Several Asian talents have proved their extraordinary skills in the art world, from photography to cinematography. As for the world of furniture and design, here are some of the outstanding brands to know about at the moment.
Furniture is like elements that adorns a four-walled enclosed space into a home. Just changing the positions of furniture or adding a few new ones can give your abode a completely new and fresh look. And designer furniture pieces add a dash of exquisiteness to your house that makes the space cosier and more vibrant. Thus, we have made a list of some of the leading Southeast Asian furniture designer brands that will make your search for the best items easier.
Though western furniture designer brands have made their mark in the industry, many Southeast Asian furniture brands show immense potential and have made their name in the industry with their unique craftsmanship, style, utility, sustainability and elegance. And now, you can take pride in owning and displaying their work in your house.
Some of the renowned Southeast-Asian furniture designer brands you should know about
Based in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, E.Murio is a second-generation family-run furniture workshop. They are experts in making handcrafted furniture in neutral materials like tropical woods, bamboo, fibre and glass weave. However, the designers also experiment with different materials like leather, metal, bones and synthetic weaves.
Travel, adventure and friendships deeply inspire their work. The modern designs, quality and fine finishes of the units will catch the eye of any keen furniture enthusiast. The brand also creates custom furniture based on your requirements. The unique fitments are sure to provide you with comfort and pleasure. Surpassing the borders of the Philippines and SEA, E. Murio exports its custom pieces all over Asia, Europe, Africa and the US.
One can easily recognise Schema’s unique artistry through the metal wire work. The Filipino brand use corrosion-resistant and strong Zinc-plated galvanised iron wires to weave excellent handcrafted pieces of art. Each of their pieces is uniquely designed by hand, which is easily noticeable in every crafty piece.
Celia Gamboa Jiao, the founder of Schema, was previously known for founding Kalikasan Crafts, a holiday decoration-making company where she used metal wires and fabrics as primary raw materials. Amazed by the pliability of metal wires, she started experimenting with the idea and eventually founded Schema by Kalikasan Crafts with Anon Pairot, Ségolène Aebi-Faye and Antonio Layug where wire mesh is still the trademark for all the brand’s designs.
Another Filipino talent, Kenneth Cobonpue is one of the leading names in the furniture design industry. The award-winning designer uses his expertise in traditional craft with a blend of nature and technology to create one-of-a-kind aesthetic pieces. Many Hollywood celebrities, including Brad Pitt and Lucy Liu, have shown admiration for his work. Famous Hollywood movie sets like Ocean’s 13 and the TV series set CSI have featured his creations as well.
After graduating from Pratt Institute, New York, in Industrial design, Cobonpue started learning furniture marketing and production. He has won numerous awards, including the Japan Good Design Awards, the Singapore International Design Competition and the American Society of Interior Design top pick selection, and collaborated with many distinguished world-class designers. Each year, people eagerly wait for the new designs that he showcases at different design shows.
Akar de Nissim
Akar de Nissim is a Singapore-based furniture designer brand that celebrates its Asian heritage with minimalist styles and exceptional artisanship. The European and Asian blend in their designs is one of their signature qualities. The cross-cultural references result in distinct designs and their mastery of craftsmanship brings the furnishings to life. The modern furnishing with sleek designs quickly catches the eye of the customers.
The Iris coffee table and the Pavillion lacquer box are some of their thoughtful creations and bestselling pieces. According to Jasmine Ng, COO of Akar de Nissim, the craftsmen hand-polish each piece to make sure they radiate a luminous glow. Buyers deeply appreciate the hard work of the artisans and the harmonious collaboration of the east and west craft in the woodwork.
A native Singaporean designer, Hans Tan takes a holistic approach to creativity and practicality while creating his new designs. He won the Martell Rising Personalities Award 2009 and Design of the Year at the President’s Design Award — Singapore’s highest design accolade — twice. At the fall edition of Maison et Objet 2012 in Paris, Hans Tan was awarded the title of “Les Découvertes” (best innovative product). The designer always prioritises developing materials and the manufacturing process. Heritage, consumption and waste are the primary contexts he tries to narrate through his expressive artistry.
Many of his exclusive works are showcased at the National Collection of Singapore; M+ Museum for Visual Culture, Hong Kong; the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, New York; and the Princessehof National Museum of Ceramics Leeuwarden, the Netherlands. This honourary designer actively participates in many curatorial works as well. Changi Airport Group and Nirvana Memorial are some of his esteemed clients. The multitalented artist is the Associate Professor at the Division of Industrial Design of the National University of Singapore.
Poh Sin Studio
Pamela Poh Sin Tan, the founder of Poh Sin Studio, is an exceptionally talented artist-architectural designer whose work blurs the lines between art, design and architecture. The creative concept and ambiguity of art in her designs please the eye of the beholder. Her mesmerising installations are complex, but it easily captivates the viewers. Her work is sure to stay in your heart for a long time.
A Master in Architecture from the University of Greenwich, UK, Pamela Tan got a chance to exhibit her thought-provoking work Mappa Mundi: A Map Maker’s Dream in London’s The Royal Academy of Arts’ Summer Exhibition 2015. She won the fifth and final cycle of the Tan Sri Chan Sau Lai Architecture Award in 2016, and Bronze and Merit awards, respectively, in the Design for Asia Award 2020 for her work Eden and Projection Kite, respectively. Her extravagant works range from murals, spatial installations and models to sculptures.
What started as a rattan furniture manufacturing shop of a husband and wife team has now become one of the most eminent furniture designing workshops in Southeast Asia. Based in different areas of Metro Manila, the brand is famous for crafting exquisite furniture designs for hotels, restaurants and offices, as well as residential properties, bedrooms and living rooms. The unique harmony between design and utility with pleasing aesthetics makes them special.
Philux uses Ash and walnut wood as raw materials with trusted Filipino craftsmanship to make each one of their pieces of excellent quality and durability. From classic to contemporary, they work with a broad range of styles. Currently, the brand is led by the new generation. The couple’s older daughter, Stephanie, works as the chief operating officer of the firm and the younger daughter, Jessica, is the firm’s head of design. Just like their endeavour, Philux aspires to manufacture masterpieces that can be passed on through generations.
Tan Wei Ming, the founder of Aureole Design, has practised graphic designing in her early career. She discovered her passion for furniture and lighting design when she became part of a design collective in 2007. This opportunity gave her the skills and platform to build Aureole, her own brand. She also learned woodworking and ceramics to develop her skills further.
The name of the brand, Aureole, is often used to represent a circling light around a head or a halo in art. Her typography and graphic design background continue to help her create lamps and take inspiration from geometry, proportions and balance.
Ock Pop Tok
Ock Pop Tok is an odd but worthy addition to the list. The brand had a humble beginning in 2000 at the hands of Englishwoman Joanna (Jo) Smith and Laotian Veomanee (Veo) Douangdala. All the employees of the brand are women and it works for the development of women.
It is not a typical furniture manufacturing brand. You will get a selection of home decor, bags, wall hangings and clothing here. They also offer a staycation where you can enjoy Laos hospitality and learn the textile work first-hand.
(Hero and featured image credits: Kenneth Cobonpue/Screengrab)