Lifestyle brand WOHAbeing launches, its luxury hotel furniture can now be yours
If you have ever stayed at Singapore’s Park Royal hotel or Alila Villas Uluwatu in Bali and thought ‘I fancy those chairs’, you might be pleased to know that the designers have started their own lifestyle line, WOHAbeing
Architects Richard Hassell and Wong Mun Summ from the Singapore-based architectural practice WOHA have designed a number of luxury hotels in their time. They have also long had to fend off demands from guests who want to have various items from those hotels in their own homes.
“People kept asking, ‘Why isn’t our furniture for sale?’” Hassell says. “Guests at the hotels would get quite angry … They would say, ‘If you are not going to make [the furniture] we are going to get it copied.’”
That is no longer necessary. Last week at the Maison & Objet Paris trade fair, the two architects – behind such landmarks as Bali’s clifftop resort Alila Villas Uluwatu and Singapore’s Park Royal hotel – launched WOHAbeing, a lifestyle brand selling furniture, rugs, lights, bathware and tableware.
Hassell and Wong both designed furniture early in their careers, but had focused on architecture since founding WOHA in 1994. They started thinking about establishing the spin-off brand after being named Maison & Objet’s Asia Designer of the Year 2017 in October last year and invited by the fair to hold an exhibition in Paris. Within nine months they had created six collections for their lifestyle line, with collaborators ranging from Wonderglass, a London-based lighting company that works with glass blowers in Venice, to Luzerne, a Singaporean company with a manufacturing base in Dehua, Fujian that makes “ethical bone china” without the bones.
Highlights from the launch of WOHAbeing in Paris included a round table composed of concentric wooden circles. Inspired by local Balinese design, the table, from the Ulu collection, has a shape similar to that of a Bronze Age Dong Son rain drum, with the layered base taking inspiration from colonettes in Hindu architecture.
Hanging above the table was a cluster of concave Venetian-glass lights suspended by metal rods. Part of the Oli collection, the lights borrow from the grand stupas of Borobudur, Indonesia as well as sacred Hindu and Buddhist geometry.
The inspiration behind the Bintan collection’s chairs came from the flippers of large green sea turtles and the legs of tiny hermit crabs seen during site visits to their new resort Alila Villas Bintan, slated to open in 2018. “We are able to jump scale from something really large to something small,” Wong says. This series also stands out for its tropical hand-printed fabric, which endeavours to preserve traditional woodblock-printing techniques.
For their bathware collection, the two architects were inspired by old sampans. “We started off with the idea of a bathtub that was going to be like a club chair or a wind chair so you had protection to have a quiet head space,” says Wong, demonstrating by cupping his hands over his ears. “But when we started drawing shapes, we saw we actually had a sampan.” The result was tubs and sinks made of reconstituted marble that look like delicately folded origami boats, made by Australian bathware designer Apaiser.
Sustainable materials were used in several other products. Many of the vibrant carpets in the Corak collection, for example, are hand-woven with bamboo silk. “They are low impact and sustainable,” Hassell says.
This December in Singapore, the pair will unveil the Diaspora collection of ceramic tableware, which they describe as an “elegant oriental range”. Touching on the mass movement of Chinese around the world, the collection, Hassell says, plays with the idea of cultural export and assimilation. A Singapore-focused line, for example, will have accents of vibrant Peranakan-style colours and silver; an Australian collection, meanwhile, will have gold embellishments, inspired by the Chinese who flocked to the country during the gold rushes of the 1850s.
“What’s nice for us is each of our projects comes with a whole world and mood,” Hassell says. “Just as they ask fashion designers, ‘Who’s your muse?’, these are ours.”