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Collective Designs: contemporary Singaporean interiors for the home

This boutique interior design firm is grounded in the Contemporary Singaporean style it pioneered, but at the same time is propelled forward by openness to change.

In an apartment at Leighwoods, the master bedroom looks like something out of a glossy magazine. A four-poster bed boasts a discreetly carved headboard, flanked by mismatched side tables that work cohesively with the low oriental-style coffee table in the same shade of dark walnut that sits atop an oversized ethnic rug in the middle of the room. Next to this, an armchair in a refreshing shade of celadon invites its owner to collapse into it after a long day.

This inviting tableau is the handiwork of the team at boutique interior design firm Collective Designs. Since it was established in 1991, the firm has become synonymous with luxury, simplicity and heritage, and it has grown from creating beautiful home spaces in Singapore to taking on overseas clients, as well as project management, design and build, and commercial projects. It’s no wonder, as the team have cultivated a strong aesthetic and point of view that is recognisable both within and outside the industry – something they have christened the Contemporary Singaporean Interior.

“The new generation of Singaporean homeowners travel and read widely and are much more savvy than previous generations. They straddle the old and the new, keeping up with international trends while trying to stay loyal to heritage,” says Selina Tay, founder and principal designer.

After having obtained a master’s in design from the University of New South Wales, with a major in Design Management, Tay went on to design over 1,000 residences.

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The Contemporary Singaporean Interior combines classic Western styles with those of South-east Asia.

The Contemporary Singaporean Interior combines classic Western styles with those of South-east Asia.

She describes the Contemporary Singaporean Interior as a marriage between the Western classic interior (associated with cool marble floors, clean smooth walls, and minimalistic openings) and South-east Asian flavour and traditions – think antique art, framed batik, Peranakan turquoise, marigold and cobalt shades, Eurasian bronzes and woods, and even Thai gold-shot silks.

“We realise the majority of our clients treasure or are in the process of creating legacies, and they like their existing artwork, furniture, collectors’ ornaments and sculptures to be incorporated into their homes,” she says.

Aware that their clients appreciate the highest level of bespoke service and attentiveness, the firm takes time to really understand their needs. Even knowing how they store their unmentionables can help the firm customise the most efficient wardrobe solutions.

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It’s all about blending the little details – not just the physical paraphernalia, but also the paint, lighting and finishes, so that they work harmoniously in the big picture.

It’s all about blending the little details – not just the physical paraphernalia, but also the paint, lighting and finishes, so that they work harmoniously in the big picture.

It is important to keep up with industry trends, and Collective Designs’ work often features the use of innovative yet classically beautiful materials. For a client who wanted an altar table that met his fengshui requirements, the team considered how his previous altar tables had scorch marks from the constant burning of joss sticks. To this end, they designed an elegant, all-white deconstructed table made of quartz and crystal white back-lit glass. This was multitiered with plenty of space for religious artefacts, and was also durable and easy to clean.

In this digital age, Collective Designs also pays particular attention to incorporating technology into the design of a home. This might include multi-functional lamps and speakers, televisions that become mirrors when not in use, or built-in wireless charging facilities. A client who shuttles between Singapore and the US wanted to be able to remotely control the blinds, lights and air-conditioning in his home when travelling.

“This was even before we had the smart home technologies of today, so it was an interesting exercise then,” recounts Tay. The same client wanted special wall enclaves that fit the first generation iPad, but, by the time the home was handed over, smaller and thinner iPads had become the norm.

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Collective Designs’ founder Selina Tay has designed more than 1,000 residences in her near three-decade career.

Collective Designs’ founder Selina Tay has designed more than 1,000 residences in her near three-decade career.

Recognising that technology advances fast and things become obsolete within two years or less, she makes it a point to keep abreast of all that is happening within the tech arena. This sense of keeping up with progress and staying current also applies to the way Collective Designs runs its operations. For instance, up until early 2018, the team had relied on word of mouth advertising to reach their clientele. Following a branding exercise, they decided to become more active and use their social media accounts as tools to create brand awareness and showcase their favourite projects.

This forward-thinking mindset also encompasses upgrading the skills of each individual team member at Collective Designs. “Our designers are given time to research every day – to surf the Net or pick up a magazine to get inspired and find something they didn’t previously know or were aware of,” says Tay. “This information is distilled and discussed.”

All good designs stand the test of time. Unwavering in its signature style yet flexible when it comes to lifestyle changes, Collective Designs has found a strategy that will propel it into the future.

– BROUGHT TO YOU BY COLLECTIVE DESIGNS –