new Clarke Quay complex, nightspot Zouk continues its tradition of bringing art to revellers.
Artworks in a variety of media, such as graffiti art, are spread across the club's main room; Phuture, where DJs spin hip-hop and R&B music; and Capital, which has a whisky bar and cigar room.
Since its start in an old warehouse in Jiak Kim Street, the 26-year-old club has always furnished its spaces with art. It relocated to Clarke Quay last year, where its various concepts, including Red Tail Bar which serves cocktails, opened in phases from September.
Mr Wayne Lee, 36, general manager of Zouk, says the idea of marrying art and music stemmed from Zouk founder Lincoln Cheng, who would put up edgy works such as a large print of American artist Keith Haring's Healing Hand that was in Velvet Underground.
Mr Cheng sold the club to Genting Hong Kong in 2015.
The pieces were curated by Mr Hui Lim, chief information officer of Genting Group who is an avid art enthusiast, together with online art gallery, The Artling.
About half the works are new commissions and all but one are by Asian artists.
Capital, which caters to an older clientele, is where most of the artworks are. Above the island bar, a school of koi "swims" overhead. The workby Japanese artist Tetsuya Toshima has a lighting system that can illuminate the graphics.
The VIP toilet in Capital also features Indian artists Harikrishnan Panicker and Deepti Nair's Nautilus. The layered artwork, which was hand-cut from paper, features an underwater dreamscape with jellyfish. An alcove had to be carved out of the toilet's wall to house the piece.
In Phuture, the style gets urban with local contemporary artist Jahan Loh's two huge graffiti prints on walls and panels.
It is a homecoming of sorts for the artist who designed the club's Zoukbot mascot - an alien-looking figurine - 15 years ago.
The team took a year to build the collection and nothing was brought over from the old club.
The Artling's founder Talenia Phua Gajardo, 32, says: "It's a new club with a new direction. There are elements of the art that are nostalgic, but we came in with something fresh to get people to take away a visual memo of their time at Zouk."
The World Is Flat
With their silent TV screens and bleary, time-killing clientele, airport bars are typically not the most romantic places on earth. So when restaurateur Howard Lo, 40, had the opportunity to open an airport bar, he wanted something chic and classy.
The Singapore permanent resident is behind concepts such as Tanuki Raw, which serves Japanese rice bowls, and Standing Sushi Bar. He also co-founded Liberty Spirits Asia, which imports and distributes artisanal American craft spirits.
He says: "I love going to airport bars, but there isn't a particular unique spot in Changi. I wanted to have a bar that puts the pleasure back in going to an airport, especially for people who aren't coming back."
That is how The World Is Flat, which serves craft beers, cocktails, gourmet pizza and sandwiches, came about. The 24-hour joint opened at Changi Airport Terminal 1 in January and is on the transit departure floor, near lingerie store Victoria's Secret.
The decor of the 527 sq ft space exudes a quiet sense of luxury. The bar, which seats 18 people, is the prime spot in the house as it is where you can watch the planes take off and land through the glass windows. The counter is topped with black Marquina marble, while spots of warmth come from brass fittings and glowing orbs, which double as lamps, on the bar top.
There are eight gold-and-black taps, featuring a rotating selection of craft beers, that seem to float off a feature wall. For now, these include Longboard Lager from Hawaii and Wayward Wheat from Innocence Brewing, a home-grown brewery.
Spirit bottles are stowed in alcoves built in the sides of this wall. The resto-bar also has outdoor seating.
Six-year-old spatial design studio Wynk Collaborative is behind the design. One of the partners, Mr Leong Hon Kit, 36, saysThe World Is Flat was based on "an old-world bar where explorers would gather to exchange stories of travel and explorations".
This explains a quirky feature: a bookshelf filled with donated books. Customers can read those books there or swop one with their own book.
Mr Lo hopes this rotating library sparks conversations between travellers. Mr Leong adds that the end goal was "to create a positive start to the journey on which a traveller is about to embark".
The Ottoman Room and Fat Prince
An updated rendition of Middle Eastern decor awaits diners at The Ottoman Room and Fat Prince, respectively a restaurant and cafe- bar sharing a 2,500 sq ft heritage building in Peck Seah Street.
In The Ottoman Room, the walls of the opulent dining room are framed by hand-painted floral borders and the floors are adorned with Turkish carpets.
Diners sit on plush burgundy sofas while customised trolleys loaded with mezze - small plates, dips and salads - are pushed around for them to pick and choose.
The restaurant serves new Middle Eastern cuisine influenced by countries such as Turkey, Lebanon and Morocco, and puts a modern spin on it.
At the front of the house is the Fat Prince, a cafe-bar which specialises in kebabs.
The piece de resistance there is a curved marbled-topped bar, behind which tall alcohol display shelves stand. Diners can watch traditional Turkish coffee boiled in a cezve, or a small Turkish coffee pot, over a sand pit at the bar.
Both rooms are joined by a passageway whose walls are tiled in anArabic-inspired, black-and-gold geometric pattern.
Mr Michael Goodman, 45, an American partner and managing director at multi-disciplinary firm EDG, which did the design, says he wanted to reference Middle Eastern decor without doing a pastiche.
Hence the various contemporary touches, such as the tinted mirrors that cover the square columns in The Fat Prince.
The ex-chef is also co-founder of restaurant group The Dandy Partnership, which opened the two restaurants late last year. The company also runs Neon Pigeon, a two-year-old modern izakaya in Keong Saik Road.
He was inspired by the city of Istanbul, where he went to source for furnishings such as rugs and lamps.
A great find at a bazaar were two ceramic bowls with colourful prints. He had holes drilled into the bases and turned them into basins that now stand out against the black-tiled toilets.
He hopes the decor will create an atmospheric experience for customers. "Even if they don't consciously seek it, diners come to be entertained. Going out means something and diners want a night to remember," he says.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 15, 2017, with the headline 'A toast to style'. Print Edition | Subscribe
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