Home & Decor (Singapore) - - 30th Anniversary Special - ED ONG

From a “lit­tle rented desk fac­ing the toi­let” that served as his  rst of­fice 13 years ago, founder and cre­ative di­rec­tor of Dwell In­te­rior De­sign Ed Ong has cer­tainly come a long way. To­day, the 45-year-old runs his four-man de­sign stu­dio in an airy two-and-a-half storey con­ser­va­tion shop­house in River Val­ley. Dwell has found its suc­cess cater­ing to a niche mar­ket, one Ed de­scribes as “the mid- to high-end res­i­den­tial seg­ment”, a clien­tele that com­prises in­dus­try lead­ers and the well-heeled.

Ed stum­bled into the in­te­rior de­sign in­dus­try, af­ter the ap­proach­ing ar­rival of his  rst child forced him to give up at­tempts to start a busi­ness, in or­der to  nd a sta­ble job. He joined a big-brand in­te­rior de­sign com­pany as a com­plete rookie, but man­aged to se­cure three projects at the  rst in­te­rior de­sign event it par­tic­i­pated in. By his sec­ond year with the com­pany, he was top de­signer.

Although this wasn’t the pre­dom­i­nant cul­ture at the com­pany, Ed de­vel­oped a per­sonal style that was de­sign-cen­tric, which gar­nered him a solid client base, thanks to fre­quent re­fer­rals. He dis­cov­ered he had an in­nate tal­ent with lay­outs. “I was able to se­cure most of my projects by sketch­ing in­te­rior lay­outs in front of clients, in­stead of go­ing back and tak­ing two weeks to do them. It gives them a much deeper ap­pre­ci­a­tion of de­sign, be­cause they are able to see my thought process with ev­ery line I draw, so trust is built from the  rst meet­ing.”

It was his clients who gave him the idea to strike it out on his own, which he did, af­ter three years at his  rst com­pany. He started Dwell in 2005.

Key to Ed’s un­der­stated de­signs is a prac­tice that he terms “line dis­ci­pline”. He de nes it as the act of pick­ing out a line in a home’s lay­out, and des­ig­nat­ing it as the “hero wall” where all fea­ture el­e­ments, such as TV con­sole, dis­play cab­i­nets and book­shelves, are aligned. In do­ing this, that hero wall be­comes the main fea­ture in the home, and this also en­sures that move­ment within a space is min­i­mally ob­structed with ran­dom free-stand­ing el­e­ments.

The con dence to stick to his per­sonal ap­proach was ac­quired with time and ex­pe­ri­ence. “In the be­gin­ning, we lis­tened too much to clients on their choice of theme, ma­te­ri­als… But we re­alised that what clients want may not be the best thing.

“Some­times, they think that to have a ro­bust coun­ter­top, they re­quire a very thick counter ma­te­rial. But as we are from the in­dus­try, we are aware of new ma­te­ri­als avail­able that are sleeker, but still as hardy.”

Af­ter close to two decades in the in­dus­try, he has no­ticed that the tastes of Sin­ga­porean home­own­ers have be­come more de ned. “Ten years ago, the most a client could ar­tic­u­late was his de­sire for a prac­ti­cally de­signed home with clean lines,” he says. Now, clients are more in­formed, and are able to spec­ify par­tic­u­lar looks, such as Scan­di­na­vian, or raw with lux­u­ri­ous el­e­ments, or a Ritz-Carl­ton, even a Kar­dashian.

The chal­lenge for the de­signer in this age of in­for­ma­tion, says Ed, is to be sim­i­larly well-ex­posed and to stay open to ideas and styles.

He also owns The Kitchen So­ci­ety, a pri­vate cook­ing school which his wife, Hsin Yi, helps to run. Classes taught by pri­vate chefs and food writ­ers are held in the kitchen space of the same con­ser­va­tion shop­house that his de­sign stu­dio is based in.

On the fu­ture of Dwell, Ed shares that the fo­cus will still re­main on res­i­den­tial projects. “The aim is to gain a deeper un­der­stand­ing of our clients, and to add depth to in­te­rior de­sign.”

BE­LOW Noce House, a three-storey semide­tached home de­signed by Dwell, re­cently won in the Lux­ury De­sign cat­e­gory at the A’De­sign Award & Com­pe­ti­tion for the 2017-18 pe­riod, a global ju­ried com­pe­ti­tion that hon­ours the best in the field of de­sign.

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