Nikki Hunt on Chinoiserie
Thomas Tham, design principal of multi-award winning firm White Corporate, believes that every sustainable design starts with a timeless idea and ends with a happier world
Using upcycled materials has been cited as a design trend for 2015. What are your views on such sustainable designs?
While I am not a blind follower of trends, sustainability in designs is something I embrace. All sustainable designs start with the focus of creating things that will never go out of style. Designers also play a vital role in educating homeowners about the green options available, whether it’s eco-friendly material or preserving certain elements of an existing home, so they can make more informed, earth-friendly choices.
Describe your design philosophy.
My designs evolve from human interaction within a space. The objective is to turn an empty room into a space with soul, something that represents the owner. I treat each interiors project as a signature piece where research, specifically about the homeowner’s needs, background and taste, is paramount. I also like the idea of “design never ends”. By that, I mean that completed designs should be reviewed, critiqued, refined and improved. That dialogue inspires the rebirth of the new design. At the same time, the owner gets a very strong sense of a timeless design they will still like five or 10 years down the road.
Do you have any rules when you work?
Design is by nature a creative field so at the initial stage of the process, we let our imagination go free. It’s during that state that some of the best ideas emerge but the challenge—and this is where the truly creative stand out—is to try to make those great ideas work within limitation.
Do you see a difference in the way people invest in their homes 15 years ago and today?
Back then, many luxury homeowners did not have as much design knowledge, so they tended to spend without really knowing what they were spending on or leave the design team to see through the project. Today’s luxury homeowner is well travelled and exposed to design ideas from all over the world. Even though they are busy, they want to have a hand in designing their home. We like that. It’s an opportunity to build rapport and trust, to really understand the client’s taste, and in that ongoing dialogue and ideas can flow.
You’ve said that good design makes the world happy. Explain what this means.
A good design functions practically and aesthetically. A good home design should appreciate in value over time. My greatest fulfillment would be to see one of my designs preserved and passed to the next generation. That makes me happy and the homeowners are happy.