Self-taught designer Eugene Yip has been doing up homes for the past 10 years, and recently launched the Teetfa ("metal flower" in Cantonese) collection of handcrafted metal grilles. Apart from preserving a part of Singapore’s architectural history by seeking out grilles in old buildings and estates and replicating the designs, he also produces more contemporary looking versions. His aim is to make our built landscape more exciting and charming!
What was the starting point for Teetfa?
I needed a metal gate with a period-look design for a project. Nobody wanted to do it, so I decided to make it myself in my workshop. I also realised that our corridors and streetscape have become rather uniform and boring — the new HDB flats have grilles that are just thick horizontal bars, with little character. This got me thinking about reintroducing patterned grilles, and the thrill and satisfaction of seeing a heritage design revived when the piece for the project was completed, motivated me.
Images: Eugene Yip
Tell me about some of the classic designs.
The hexagonal pattern is around 80 years old. Another classic design is of overlapping squares, which I spotted at the Church Of St Bernadette in Zion road. I recently did a survey of Tiong Bahru, and catalogued all of its grille designs. As the estate is constantly being rejuvenated, with people removing the old grilles in the process, we will be seeing fewer original designs.
In what way do you modernise the grilles to fit into contemporary homes?
As the traditional designs might not fit all kinds of modern interior design schemes, we create new patterns that are geometric. And to break away from the traditional neutral colours, we experiment with fresher ones.
Image: Eugene Yip
How are the grilles made?
The most efficient way is to first form a module of each design. We produce the various parts of the module and weld them together, and then duplicate that. Sometimes, it's easier to form long horizontal pieces first before joining them up with the vertical pieces. They are all made using mild steel, and we either powder coat, spray paint or brush paint them. Each is made to order by hand in our studio and workshop.
How do you envision these grilles being used in the home?
I would love to see them being used as they are meant to be, as a gate and on windows, because I want to liven up our HDB corridors. Patterned grilles like these are a teaser to the interiors of a home. Of course, there’s also the option to use them as features in the home — for example, as a screen.
Find out more about Teetfa at 129 Jalan Besar, tel: 6100-6010, www.teetfa.com.