Discover Our New
Retail Collection

From exquisite decorative accents to wellness accessories, purchase from over 3,000 curated products across Asia.

To enjoy an additional 10% off welcome discount, join us as a Trade member now.

Promo Code: WELCOME10

Shop Now

No thanks, I just want to browse

Sustainability Inside Out: Singapore

Words by: Tanya Singh

Conversations with leading interior designers in Singapore about sustainable interior design and how it can be achieved.


A "garden city" featuring lush greenery woven through a dense concrete jungle, Singapore has been playing the balancing act between urbanization and living with nature quite perfectly for years. With systems in place that encourage and incentivize green architecture, the country lined with vertical gardens and preserved patches of greenery more than makes up for the land lost to towering skyscrapers.

However, while green architecture goes as far as you can see on the red dot, the same cannot be said for interior design. We talked to some leading interior designers in the country to understand what sustainability looks like from the inside out and how it can be achieved. 


Hendra Sutedjo

Design that Responds to the 5 R's

The Founder and Regional Managing Director of Orb Associates, Hendra Sutedjo has a gradational method in place in order to achieve sustainability within the interiors of a space. "As an Interior Designer, you must learn to refuse waste that is non-reusable. Next, you must reduce the use of harmful materials like single use plastics and materials with high volatile organic compounds should not be used. Single use plastics have created a "throw-away" culture that is causing an environmental crisis in itself and reusing is the only solution to this problem. Sometimes, getting creative by repurposing can add a lot of value and character to a space. Finally, recycling all waste produced properly should definitely be a part of the plan," he shared.


Biophilic Design and Education

An advocate for a shift towards biophilic design (an approach to design that seeks to connect building occupants more closely to nature), Ching Yew Tung, the Managing Director of SODA, believes that green interiors start with the people. "Sustainability is a process that begins with intentions to improve our natural environment. It should start from activating a new lifestyle for the users and how the design will encourage the change in such patterns of routine," he says. 

Sustainable_Design_02An example of biophilic design, the Star Vista mall is primarily naturally ventilated. Photo Credit: Erwin Soo.

For him, inculcating this line of thought within academic curriculum for the generations to come is the most important step towards greener interiors. "Biophilic design goes beyond the basics of sustainability, like recycling and upcycling or simply introducing nature into the interiors of a space, it should include careful study on human behaviours and routines, wellbeing of users within a space, and the geography as well as climate of the area. Interior designers in Singapore must take the tropical climate and the people into account, in order to come up with a design brief that responds to these unique characteristics. Instilling an understanding on biophilic design in the next generation of designers is absolutely necessary," he shared.


Dennis Cheok

Build Up Instead of Tearing Down

The Founder of UPSTRS_, a cross-disciplinarian design practice which focuses on conceptual ideation, collaborative processes and hands-on material exploration, Dennis Cheok believes that the less is more when it comes to green interiors. "The best design or the most sustainable design for me is one which builds on the existing design instead of tearing down spaces to construct new ones. The volume of resources and energy it takes to deconstruct and then construct again from scratch is massive. It also multiples the waste produced heavily. This strategy of adaptive reuse informs the way we design interiors as well. We think about what we can keep and what we add. We try to retain as much of the original space as we can. With the things that we add, the focus is always on materials that are durable and will last for years to come. In fact, in addition to being environmentally responsible, that approach adds a certain beauty and authenticity to the spaces we create," he said.

The creative mind behind projects like Ply House, featuring a façade made with 100-year-old clay bricks reclaimed from demolished Chinese villages, and the Crate Apartment, where a shipping crate was inserted into the interiors as a functional space, believes that there is a lot more to sustainability than technical building aspects. "While those are important and are already being implemented throughout the island, sustainability can also take a softer approach. It can also sometimes be about preserving and respecting our history, culture, and memories. When we have clients that can appreciate the beauty in materiality, it helps us bring such visions to life," he shared. 

Sustainable_Design_03The façade of Ply House, an architectural and interior design project, completed in 2016 by UPSTRS_.

"Having seen so much darkness and anxiety on people's faces over the course of these 3 years, what I really find most sustainable in the design field is for the creative industry to fully value and appreciate the beauty that life brings. We should all learn to live in the present moment, take a good long look up from our screens, and appreciate what is truly most important, before it is way too late," he added. 


Raj Shah

Uniting for Environmental Responsibilities

Lending a corporate view of things to the topic, Raj Shah, Founder and Principal Designer of Raj Shah Associates, a veteran firm that focuses on workplace solutions, shared that to be truly sustainable within the office space is a near impossible thing because of short-term leases or strict budgets. "Sustainability is not something that comes up in conversation with corporate clients very often. It is us, as designers, who bring it into the conversation. We consider the requirements of the client and suggest sustainable solutions, like reducing waste in the long run by opting for quality furniture or using materials that have been recycled or at least consciously produced," he shared.

According to him, the conversation often sees road bumps when it comes to managing finances. "We can talk about sustainability, but when it comes to the office space, not all our products are sustainable to begin with. There are environment-friendly alternatives to almost all building materials, but they cost three or five times more than usual. That doesn't work in most cases. There are also times when builders are not familiar with these alternative materials, which ends up costing the client more time. For real change, the entire industry needs to come together from the manufactures and builders to the designers and clients. The sustainable material suppliers need to work closely with designers and builders to educate clients about the benefits of going green. With small steps being taken every day, we are heading in the right direction, but there is still a long way to go," he explained. 

A destination yet to be arrived at, seems like the journey towards green interiors in Singapore is going to be a long and arduous one, but at least it has begun.

Sustainable_Design_04Photo credit: Robynne Hu