“Why not?” was what co-founder and artist Wong Lip Chin, 30, asked himself when he conceptualised Steamroom with the Pillar and Stones (SRPS). The three-month-old store at Orchard Central (#03-07/08/23-25A) is more than a multi-concept with a cafe, restaurant, art lab and retail area; spanning over 5,000 sq ft, it’s Wong’s fruition of a long-held dream to have a space with the forward approach of Colette in Paris and 10 Corso Cosmo in Milan. “They are the original multi-concept lifestyle spaces,” says Wong.
While this is his first general-store venture, Wong, who spent over a year working on SRPS, is no stranger to entrepreneurship and experimentation. Even before hipster hawkers were a thing, he was founder of the now-defunct Jefu, a ramen stall he opened in Maxwell Food Centre after picking up ramen making from a chef in Osaka.
With a dream of inspiring and creating a community of people connected through a shared passion for art, dining, and retail – plus Wong’s background and experiences as an artist – SRPS is challenging the perception of what a general store here can be, and should be.
Here’s how we suggest spending a day there:
Start with a meal at The Pillar, helmed by chef Stephan Zoisl, who has worked in three Michelin-starred restaurants. It serves ingredient-focused fusion cuisine using seasonal produce from around the world. Example: A dessert named Inspired by Red features only strawberries and raspberries, but the two fruits are beautifully presented fresh, freeze dried, as a sorbet, a mousse, and as a meringue.
Next, shop in Stones, named after the medium for the earliest form of art (but of course). Curated by retail partner Emporium of the Modern Man, Stones stocks overseas indie brands like Aurora Shoe Company, Cold Picnic, Musgo Real and in-house labels like Ultramarine Studio and In Real Life.
(Fun fact: The design of the space takes inspiration from three art movements – Memphis Milano, Bauhaus, and Brutalism. Dominating the 80s, the Memphis Milano movement with its strong geometric prints, use of mixed materials, and clashing colours is reflected in the bright yellow, speckled floor design of the store. Bauhaus, the movement that sought to bridge the gap between fine arts and craftsmanship, form and function, can be found throughout the store, including in the deep green, steel framed Daniel-Emma chairs. Brutalism with its raw, architectural expression is represented by the concrete cash counter and the main pillars in the store.)
Then, have a break with a pot of Chinese tea from Steamroom. Teas here are brewed to perfection using the futuristic Steampunk machine, which automates the process of brewing tea according to precise temperature, time, and volume set by the brewer on a touchscreen interface. While coffee is also served here, the stars on the menu are the Chinese teas, which include the whimsically named Winter Peak Oolong from Nantou in Taiwan, and Qi Men Kung Fu Red Tea from Anhui in China.
For art buffs and aspiring artists, the art lab at Stones will also hold daily art jamming sessions, workshops on weekends, and master classes on weekday evenings led by practising artists. Wong himself, an established lithographer and adjunct lecturer at Lasalle College of the Arts, heads the lithography master classes.
With its refreshingly dynamic concept and earnestly arty vibes, SRPS is one place we feel almost reluctant to share about – but only because we want to keep it all to ourselves.
Art direction: Don Tan
Photography: Vernon Wong
This story was first published in the July 2017 issue of Her World magazine.