Top 5 Interior Design Trends

Less conventional Asian homes play with colour and reflect the personalities of the occupants. Image courtesy of Thinkstock.

What are the up-and-coming trends in the world of interior design?

As an interior designer, being constantly asked this question pushes me to stay updated on current trends of living spaces, as well as to envision interior trends five, 10, and maybe even 20 years down the road.

Interior design is alive. It constantly evolves over time, reflecting living standards, affluence levels and lifestyles. If you are looking to give your home a fresh new look, do read on for five of the hottest interior design trends shaping the way we currently live. I personally anticipate that they will continue doing so way into the near future.

Trend #1: Stepping off the beaten track

Less conventional Asian homes play with colour and reflect the personalities of the occupants. Image courtesy of Thinkstock.

Less conventional Asian homes play with colour and reflect the personalities of the occupants. Image courtesy of Thinkstock.

People are consciously moving away from more conventional designs. A more adventurous consumer is emerging—someone not afraid of introducing new ideas into their homes. In Asia, this means using new colours and materials in homes, instead of sticking to safe and common colours like neutrals, whites and dark browns. Leaving personal marks around the house is a quick way to make it look less like a showflat and more like a home.

Trend #2: Going green

Besides cost and aesthetics, another factor you might like to consider is environmental impact. An increasing number of consumers, well aware that their interior design decisions could affect the environment for better or worse, are showing a growing preference for sustainable options when choosing materials and finishes. These clients seek out better suppliers and contractors who can provide them with excellent sustainable alternatives. If you are renovating your floors, avoid natural stone tiles such as Carrera marble or silver travertine. Instead, opt for manufactured tiles with similar attributes.

Trend #3: Sourcing for storage solutions

With the world population on the incline, shrinking living spaces and congested homes have become a common sight. In Singapore, for instance, shoebox units are gaining popularity. Living in small homes means a need to carve out personal living spaces from the clutter; this can be done through the use of better storage solutions in the home. For those with a few extra dollars to spare, companies like IKEA and Howards Storage World can provide you with interesting, well-designed storage solutions. Another tip is to look out for multi-purpose furniture and installations, such as coffee tables that can store newspapers and magazines, or bed frames with pull-out drawers.

Trend #4: Living under one roof

The ever-rising cost of home ownership has spurred an emerging trend of multi-generational living. With larger households, the different lifestyles of the young, the old, and everyone else in between are now housed within the same residence. Interior designers have to take into account these multiple—sometimes clashing—lifestyles when coming up with designs. Multi-functional space planning is also growing in importance.

Trend #5: Integrating technology into design

Living in the 21st century, it is not surprising to see more homes introducing sophisticated designer technology, especially in the areas of audio-visual entertainment and security enhancement. Both you and your designer should keep abreast of such emerging household technologies when deciding to incorporate them into your renovation plans. This ensures an enhanced total living experience.

These top five design trends will certainly enhance the overall sensory experience in your home. Do take them into consideration the next time you decide to renovate.

Design with safety in mind

Whether you live a high-rise HDB apartment or a sprawling piece of landed property, chances are that you would be with one common feature while glancing across your row of neighbours: window grills.

In Singapore, safety grills are commonly installed on the windows of many homes to keep burglars and prying eyes at bay. However I can’t help but find it ironic that as Singapore becomes a safer country, more of such grills seem to be popping up.

I’ve noticed that it is when we start introducing safety features into our homes—whether to protect ourselves, or keep our children and elderly parents safe from harm—that our homes’ aesthetics become compromised. Now, I’m not against putting safety measures in place to protect the ones we love. But as home-proud owners, we have the choice to make these features more pleasing to the eye without compromising on safety.

Without further ado, I would like to share with you some tips and ideas for incorporating design and aesthetics into safety features at home.

For windows:

  1. Consider replacing unsightly safety grills with sliding windows that have key locks. Your designer, architect or contractor should be able to provide you with more options.
  2. If privacy from neighbours or passers-by is your concern, invest in window treatments like roman blinds or timber venetians. They add some softness and colour to your interior while maintaining privacy in your home.
Window treatment for kid’s room. Image courtesy of Cameron Woo Design.

Window treatment for kid’s room. Image courtesy of Cameron Woo Design.

