A home need not be big to be beautiful. Nor do you have to tear down walls to revamp your space. With the right furniture and choice accessories, any room can be transformed into a stylish sanctuary.
And you don’t have to scour the globe for outstanding furnishings either. We have plenty of those right here on our shores, courtesy of local furniture and homeware designers who are making waves with all manner of creative inventions that combine thoughtful design, fine craftsmanship and cutting-edge construction.
In recognition of local lifestyle brands and the founders’ passion and steadfast commitment to building, nurturing and growing their brands, the Singapore Brand Office and the Singapore Tourism Board—with the support of Enterprise Singapore—jointly launched the Made with Passion initiative to support local brands that embody the Singapore spirit of turning possibilities into reality.
So if you’re looking to update your home décor, look locally for inspiration. Here are five of the home-grown brands whose designs have caught our eye (and will surely catch yours too!).
If a timeless style is your vibe, the modern yet classic designs by ipse ipsa ipsum (whose Latin-inspired name means “for himself, herself and itself”) will help you achieve just that.
The brand—whose pieces were featured in the 2018 Hollywood blockbuster Crazy Rich Asians, which was filmed here in Singapore—was founded in 2016 by Saurabh Mangla, who cut his teeth running his family’s silverware business that his great-grandfather had started in India in 1972. After he had completed his Masters at Warwick University, the creative head of ipse ipsa ipsum gained experience with the jewellery silversmiths in Hockley, England, as well as at the Warwick Manufacturing Group and the British European Design Group.
Mangla, now a Singaporean, launched furniture brand Sam & Sara in 2009, which prides itself on quality handmade craftsmanship in a concerted attempt to steer clear of mass-produced cookie-cutter creations.Seven years later, Sam & Sara expanded to include ipse ipsa ipsum, turning the brand into an upscale lifestyle outfit that offers semi-luxurious handcrafted furniture and accessories that combine unique aesthetics with traditional Indian craftsmanship.
In support of local creative talent, Mangla aims to work with at least two local designers a year. The brand has already collaborated with designers such as Jeremy Sun (The Straits Collection), Nathan Yong (The Nathan Yong Collection) and Brandon Yeo (The Solicitude Collection).
What’s Hot For Your Home:
Designed to mimic the leaves that Mangla once found under a teak tree at Singapore’s Fort Canning Park, this handcrafted piece rendered in antique brass makes for the perfect accessory for those who love to entertain.
Named after a historical street in Singapore, these nesting tables feature striking designs inspired by the phoenix, Peranakan motifs and the Tree of Life. Each tabletop is intricately handcrafted with coloured bone inlays juxtaposed with grey or white resin on a floral or bird design.
Visit Ipse Ipsa Ipsum at:
Tan Boon Liat Building, 15 Outram Road, #11-02, Singapore 169074
Tel: +65 6264 4789 / +65 9271 7176
Encapsulating sophisticated modernity and intelligent function, this home-grown furniture design and lifestyle company was established in 2011 by Julian Koh, Joshua Koh and Gan Shee Wen, and crafts high-quality artisanal works for the design-savvy.
Commune’s furniture can be described as minimalist, Scandinavian and industrial modern. A fusion of functionality, aesthetics and quality, each elegant piece is engineered to make your home stand out with its sophisticated simplicity.
Testament to its design prowess, Commune took home The New Entrant Award – Gold at the Singapore Furniture Industries Council’s 2013 Singapore Furniture Industry Awards for its Dualtone collection. The quirky collection was also recognised for its exceptional design quality at the Singapore Good Design Awards in 2015.
At the heart of the brand is the Sensory Design Lab headed by Chief Design Officer Julian, where collaborations with creatives from all around the world take place. Julian is also the brains behind what he terms the “emotive design” of the brand’s retail stores, which are styled to resemble actual homes—where interaction with the pieces on show are encouraged, and where a curated playlist and a Commune-exclusive scent accompany customers as they go about the business of putting their dream home together.
Putting a twist on conventional furniture stores, Julian, inspired by community spaces that bring people together, even set up the Commune Cafe within the flagship store at Millenia Walk—an open invitation for people to pop in and hang out over a quality cup of coffee, not just shop for furniture.
Commune’s commitment to quality is reflected in its involvement across the full production process, from the inception of ideas right down to the finishing touches. Not only does the brand create its own designs, it also manufactures the products in its own factories in Malaysia and Vietnam. Be it cutting, moulding, bending or sanding, Commune’s craftsmen take pride in their work, ensuring that every piece is made to perfection.
A strong advocate for sustainability, Commune uses eco-conscious timber imported from sustainable sources in the US, Europe and Asia, and only uses lacquers and coatings with low lead and formaldehyde content.
