Left: A house with a labyrinthine network of staircases and flying bridges. Right: (From left:) Quck Zhong Yi, Wong Ker How and Lim Jing Feng, ASolidPlan. PHOTOS: YEN MENG JIINSay you flip through a decor magazine, and you see a home done by Asolidplan that you like. You go to the design firm, and ask them to do the same for you. More likely than not, they will tell you ‘no’.
Don’t be offended, though. It happens all the time. ”It would be easy money for us, to copy and paste, but we will turn down the job,” says Wong Ker How, 38, one of the three founders of Asolidplan. ”It isn’t fair to the first homeowner, and it is not our style to replicate designs.”
The firm’s philosophy is all about being original and creating work that responds to the site in question, says partner Quck Zhong Yi, 39. And of course the challenge to ”experiment and push boundaries.”
It sounds like a oft-heard spiel but ”we don’t try to be different for the sake of it,” asserts Lim Jing Feng, 36. ”Each project looks different because of how the design responds to the issues affecting it.”
Veteran interior designer Nikki Hunt, founder of Design Intervention, reviewed some of the firm’s projects for a design award. She says, ”I am impressed by their attention to detail and creativity, and how they implement a cohesive approach to their projects.”
A large proportion of their projects are residential – mainly the interiors and at times, the architecture. Some of their unconventional designs include a brass privacy screen for an apartment which became an eye-catching feature in the surrounding neighbourhood; a mirrored wall that gave a triangular-shaped apartment the illusion of being square and twice as big as it really was; and a labyrinthine network of staircases and flying bridges that connected all the levels in a terrace house.
On the public front, they designed a pool bar, with interiors deliberately resembling a swimming pool as a visual pun. In 2018, the firm was hired to design the set stage for the National Day Parade. Unlike previous stages which blocked views of Marina Bay, Mr Quck designed pivoting screens to connect the audience to its surroundings.
Mr Wong says, ”In commercial projects, we consider how our designs fit into a bigger picture, such as how the business positions itself in the market. Homes are more personal, so we have to be more sensitive to the users.”
Although each partner handles projects separately, the firm has fortnightly review and critique sessions, where all design proposals are presented for everyone to give their opinions. ”It gives us clarity of thought, because we can sometimes get too narrowminded in our designs, and someone else may have a better idea,” says Mr Quck.
Mr Lim adds that communication, not only among staff, but with clients is crucial.
”This is particularly so when we design homes, as we see such projects as a collaboration with the homeowners,” he says.
The trio say that homeowners are now more savvy and well-informed, but the most frequent request is still more storage. ”Most homes are already small, you don’t want to waste space on a storeroom,” says Mr Wong. They find creative solutions, such as storage spaces under platforms and built-in cabinets. Once, they created moveable cabinets that doubled as walls.
Do they ever run out of ideas? Mr Quck says, ”Hardly, because each project is driven by context, from the client and the site.”
He adds, ”we are not stylistically driven and we don’t follow trends. Some of our best projects are not so much the best-looking ones, but the ones where clients are most satisfied.”
It also helps that their company’s name instils confidence, since their clients have been singing their praises and spreading the word about their services. ”We are firm believers that having a solid plan will produce good design,” says Mr Wong.
First published in The Business Times.