For children:

  1. Ready-made children safety gates and bed safety guards may not be very visually appealing, but they get the job done when it comes to keeping our children safe. Show off your flair for design by having them painted or dressed with your little ones’ favourite cartoon characters.
  2. To prevent little fingers from being slammed on by doors or drawers, ask your cabinetmaker or contractor for ‘soft closing’ hinges, drawer glides, and other options. These soft closing mechanisms shut slowly and cannot be slammed, eliminating one household hazard.

For elderly parents:

  1. If you have elderly at home, fit out your bathroom with stainless steel handles and bars near the washbasin and bathtub to assist them with mobility and stability.
  2. Falls are among the biggest safety concerns when it comes to the elderly. When choosing floor finishes, select ones that have a good grip, or a rating of at least R11. This means the floor finish is able to maintain grip and reduce chances of slipping even when an area is wet, making it suitable for walk-in shower areas.
Handle fitted on a bathroom wall. Image courtesy of Thinkstock.

Handle fitted on a bathroom wall. Image courtesy of Thinkstock.

Unfortunately for most, it is only after an accident has occurred that we start to seriously think about the safety measures in our homes. As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure; I hope we will all take a second look at our homes and assess if any small safety improvements can be made to better protect the people we care for, while maintaining a good standard for aesthetics.

Musings for the Year of the Dragon

Chinese New Year means many things to many people. I can’t speak for others, but for me as an interior designer it means getting the house in order. This usually entails sorting through the clutter that has piled up over the year and giving away things I haven’t used in over six months (like the clothes chucked in the back of my closet) to family, friends or the needy.

While I usually start my cleaning ritual just after Christmas, I often don’t finish until the eve of Chinese New Year, and this year was no different. It does sound like a massive task to undertake each year, but the end result of a sparkling house ready for guests and festivities was definitely worth all the effort.

Prominently displayed porcelain dragon plate on a sideboard. Image courtesy of Cameron Woo Design.

Prominently displayed porcelain dragon plate on a sideboard. Image courtesy of Cameron Woo Design.

Besides springcleaning, I also take the opportunity to do a little furniture rearrangement around the house every year. This not only refreshes the interior space but helps visualise moving on from the past year towards the New Year as well. Little changes like hanging up a new artwork or replacing the tired-looking covers of my throw cushions with vibrant new fabrics can really spice things up. To usher in the Year of the Dragon, I shifted artwork, antiques and accessories that have dragon motifs to more prominent positions in my living room. For instance, my porcelain dragon plate now perches proudly on my sideboard.

Chinese New Year is also a good time to introduce new floral decorations to the home. Instead of common orchid bouquets or kumquat plants, you could grace your tabletop with a lovely cherry blossom plant. My sister gave one to me this Chinese New Year instead of the usual mandarins, and it was a refreshing, meaningful and beautiful change.

Away from the interior design aspects of Chinese New Year preparations, another tradition of mine is preparing the dinner menu. As my family and close friends from Australia are visiting me this year, I will be whipping up a fantastic meal full of my favourite recipes, no holds barred. This year I will be cooking Chinese Roasted Chicken with my grandmother’s special secret sauce. Other dishes I’ve been considering are bread–crumbed white asparagus with home made hollandaise sauce, as well as my ginger and shallot mud crab with yee mien. With all the sumptuous food in store, I’ll hopefully do a better job in watching my waistline this year than I did last year.

A cherry blossom plant makes a good gift for Chinese New Year. Image courtesy of Cameron Woo Design.

A cherry blossom plant makes a good gift for Chinese New Year. Image courtesy of Cameron Woo Design.

Perhaps why this Chinese New Year is especially exciting for me is that my wife and I are expecting our third child!

So here’s wishing everyone reading this article a very happy and prosperous Chinese New Year with your loved ones, as we welcome the Year of the Dragon together.

Designing in these economic times

Whilst the services of an interior designer may appear to be indulgent to some, especially given the current financial doom and gloom, interior design has an integral role to play to provide a moment of respite, shielding us from the negative aspects of the outside world and allowing us to retreat into our private sanctuary… our homes.

