With items like the Onde mirrors (inspired by the namesake coconut dessert), it’s obvious that Studio Kallang doesn’t take itself too seriously.
The studio, located at Blk 21 of the Mapletree Industrial Building at Kallang Avenue is one of the newest kids on the block in Singapore’s bubbling design scene, focusing on furniture, homeware objects and installations. It was launched last month by Faezah Shaharuddin, who describes her design aesthetic as “chic but playful”.
“I love combinations of unexpected things, from material to colour,” says the 26-year-old. “I think I gravitate to things that have personality, but not in a way that’s in your face.”
Faezah’s design preferences are clearly reflected in her work at Studio Kallang. Besides the Onde mirrors which are framed in colourful, eye-catching beads, she has also crafted pieces like the Biskut table (note the vernacular spelling). For the record, the solid teak creation does resemble a biscuit, but Faezah manages to keep it classy and understated.
Her knack for product design stems from growing up in the furniture industry at a young age. Mom, Sharifah Maznah, has been running the popular local furniture company Second Charm for the past 20 years.
“I learnt a lot through her experiences both in design and business,” she says. When Faezah jetted off to study design at the University of Washington, she ended up majoring in visual communication rather than industrial or product design.
Nevertheless, she has always been fascinated with interiors, objects and forms, which led her to set up Studio Kallang. Besides original creations, Studio Kallang also does made-to-order pieces.
These typically ship out between six and eight weeks after an order is placed. All furniture and objects are handcrafted by skilled woodworkers in Indonesia, using natural materials like solid wood and stone.
Ahead, we chat with Faezah about her how she’s bringing a new voice to the scene in Singapore.
Why did you decide to launch Studio Kallang?
“I’ve had fragments of it in my head for a while, but it finally became a coherent project about six months ago. It started as just an outlet for my ideas, like a space to create and experiment. I’m glad it’s turned into something people are interested in.”
You mentioned on Studio Kallang’s website that “pieces are experimentations in form, materiality and proportion.” What exactly does this mean?
“I strongly believe that details make a huge difference. I’m very interested in how something very normal can be elevated just by an exaggeration of either form, materiality or proportion. For example, two chairs could be identical in form but feel very different if one was in wood and one in ceramic. A simple vessel could seem pretty ordinary but blow it up to 10 times the size and it has a completely different effect.”
Who are your design inspirations?
“It’s really hard to narrow the list down. There are the big, famous designers like Gaetano Pesce, Lina Bo Bardi, Zaha Hadid, Enzo Mari and Alvar Aalto. But I also admire a lot of other current designers around the world like Giancarlo Valle, Minjae Kim, Andre Mellone, Green River Project LLC, India Mahdavi, Maryam Nassir Zadeh and many more. Also, everyday life provides a lot of inspiration.”
What are your own favourite furniture and homeware brands?
“I like Hay, Hem, Vitra, LoQ, Tekla Fabrics and Ssense’s homeware section. The quality and curation are great.”
What are the influences behind your work? And is your work inspired by your own background and cultural heritage?
“It’s definitely a combination of a lot of things such as growing up in the industry as a child and having formative experiences both in Singapore and the US (where I went to college). I was fortunate enough to travel a lot as a kid with my mother, and also spent a lot of time in Indonesia. I think all that definitely influenced my sensibilities.
I get a lot of inspiration from art and film too. I also love going to the reference libraries when I’m feeling stuck, because there’s this whole world of information that’s just not online.”
As gleaned from your Instagram, you also appear to have a keen interest in architecture. Any plans to expand into that category, and how do the realms of architecture and furniture/object design intertwine for you?
“I probably would’ve studied architecture if I hadn’t gone to design school! I feel like architecture is this whole separate discipline. But yes, hopefully at some point I may delve into architecture. A lot of my favourite designers started off as architects. I think both architecture and object design are similar in the sense that they’re both concerned with how people live, just at different scales. I think it’s beautiful when both fields interact.”
Your pieces are handcrafted by woodworkers in Indonesia. Who are some of these artisans, and how do you choose who to work with?
“A lot of the pieces are actually done by artisans my family has known for over a decade, since my mom has been in the business. I grew up around them and they’ve become like family to us.”
You use natural materials like solid wood and stone. Why the decision to work with such materials, and what do you like about them?
“I love natural materials because there’s an element of unpredictability. You can’t control the grains on wood and marble, so every piece is slightly different. There’s a warmth to them. I do want to experiment with other materials eventually.”
How long does it usually take to construct an object or piece of furniture – from conception to finished product?
“Usually about three months, but it really depends on the complexity of the piece or project.”
What is the most challenging part of the design process?
“Getting an idea that clicks. If it’s a solid idea or concept, everything else flows. If it’s a mediocre idea, then everything else feels like more of a slog.”
What are some of your signature items and collections?
“I’m not sure I have a signature item or collection yet, but people seem to really like the Onde mirrors. I actually designed them for myself − I wanted something playful to put on my wall. The concept was based around onde-onde, a dessert I grew up with. I always thought they were visually striking.
People also seem to love the Mamun bedside table (pictured). I chose to name it Mamun because it means trustworthy in Arabic, and I thought the piece looked friendly − like a companion. This seemed to make sense for something that would always be by you while you slept.”
Do you also do commissioned work, and what are some of the brands and projects you’ve worked on?
“I did an art installation in 2020 for Marina One (pictured). It was an arrangement of about 150 handwoven baskets from Lombok, reminiscent of floral blooms. I’ve done other small styling projects over the last few years as well. Recently, I’ve been more focused on producing my own pieces.”
What is your favourite commissioned piece or collaboration?
“I recently did a collaboration shoot with photographer Rachel Loh. I love Rachel’s work and her general approach to things. It was loosely based on this concept of being in the home of an eccentric maximalist auntie, with flowers left in drawers only to be forgotten about.
I love creating striking imagery and this was a nice opportunity to do that with another creative I admire. I think it’s important to do projects that aren’t focused on commercial appeal every now and then. I feel that they keep you playful and open.”
What’s next for Studio Kallang, in terms of new products and partnerships?
“I try not to plan too much, but I would love to do more smaller objects for the home and maybe work with ceramic or metal. I would also love to expand more into installation/space design. I think it would be interesting to work in the art and fashion space too.”
Where can customers find your products?
“At the moment, just my website. Most of my pieces are on display at Second Charm’s showroom which is situated in Kallang too.”
TEXT: Rebecca Rachel Wong/FEMALE