Interior innovations from 7 of the world’s top designers
From cutting-edge eco chic to Chinese abstraction and creative recycling, these interior trends are turning heads this year
Asia has become one of the world’s most vibrant and dynamic destinations for interior design in the past decade, and the region is currently home to some of the industry’s brightest minds. Subsequently, many global firms and renowned designers from Europe and the Americas are now looking East for inspiration and innovative ideas to merge with existing artistic preferences.
The synergy of cultures and heritage has always been an integral component of home interiors, especially in Asia, with its rich history and vast resources for materials. Creating a look that works best for the homeowner, however, is fundamental; a well-curated interior, after all, needs to compliment a homeowner’s lifestyle.
Seven distinguished and influential designers from around the region and beyond share with us their favourite themes and design concepts for the year.
Vern Yip: urban oases
A careful eye on your living environment is essential when creating a personal oasis, according to Hong Kong-born American designer Vern Yip, who has appeared on several hit television shows on the popular home and lifestyle channel HGTV, including Deserving Design and Urban Oasis.
Challenge comes especially when creating a space plan for, say, a high-rise apartment with floor-to-ceiling glass windows, because of the lack of solid wall surface against which certain pieces of furniture can be placed.
“The key to tackling interiors here is to start with a space plan so that you logically know where your major pieces can reside,” he recommends. “Using textiles such as rugs and drapery can help offset the sparseness that glass-clad homes have whilst also providing needed sound absorption.”
For other spaces, like his very own beachfront home – a merging of East, West and all styles in between – that was showcased on HGTV, Yip says that using favourite pieces that represent one’s background or personality is more important that sticking to a specific theme.
Paola Navone: eclectic simplicity
A pioneer of the ‘shabby chic’ movement in the ‘90s, famed Italian designer Paola Navone recently updated her signature interior, blending it with Thai Buddhist elements to create modern, luxurious interiors for the 27-unit private residential villas at Point Yamu by COMO on Phuket.
“I share with COMO the idea that luxury today can be the appreciation of simplicity, the respect of traditions; it can be contemporary without being overwhelming its environment,” she says. “Working on Point Yamu the challenge was to design a contemporary space with a connection with the country.”
Her clean design on the luxury waterfront villas incorporates the mix of old and new emphasising the unconventional use of everyday objects and commitment to the crafts. She describes her work in Phuket as a reflection of her personal style – fusing elements from different centuries and continents to promote craftsmanship using everyday items.
“Ceramics, which are hugely important in Thailand, are a central theme in the property with ceramic surfaces in many areas. The furniture is all made from solid wood that is sourced from the north of Thailand,” she adds. “Throughout the property, dramatic glass windows open up to Phang Nga Bay, the Cape or the Andaman Sea. The interiors are rooted in the locale, with bright aquamarines reflecting the bay’s shimmering waters.”
“Overall, in Point Yamu there is much of what I love doing in my line of work,” she says.
Blainey North: eye for detail
Sydney-based designer Blainey North, winner of the Society of British and International Design Excellence Award in 2013, says she gathers new design ideas from bizarre aspects of her changing environment: a clasp on a suitcase, the way water moves through sand, or train tracks – anything that might be relevant to the project on which she’s working at the time. “I’m also inspired by the works of Carlo Scarpa and Enric Miralles,” she says.
Formed in 2000, North’s company has worked on various five-star hotel interiors and a small number of high-end residences in her native Australia. Her experience in the industry has allowed her to establish in 2011 a new division in her firm, Blainey North Collection, to create custom-design furniture and specialty lighting that she uses in her projects.
This year, she believes that homeowners are looking for something unique and tailored specifically to them rather than prescribing to a specific ‘look’. “I think we will see interiors that are rich in detail, materiality and layering rather than the minimalist look and feel that we have become accustomed to here,” North explains.
True enough, her acclaimed work on the Crown Villas suite, with its rich black and white details, expensive layered trimmings and accents, exemplifies her artistic vision. Her celebrated interiors will be seen next in The Highgate, the upcoming upscale residential development in Brisbane launched last year, on which she collaborated with another renowned designer and chef, Neil Perry.
Gracinha Viterbo: reinventing the classics
This is the year of trendsetting reinvention, according to star designer Gracinha Viterbo of Viterbo Interior Design (Viterbo ID). With four decades of experience and an elite clientele, the global design firm is bent on creating personalised, iconic looks that can become legacies on their own. A recent example was when the firm’s team designed the home of a young American couple based in Singapore, finding inspiration from the colours found in their Andy Warhol paintings collection.