What’s Hot For Your Home:
Upholstered in high-quality top-grain leather and with a solid American walnut wood base with oil finishing, this classic rocker updated with cosy curves and sleek lines makes a great accent chair in any room.
This storage cabinet helps keep your ordinary items and messes out of sight with quiet elegance. The strong and durable walnut wood shell, plywood interiors overlaid with walnut veneer, and brass legs, base and trim are guaranteed to stand the test of time—in both form and function.
Visit Commune at:
* The Commune Flagship Store
Millenia Walk, 9 Raffles Boulevard, #02-50, Singapore 039596
Tel: +65 6338 3823
* The Commune Collaborative Space
Tan Boon Liat, 315 Outram Road, #11-09, Singapore 169074
Tel: +65 6226 0928
* The Commune Experience Centre
28 Defu Lane 4, Singapore 539424
Tel: +65 6282 9086
While its roots are firmly based in Singapore, this contemporary furniture, homeware and lifestyle label was actually birthed in Shanghai in 2013—when junior college schoolmates Jessica Wong and Pamela Ting discovered their shared love of decorating spaces with meaningful pieces when they were flatmates during their internships in Shanghai.
Driven by the belief that home is where culture begins, the two wanted to develop a brand that reflects Singapore’s rich history, so they began creating forward-looking pieces that were heritage-inspired; “an ode to the old, a nod to the new”. At SCENE SHANG, “we pay homage to our rich Asian heritage with iconic designs that blend classic Chinese elements with modern-day sensibilities,” say the duo.
The pair has since racked up the accolades for their distinct aesthetics. Their Jiaju Rocking Stool, for instance, came up tops in the national leg of the 2018 regional Creative ASEAN Furniture Design Contest. More recently, they took home not one but two prizes at the 2019 Singapore Creator Awards—with their XUAN Table bagging the Silver award in the Lifestyle Product category and their “Love is a Warm Brew” collection, featuring a graphic pattern that expresses Singapore’s unique cultural mix, winning the Most Popular design award in the Graphic Design category.
In a nod perhaps to the finesse with which the designers translate Singapore’s rich heritage into home décor, five-star luxury hotel InterContinental Singapore partnered with the brand in 2020 to transform one of its signature Heritage Suites into an exclusive SCENE SHANG Suite. Contemporary furnishings from the brand, including pieces from its “Love is a Warm Brew” collection and its Trinity Blessings series—which feature illustrations with the Chinese characters 福 (bliss), 恩 (grace) and 爱 (love)—as well as works by local artist Arthur P.Y. Ting, renowned for his storied Singapore streetscapes (and who happens to be Pamela’s father), artfully complement the shophouse-inspired setting to give guests an authentic experience of culture-rich Singapore.
What’s Hot For Your Home:
Combine your love for print and the brand’s bestselling Maverick armchair with this made-to-order piece that’s part of SCENE SHANG’s “Favourite Local Fabric Designers” collection—a collaboration with local designers Santhi and Sari (of Binary Style), Dawn Bey (of Minor Miracles) and Mike Tay (of Onlewo) that offers a selection of printed upholstery for the brand’s Cane Collection. “Working with other designers who may not be in the same field as us can give us a different perspective and add more layers to the story of whatever we’re trying to design,” shares Jessica.
Perfectly setting off the rustic charm of the rattan Maverich armchair luxed up with leather bindings, the Sang Kanchil Mouse Deer fabric by Binary Style brings a touch of the breezy outdoors to the indoors with motifs of the mouse deer, an elusive creature found in the Bukit Timah forest, set against a leafy backdrop. On the choice of print, Santhi and Sari, the creative duo behind Binary Style, say: “The kantjil (as the mouse deer is known in Malay or Indonesian) represents a folkloric creature in Singapore’s narrative and we wanted to feature it in a more modern context, to make it more relatable.”
Inject a cheery pop of colour into your home by way of SCENE SHANG’s Botanist chair given a happy wash of bright pastels in Minor Miracles’ cotton linen upholstery. “This was inspired by a gradient print created by our dear friend TY Zheng for our wedding last year,” shares Dawn Bey, Creative Director and Founder of Minor Miracles. “We wanted a modern way to show colour in our wedding cards, placemats and show pieces, and he came up with this gradient. We’ve since used it on our homeware!”
A must-get for Sinophiles, this marries SCENE SHANG’s Gentleman chair—a contemporary take on the traditional Chinese scholar chair that eschews the upright stiffness of a straight back for a more relaxed lean-back, with brass-capped legs lending a touch of luxe—with Onlewo’s velvet upholstery rich with the cultural splendour of Singapore’s Chinatown.