A few of the inexpensive little rituals I indulge in at home, to nurture my creative and positive energy during these turbulent times are:

  1. Sitting in my favourite chair and reading my design magazines and books, with the fragrance of a scented candle wafting through the air.
  2. As an alternative option to going out for dinner, inviting my friends back home and creating a wonderful meal and gorgeous table arrangement for us to enjoy together
  3. Going to Far East Flora to purchase some flowers and creating a unique and beautiful bedside table arrangement (this always brightens up my day)
  4. Changing the cushion covers on my trusty lounge suite to freshen up my interior and add a splash of colour to my living room
  5. Listening to music and sketching some inspiring ideas for my latest projects

I hope we can all invest some time and money in small indulgences that improve our moods, and not just in the financial markets.

Reading chair designed by Cameron Woo. Image courtesy of Cameron Woo Design.

Reading chair designed by Cameron Woo. Image courtesy of Cameron Woo Design.

Flowers on bedside table, styled and arranged by Cameron Woo. Image courtesy of Cameron Woo Design.

Flowers on bedside, arranged by Cameron Woo. Image courtesy of Cameron Woo Design.

From an interior designer’s perspective, the most noticeable effect of the financial crisis is the slowdown of the property market, particularly in the residential sectors. As a result, clients are requesting more for less, and interior designers are becoming far better equipped to juggle these dual requirements (of meeting high expectations within an increasingly smaller budget) when designing their homes.

Here are some useful design tips I have picked up that will help you stretch your dollar while respecting your original design aesthetics and intentions:

  1. Consider using paint instead of expensive wall finishes such as wallpaper. They require less ongoing maintenance throughout the years, which can be especially useful in humid, tropical countries like Singapore.
  2. When selecting fabrics for your interior, don’t shy away from using vinyls. These days textile technology has advanced significantly such that vinyl now close resembles leather, but comes at almost one third the latter’s price and requires less maintenance care.
  3. For artwork, consider using your family portraits and reframing them in one tone. Hang a few as collage composition instead of buying one large artwork, which can be quite expensive.
  4. If your sofa is structurally sound and still very comfortable, you may wish to re-upholster it rather than buy a new one. Doing this will not only be more economical, but save you the time you would have needed to shop around for a brand new sofa to fit in your home.

Hopefully some of my design tips will help you better prepare for your home renovation during these financial times.

The Interior Design Profession and Industry in Singapore

There has been much written in the press recently about talent, particularly the value and contribution of foreign talent, in Singapore. One area where I think the word talent resonates is in the architectural and interior design professions. Singapore is a relatively young country, and its architecture and interior design industry mirrors this. By inviting some of the most talented design professionals in the world, to participate here on projects, helps to lift the standards of the entire local built environment ecosystem. Local design professionals, consultants, and contractors stand to benefit from engaging and collaborating with the best creative design minds in the world, who in turn can help lift local standards, methods and productivity.

Interior design is a growing industry in Singapore

Interior design is a growing industry in Singapore

As Singapore’s affluence rises, so too will its resident population continue to demand and expect a well-designed and attractive city-state to live in. To meet this demand and expectation, local designers need to understand how to respond to this demand and expectation appropriately.  Apart from working with the best design professionals in the world, learning from some of the best design education institutes in the world is equally important.  I am disappointed to learn that none of the government universities here offer an interior design degree programme. With continued urbanization occurring globally, especially in Singapore, people’s spatial experiences will become increasingly internal due to the density of cities. Whilst there are private institutions that offer interior design as a degree programme, I think it is important that at least one of the government universities offers an interior design degree programme.

Moreover, I was bemused to learn that the interior design industry falls under the Ministry of Communications, Information and the Arts (MICA) in Singapore, whereas the architecture and engineering industries fall under the Ministry of National Development (MND). I see interior design to be more closely aligned with architecture given that both professions work in the built environment than say with the arts such as dance. It is important to classify interior design correctly, so that it receives the same respect and understanding as a profession from government, educational institutions and the public, like it is in other developed countries such as the United States and Australia. This will allow Singapore to attract the most creative people locally and regionally to enter the profession and to live and work here. This in turn helps Singapore to become more vibrant and competitive in an increasingly design conscious world. Admission into interior design degree courses in the government universities in Sydney, Australia require applicants to be in the top ten percent of students in Australia. Hence, it is a concern when some people think that interior designers are contractors and vice versa in Singapore.

