“Clients here are becoming bolder. Some of them are asking us to do something fresh and more playful, for them. We’re glad they’re giving us the space to be more explorative and creative with interior design,” say Domisilium Studio founders Santi Alaysius and Hamphrey Tedja in an interview with Prestige.
If you go to the furniture trade shows in Paris and Milan, you will see there are a lot of Indonesian-made products there, but they are sold under the brands of someone else. That’s sad. Why shouldn’t Indonesian interior designers and furniture manufacturers have successful international brands?”
The question is asked by a frustrated Hamphrey Tedja, who founded Domisilium Studio with Santi Alaysius in 2009. Based in Tomang, Grogol Petamburan, Domisilium Studio has broad range expertise in residential, hospitality and commercial projects. It offers a full range of architectural and interior design services, “with a singular vision of and an endless dedication to creating functional and livable spaces.”
The quality of Santi and Hamphrey’s work is certainly world-class. The former grew up around her father’s busy design-build office. She has won awards for her work. Her past projects include The Waldorf Astoria Chicago, a residence of Jennifer Lopez in Long Island, and “the first design hotel in Indonesia”, Kosenda Hotel in Tanah Abang. Santi attended The Art Institute of Seattle and Illinois Institute of Art-Chicago.
The scion of one of Jakarta’s leading real estate developers, Hamphrey has spearheaded and contributed to all types of project designs, from residential to commercial to hospitality. He grew up in Singapore before continuing his studies at the Illinois Institute of Technology, where he earned a Professional Bachelor’s degree in Architecture. He and Santi first met in Chicago.
“Everything has gone so fast. It feels like we’ve been riding a sports car on the highway because we were just very busy with a lot of things,” says Santi as she and Hamphrey sit down with Prestige for our first chat since 2015. Inevitably, the conversation begins with an exchange of notes on the stunning impact of the coronavirus. But Hamphrey finds something positive to say about the situation.
“Finally, we have managed to take a break, thanks to the government’s instruction to do self-quarantine and conduct social distancing for the next two weeks,” he laughs. “Actually, I’m a bit happy because now I have a good reason not to attend any meetings! Because both of us have just got back from a trip to Thailand, and we don’t want to take risks with anyone else’s health.”
Says Santi: “If we try to see the bright side of things this is the right time to slow down a little bit and be more mindful. It is also good for our team, since they are hustling a lot and I really understand how they feel. I hope they don’t get burnt out like I did in the past. That’s why I suggested to them to take this time to work from home. Relax, don’t get overly stressed by work, and don’t do overtime if it’s not necessary.”
The dynamic duo behind Domisilium Studio marked their 10th anniversary last year by publishing a book, Domisilium Studio: A Decade of Design Wanderlust (Simpul Aksara Group, 2019). A volume full of “unforgettable stories that leave a strong impression,” it was released as a hard cover book with 328 pages in full colour.
“Our friend Prasojo Chusnato, who is a writer, encouraged us to do it,” Santi says. “He is a good writer, and we got along very well because he is a cat lover and owns a cat shelter. With his help, we spent three years writing and designing our book.”
Adds Hamphrey: “We didn’t want to do just another coffee-table volume filled with photos of our portfolio of projects. I think what we wanted to show is what’s going on creatively in our studio. This isn’t just about Santi and me, but about Domisilium Studio as an entity.”
The book details 16 of the studio’s most important projects to date, including residential projects, hotels, restaurants and office spaces. During its first 10 years, Domisilium Studio gained renown for carrying out such prestigious projects as Kosenda Hotel, the Gojek’s headquarters, Gormetaria, Marriott Yogyakarta, the Pavilion Restaurant at JW Marriott Surabaya, Modena Indonesia and Deltomed Office in Tangerang.
Unlike so many design books, this one is compact enough to carry around and read anywhere. It includes the designers’ conversation with clients and collaborators, such as Eames Demetrios, Director of Eames Office; Erastus Radjimin, founder of Artotel Group; Hermawan Tanzil of LeBoYe Design Consultancy; and Lala Bohang, an artist and writer.
“The doodles and scribbles were added as personal touches because we wanted to have fun with it,” Santi says. “We love to tell stories. The text had to be easy to read for everyone, not just those in our industry. And we wanted readers to know that the design profession is not as glamorous as it seems. It takes a lot of work and dedication in order to survive in this industry.
“The longer you stay in this profession, the better you become as a designer. It’s always a work in progress, whatever we do. We’re always learning. There always has to be a collaboration between client and designer. It can never be said that it’s just up to us. Never.”
A couple of years ago, Santi and Hamphrey launched a design company called DMDIO. They describe it as “Domisilium Studio’s mini alter ego, where its creative minds are lighthearted, fond of explorations and amused by the potential of new materials, shapes and concepts. In the past, Domisilium Studio has joined forces with other creative rock stars from various disciplines in the context of larger projects. With the presence of DMDIO, we will also be able to play with other geniuses on a more intimate scale. Our products will be attractive, one-of-a-kind, and nonetheless perfect for that special little corner.” DMDIO works together with several local brands, such as Pottum, Sulla Home, Beranda Living, Moire Rugs and Spasium.
Santi explains: “DMDIO was born because there are not a lot of interior designers here who want to do product design. We do know of several figures, such as Alvin Tjitrowijo and Leonard Theosabrata, but we need more of them – because, during the journey of Domisilium Studio, we have seen huge potential for the Indonesian furniture and interior industry to grow. We have met with many furniture factory owners and craftsmen here who already have export-quality products to offer.”
Santi and Hamphrey described their relationship as that of a “work couple”. They first met at a mutual friend’s birthday party in Chicago in 2005. “We become friends because of the process of working together,” Santi says. “We are just comfortable with our respective positions as architect and interior designer. They complement each other. I can’t stand being alone, and neither can Hamphrey.”
The couple have come far in the past 10 years, from a table in a coffee shop to an impressive three-storey studio. They now have almost 30 “family members” and five cats, who are called the Domi Kitties. “I like to have black walls, something dark and dramatic,” Santi says. “Hamphrey loves to make jokes when we win projects that look the opposite of that. If you look at our portfolio, we actually work in various styles. But the thing is, we always try to look fresh by playing with different objects, materials, inspiration and twists, as well to keep exploring new perspectives.”
Indeed, Domisilium Studio’s mission statement talks about “fostering innovations in environmentally responsible construction, and designing sophisticated, timeless and uplifting spaces for the fullest enjoyment of life. Our dedication to the client, great attention to detail, and tailoring of each specific project to our client’s unique individual needs and aesthetic values is what sets Domisilium Studio apart from other firms. Our hands-on approach to every aspect of project development and construction, while establishing good relationships with our clients, contractors and vendors, accomplishes our ultimate goal of providing our clients with only the highest quality finished product achievable.”
Says Hamphrey: “Time has shaped us to grow and get better. Many things have changed as clients nowadays pay more attention to the importance of good interior design. Every client wants to see something different, which often results in international style with a local touch or vice versa.”
Santi declares: “I think people are getting bolder, which makes us really happy. There have been more than a few times when our clients have asked us to be fresher, more playful, more Domi. We were a bit hesitant at first to go all out, but we are glad that they gave us the space to be more explorative and creative.
“Thanks to their trust, we now have extra fuel to create more impact in the arena of the creative industries. We want Domisilium Studio to continue to grow and advance, in the hope that the climate for creative industries will prosper in this country. There’s still a long journey ahead, but we really love this ongoing process.”