“Our motto is designing extraordinary spaces for extraordinary clients,” says Gracinha, who, in partnership with her husband Miguel V. Rocha, is continuing her mother Graca Viterbo’s legacy by expanding their family-owned firm’s operations globally, across Europe, Asia, the Americas and Africa.
“In 2015, the trend will be to reinvent classy luxury, serenity, creative recycling and versatility in furniture design and interior decorating,” Gracinha notes. “These will include classic, retro and contemporary design ideas that use traditional and new materials, fresh decorating colors, exotic motifs, ethnic decoration patterns, artistic details and surprising blend of textures.”
Her team at Viterbo ID also believes in constant evolution in design, and this year Gracinha and Miguel will continue to travel the world in the pursuit of new ideas, whilst sourcing most of their materials from Europe and other parts of the globe. As trendsetters in the industry, she declares that “we will make our own path and signature look as we evolve over the years.”
Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu: blurred boundaries
Maison&Objet Asia Fair 2015’s Designers of the Year, Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu, founding partners of Neri&Hu and Design Republic based in Shanghai and with offices in London, are two of the most respected designers in the region. They were recently inducted to the US Interior Design Hall of Fame, among other prestigious international honours, for their innovative and progressive concepts, and exemplary execution using their architecture background.
As the team add another accolade to their mantle this month, Hu and Neri continue to find ways to push the limits of design, just as they did in their interiors concept for the Wu Residence. In this home, they demonstrated the unconventional utilisation of contemporary home spaces.
“We certainly are interested in finding a new Chinese abstraction in our approach to design. Since we are not so much interested in trends or architecture, we tend to explore the essence of Chinese spaces, such as courtyard houses and lane houses, and understand how they apply to our work,” the duo says.
“The blurring of boundaries is one overall issue we explore, and in architecture, one of those is the boundary between exterior and interior. This allows a new way of looking at conventions, and that’s what we like to do, to push the boundary and see where we can get to.”
Budji Layug and Royal Pineda: eco chic
The tandem of designer Budji Layug and architect Royal Pineda, who specialise in environment-inspired interiors known as ‘Asian moderne’, has created several high-profile projects in their home country. Their work on internationally acclaimed industrial designer Kenneth Cobonpue’s primary residence, located in the Philippines’ Cebu City, is one example of their cutting-edge designs that continue to attract local and international clients.
In this Cebu project, the Manila-based duo used Cobonpue’s own home furniture designs, including the world-renowned Yoda easy chairs, to reflect the tropical environment on which the home stands. The design also incorporates natural lighting, supported by floor-to-ceiling windows and enormous skylight.
Since its inception in 2001, BUDJI+ROYAL Architecture+Design’s main advocacy has been to celebrate modern Filipino architecture and design all over the country. Founded in 2001, the partnership’s specialty is harmonious blending of different styles and elements, highlighting form and function of every piece to create ‘practical luxury’.
The firm has also begun to bring their innovative designs to other Asian countries, such as Malaysia, finding inspirations in new places. “There are so many creative sources out there made more accessible by the internet and new technologies. The challenge is to discover, refresh and evolve the classics and develop these into the ‘new solutions’, creating in the process the new standard,” the pair says.
“The concept of ‘bringing the outside in’ will gain a lot of traction this year in the design industry,” declares US-based designer and television personality Jeremiah Brent, who spent the last Christmas holidays travelling around Southeast Asia.
Brent, who is married to occasional collaborator, fellow A-list American interior designer Nate Berkus, continues: “There is a big movement to incorporate nature and the organic elements into your interiors – whether it’s large potted trees or hanging terrariums, people want to connect with nature more and more. In my opinion, there is nothing more elegant than a 10-foot olive tree in a great, distressed pot from Bali.”
The young designer started conceptualising interiors and building home furniture when he was just 19 years old, and became a sought-after professional designer soon after. He quickly gained a reputation for his signature combination of styles: classy casual that highlights the power of neutrals, and edgy with hints of high fashion, which he honed during his stint on The Rachel Zoe Project reality series.
Aside from nature-inspired themes that will dominate home design this year, Brent says that the balance of masculine and feminine will become a key trend, as well as the juxtaposition of high-end fabrics with other textures, like wicker or woven textiles.
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