Whilst the industry and profession of interior design is young and emerging in Singapore, it is clear to me what we must do to foster the growth of talent here. By learning from the top professionals in the industry we allow ourselves not only to become more accomplished as designers, but also to provide sustainable growth for the industry in the future. Starting with the educational foundations we must encourage the government and public perception of interior design to change, so that it is viewed as a credible, respectful profession. Ultimately, this attracts greater talent which, in turn breeds greater talent

Keeping Order in the Household

One of the perks of being an Interior Designer is being invited into people’s homes and seeing how they live. You come across people from all walks of life and cultural backgrounds but one common thread that binds most of my clients together is their need to create a sense of order, tranquility and beauty in their homes.

An interior designer’s role is to create and implement the vision a client has and at the same time, ensure that it supports their lifestyle. However it is the client’s responsibility to maintain the home in the beautiful condition in which it was handed over to them.

I sometimes make impromptu visits to the homes of some of my residential clients a year after completing the project to say hello and see if the interior has been kept the way we originally designed it. Surprisingly 90 percent are wonderfully maintained, which is very satisfying for me to see.

It is not uncommon for interior designers to be labelled ‘neat freaks’ and I would have to say that this term applies to me as well. I know that it isn’t easy for some people to keep a neat and tidy home as I believe this is often a by-product of conditioning. However everyone can contribute in a small way to keeping order in the household.

So this month I thought I would take this opportunity to share with you some of my interior design tips for keeping the home neat and tidy.

NEAT & TIDY TIPS

1. Centralise your storage into different categories. Centralising your storage will save you considerable space. Instead of having bath towels in every room, for example, place them in a centralised linen closet instead. Likewise, you should also have a centralised medicine cabinet, toiletry cabinet, linen closet, utilities closet, and electrical cabinet.

2. Personalised storage options. Consider talking to your interior designer about having custom storage pieces made. For example, you could have a custom joinery unit for your books and accessories or a bespoke dressing table for your collection of toiletries. With custom pieces, your interior designer can create the ideal storage for you with all the relevant compartments you need for your personal items.

A bespoke space-saving dressing table designed by Cameron Woo Design. Image courtesy of Cameron Woo.

A bespoke space-saving dressing table designed by Cameron Woo Design. Image courtesy of Cameron Woo.

A custom joinery unit designed by Cameron Woo Design for The Metropolitan Showflat. Image courtesy of Cameron Woo.

A custom joinery unit designed by Cameron Woo Design for The Metropolitan Showflat. Image courtesy of Cameron Woo.

3. Don’t clutter up your space with too many shapes and colours. For your storage solution to look great and not just neat, shop at places such as Muji where the product designs for storage items are simple and uniform, and are likely to suit most households.

Simple and uniform designs are key. (iProperty)

Simple and uniform designs are key. (iProperty)

4. Organising your wardrobe. Use wooden clothes hangers where possible instead of wire hangers to keep your clothes in their most impeccable shape. Then hang your clothes in order of colour so you can select from them easily.

5. Out with the old. If you don’t use something for 6 months, consider donating it. Clothes are always useful and a warmly appreciated gift even if they are your pre-loved seconds.

These are my five personal tips for keeping the household in order. Living neatly is a matter of conditioning and habit and it requires some self-discipline on your part, but after a while if you get into the habit of keeping things in their place, you will be surprised at how easy it is to maintain order in the home, even with young children. Soon you will become like me, totally accustomed to keeping order in the home without a second thought and well on your way to “Living Well”.

Space Optimisation and Beautification

Homeownership is a priority for many families. Due to consumer demand, the quality of HDB apartments (government housing provided by the Housing Development Board) has improved over time. Yet, Singapore’s finite geography and surging population mean that space remains a constant challenge. Soaring housing prices also mean that budget is a major factor.

As an interior designer, one question I am often asked by HDB homeowners is: how can I maximise the space in my home while keeping it functional for my family’s changing lifestyles? This isn’t an easy question to answer, but it is a common one, which is why I’d like to share some of my interior design insights and suggestions you can use to make your home more spacious and beautiful.

Interior design tips:

Pattern and paint - I tend to use pattern and paint on walls to redefine the space. I usually use darker paint colours in smaller spaces and lighter colours in larger spaces. Dark colours blur the boundary lines within an interior, while light colours define the boundary lines.

