Best & Worst 2017

Best & Worst 2017: Home & Garden


The rise of designer Olivia Lee

The Athena Collection (above), by local designer Olivia Lee, caught the attention of the design world at the renowned Salone Del Mobile Milano furniture fair in Italy. PHOTO: STUDIO PERIPHERY
Olivia Lee

Local designer Olivia Lee, 32, has been making waves in the design scene both here and overseas.

Earlier this year, she was named one of eight most promising designers at the renowned Salone Del Mobile Milano furniture fair, an exhibition platform in Italy known for kick-starting the careers of many young designers.

At the fair, her 10-piece presentation, The Athena Collection, wowed design critics. Designed for a digitally savvy contemporary woman, the collection includes a vanity set and a smartphone holder.

She runs her eponymous interdisciplinary studio and has designed for electronics giant Samsung and whisky distillery Balvenie.

She also recently collaborated with local stationery label Bynd Artisan to launch a series of six leather home accessories. Called Books of Life, the collection comprise objects that look like books, but, in fact, have other functions. They include a mirror, a coin bank, a clutch and a jewellery box.

Marina One by German architect Christoph Ingenhoven

Mega mixed-used developments in Singapore are not new. Think South Beach and Duo in Kampong Glam, both multi-billion-dollar complexes that are like upmarket micro-cities, housing hotels, restaurants, shops, condominiums and offices.

But the biggest, best-looking and most sustainably built of them is the $7-billion Marina One in the heart of the Marina Bay financial district. It comprises two office towers, two residential blocks with more than 1,000 units, and retail space.

Designed by renowned German architect Christoph Ingenhoven, who is known for his "Supergreen architecture", Marina One contains a "Green heart", a lush, multi-level garden at the centre of the complex. It provides an oasis for office workers and residents, and also connects the mega-development's four buildings.

The entire development is also chock-full of sustainable design features, including rainwater harvesting and sun shading that saves energy.

Marina One is owned by M+S, a joint venture set up in 2011 between Singapore's Temasek Holdings and Malaysian strategic investment fund Khazanah Nasional.

Merchandise designed for artist Yayoi Kusama's exhibition

Singaporeans not only flocked to the exhibition of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama at National Gallery Singapore earlier this year, but also snapped up merchandise made for the exhibition.

The exhibition, titled Yayoi Kusama: Life Is The Heart Of A Rainbow, ran until Sept 3 and drew more than 235,000 visitors.

Some of the merchandise was sold out within the first two days of the show's opening in June.


The products included enamel pins, tote bags, pouches and enamel crockery - all splashed in Kusama's iconic motifs, such as polka dots, pumpkins and trippy shapes. Prices ranged from $2.90 for postcards to $36.90 for a foldable umbrella (above).

The design team of three behind these items were from branding and design studio Foreign Policy Design Group, a co-founder of Gallery & Co - the official museum store of National Gallery Singapore.


Saturation of Singapore-themed products

Two years ago, the SG50 Jubilee celebrations saw many local creatives put out Singapore-themed products. Local icons such as the Merlion and traditional Singaporean foods such as kueh and curry puffs were used as motifs on notebooks, crockery, jewellery, postcards and tote bags.

Then, the products jazzed up the conventional local souvenir market (think Merlion magnets or postcards of Singapore's skyline). But two years down the road, they seem to have lost their edge.

Few of the newly launched, Singapore-themed products are surprising now. You see the same products appearing in different iterations and you cannot walk into any local design store without encountering a kueh eraser, soft toy, cushion or notepad. Maybe it is time to move on.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 17, 2017, with the headline Best & Worst 2017: Home & Garden. Subscribe