The everyday kopitiam cup gets a makeover in celebration of Home & Decor’s 25th anniversary.

As a teaser to the magazine’s milestone in January, 25 well-known home-grown artists and designers were invited to give the white cup, synonymous with local coffee shops, a new look.

This project was a “natural continuation” of last year’s redesigning of kopitiam chairs by five designers, says deputy editor Rebeckka Wong, 36.

Drink to a new look: The kopitiam cup gets a makeover
Clockwise from top left: After 6 by Nic Wong of Saturday, The Reckless Cup by Afton Chen of Reckless Erica, The Way I Love My Kopi by Didier Ng, Diao Yu by The Little Drom Store, Ho Lim by When I was Four

“We wanted to celebrate a very local object that everyone knows but that has always been quiet and in the background, and has not really been appreciated for its design,” she says.

The one-of-a-kind cups will be auctioned off online to raise money for The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund. The auction is ongoing and will end on Dec 31.

Interested bidders can go to Home & Decor’s website to register a bid. The cups will be on display at furniture store Gilt & Folly at Scotts Square from Friday.

Drink to a new look: The kopitiam cup gets a makeover
Clockwise from top left: Precious cup by Edwin Low of Supermama, Fred Sips Here by Fred Lives Here, Morning! by Soh Ee Shaun, Kopi ‘C’ Kosong by Talking Textiles, My Favourite Breakfast: Coffee and Eggs by Jahan Loh

Designers and teams who took part in the project include Mr Douglas Young, owner of Goods Of Desire, and from furniture stores John Erdos and Fred Lives Here.

The designers and artists were free to redesign the cups in any way, within guidelines set by the magazine. They could also use any material as long as it did not change the function of the cup.

Owners of The Little Drom Store in Ann Siang Hill, Ms Antoinette Wong and Mr Stanley Tan, were inspired by local kopitiam lingo for their design.

They remembered their fathers or uncles who asked for “diao yu”, or fishing in Mandarin, when ordering Chinese tea which comes in a teabag. The slang came about because the action of dunking the teabag in hot water is much like fishing.

Their design features a small figurine of a man fishing in a cup of tea. The “liquid” in the cup was from resin made to resemble the texture and colour of tea.

Ms Wong, 28, says: “The idea took a while but the execution was fast once we knew what we wanted to do.

“‘Diao yu’ is a phrase that is lost among the younger generation because it’s no longer used, so we thought we would make something fun and quirky to remind us of that.”

Mr Edwin Low, 33, of lifestyle concept store Supermama, covered his cup in 12,000 Swarovski crystals. He was inspired by British artist Damien Hirst, who created the art piece For The Love Of God where a human skull was recreated in platinum and adorned with 8,601 diamonds.

Mr Low paid $600 for the crystals from a local supplier. He says: “The kopitiam cup is a common cup that people overlook. I tried to make it super precious so it now takes centre stage – you have no choice but to notice it.”

This article was first run in The Straits Times newspaper on November 17, 2012. For similar stories, go
to You will not be able to access the Premium section of The Straits Times website unless you are already a subscriber.