Paint is a great medium to use in Singapore; our hot climate won’t cause it to peel like wallpaper does. It is also cost effective, and can be environmentally friendly if you choose those with low or no VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds). Marks and scratches can also be scrubbed off should your kids decide to get creative with their crayons on the walls.

Study room of a Pavilion Park showflat by CWD. Image courtesy of Masano Kawana.

Large-scale furniture - I also like to introduce large-scale furniture in smaller spaces. It changes proportions by tricking the eye to perceive that the room is larger than it really is. An example can be seen in the large sofa I placed in the study room of a Pavilion Park showflat, which has a secondary role as a guest bed.

Mirrors – One old trick is to use mirrors to enlarge space and enhance the expanse of the room. However, this should be done selectively. A strategically placed mirror can be more effective than mirroring an entire wall, and can save you some money too.

Jia Wei’s painted wall and pattern finish, with full-length mirror, in her HDB bedroom by CWD.

Here is the interior of a HDB bedroom I designed for a young girl named Jia Wei, on Groom My Room, a popular children’s show. The design was done within a tight budget and sponsorship from Swedish furniture house IKEA. The proposal illustration and ‘after’ photo are great examples of how you can dramatically transform any room – even a child’s bedroom – with sensible use of pattern, vibrant paint colours, mirrors and expert advice.

Illustration of Jia Wei’s proposed bedroom. Image courtesy of CWD.

‘After’ photo of Jia Wei’s bedroom.

Try some of these tips and transform the space and beauty in your home today!

To view the entire episode of Groom My Room, featuring Cameron Woo’s interior design, visit www.cameronwoodesign.com.

Lighting up your Senses

Designers use lighting in interiors to create mood and ambience to create a unique experience.

Imagine if you had the opportunity to create a cinema room in your new home and you purchased all the latest audio visual and sound equipment. Upon completion, your contractor shows you around your new cinema room – complete with all the best technology – but there’s a problem: since you didn’t specify exactly what lighting you wanted in your cinema room, your contractor decides to put in standard lighting. That’s right: fluorescent lights. Now the fluorescent lighting washes out the images on your beautiful new 50’’ LCD display, thoroughly destroying the visual experience in your dream cinema room.

All the money spent on the latest and greatest technology in the world cannot be properly appreciated without the right lighting levels. To fix it, you have to get the contractor to come back and change the lighting again, resulting in more time and money spent. Here is an example of a media room I created for a residential show-flat displaying how lighting hidden in the recessed cove, really can help to create the right mood and atmosphere – perfect for a cinema room.

Let there be Light

If you are buying or selling your property, don’t underestimate the importance of lighting and its impact on the environment.

If you are a seller, people will pay more for a property that has the right lighting in place. It saves them the inconvenience of having to do any electrical works themselves, as renovation works can lead to significant unknown costs.

If you are a buyer, it’s likely you’ll be making some improvements in a new property. It’s wise to factor in the costs for all types of lighting, such as pendant lighting, decorative lighting and architectural lighting for ceilings and walls. If you’re lucky enough to have a landed property, consider how much you want to spend illuminating the garden areas.

Talkin’ bout a LED-olution
For those of you both concerned with the environment and wanting value for money, you might want to consider LED lighting when selecting light fittings for your home.

In October 2010 I was invited to a Lighting Panel Discussion at the Hong Kong Lighting Fair. Here I offered my perspective, as an interior designer, on the future of LED and its impact on interiors for the consumer.

Some of the observations I shared with the group were:

  1. The objective of lighting is to make the interior or person look their most flattering
  2. Different lighting should be used for men and women, especially above mirrors or in walk-in wardrobes
  3. The colour rendition of LED lighting allows people to create different moods
  4. LEDs are the lights of the future. Their energy efficient qualities, the fact that they are now more affordable, and that they can be accommodated within existing electrical infrastructure without requiring expensive retrofitting are all big plus points.
  5. On a personal note, ubiquitous light is what designers want! With a wave of our hand lighting can appear magically: where, how and when we want it.

Lights Out
It might sound strange that I’m ending this article on lighting by talking about turning them off, but as recent ‘lights out for Earth Day’ on Saturday 26 March 2011 reminds us, there is pressing need to reduce our lighting consumption to help the environment. Perhaps we can all start by exploring the benefits of introducing more energy consumption-friendly lighting, such as LEDs, into our homes to support our global home, Mother Nature.