“Chinatown is the heart of personal history for many Singaporeans, including myself who grew up here with the fondest memories of the Majestic Theatre (大华剧场) and Kreta Ayer People’s Theatre (牛车水人民剧场),” says Mike Tay, founder of Onlewo. “In the 70s and 80s, watching movies and opera performances were favourite family pastimes. Big festivals like Chinese New Year and Mid-Autumn, shopping at People’s Park Complex (珍珠坊) was always a highly anticipated affair. This design is a celebration of all these memories, which are akin to movie scenes that never fade away.”
Visit SCENE SHANG at:
Raffles Arcade, 328 North Bridge Road, #02-09 Raffles Hotel, Singapore 188719
Tel: +65 6493 0173
It was the birth of a child that led to the birth of this design-led lifestyle goods store that offers some of Singapore’s most exquisite pottery and porcelain pieces. When founders Edwin Low and his wife Mei Ling’s second child Toby arrived in 2010, the couple decided to take some time off for the family. They also saw the opportunity to pursue their dreams of starting a design store.
Taking a huge leap of faith, they quit their full-time jobs (he was a lecturer at a polytechnic while she worked as a civil servant) and sold their four-room HDB flat to fund their venture.
Launched in December 2010, Supermama was so named as a homage to Mei Ling and her support in realising the couple’s shared dream. “She’s our supermama,” says Edwin an industrial designer by training. “I want my kids to grow up knowing about this decision their mum made to support me, and that she is—and always has been—my best supporter.”
This home-grown brand has since made inroads into the global design scene, with even Disney knocking on its doors for a collaboration in 2017—which resulted in a well-received series of everyday homeware featuring Star Wars icons. The brand also has an ongoing partnership with Japanese porcelain specialist Kihara—a relationship Low describes as “a dream come true”.
Jazz up your meals with this bone china plate dressed in a simple yet arresting Neoplasticism style with bold lines and pops of striking Peranakan colours. It is part of the M. for Museum Collection, which reimagines everyday goods as artefacts that seek to provide a museum-like respite, and is the first product in the brand’s repertoire to bear the Made with Passion mark.
Designed by The Next Most Famous Artist, this porcelain plate is a tribute to a familiar figure in Singaporeans’ daily lives: The hard-working hawker/coffee shop auntie who makes us our favourite kopi or teh. The brilliant twist that makes this a wonderful conversation-starter piece? The local auntie is switched out for a Western classical figure.
Bring the picturesque cityscape of Marina Bay home with this porcelain plate featuring iconic buildings in the area, such as Marina Bay Sands, ArtScience Museum, Gardens by the Bay and Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay. Designed by Supermama and made by Japanese porcelain label Kihara, it is part of the brand’s signature cobalt-blue-and-white porcelain collection titled “Singapore Icons”, which won the coveted Design of the Year award at the 2013 President’s Design Award.
Visit Supermama at:
* The Supermama Flagship Store
265 Beach Road, Singapore 199544
* Supermama Jewel Changi Airport
80 Airport Boulevard, #02-207, Singapore 819642
Tel: +65 9615 7473
Founded by Singaporean designer Nathan Yong, Folks Furniture specialises in wooden furniture. From study cabinets and shelves to sideboards, beds, stools and sofas, each piece celebrates the purity of wood and pays homage to traditional carpentry work by Asian craftsmen. All its creations are original designs by the hand of Nathan and his team of designers, who work together with skilled regional artisans to craft classic pieces that last.
Nathan, who was named Designer of the Year at the 2008 President’s Design Award and is also the co-founder of lifestyle brand Grafunkt, the official and exclusive partner of Folks Furniture in Singapore, shares: “As a creative force, the fuel that drives me is my passion.”
With its fresh yet nostalgic designs that marry functionality with artistry, it’s little wonder that this home-grown label has already broken into the global market, with high-end furniture brands round the world such as French modern furniture company Ligne Roseta picking up its iconic pieces and designs.
What’s Hot For Your Home:
Inspired by the 1960s, the Marcello Chair is made of solid walnut with lacquer paint only on the front seat and backrest. Its timeless style wouldn’t look out of place in your artfully designed abode and will fit perfectly in any part of your home.
With its warm hues and beautiful grain, this ‘Primary’ Two-Tiered Desk by Nathan Young 2010 is a stunning addition to your home. With three small drawers on top and two others on the lower tier, it keeps all of your working essentials neatly out of sight yet within convenient reach.
Check out the furnishings by Folks Furniture at Grafunkt’s flagship store at:
107 North Bridge Road, #04-01 to 06, Funan Mall
Folks Furniture’s office is located at:
15 Little Road, #08-02, Singapore 536988
Tel: +65 6336 6046 / +65 6238 8372
This article was first published in Harper’s Bazaar.