Nano apartments, open kitchens & other interior design trends

By Jamie Nonis / EdgeProp | October 24, 2017 2:26 PM SGT
Interior design trends, says Cameron Woo, are largely influenced by what’s going on in popular culture. The founder of his eponymous Cameron Woo Design firm is also the guest judge and mentor on the current Season 5 of the hit international interior design reality television show The Apartment.
Take the open kitchen, for example. “There are a lot of cooking shows these days and an open kitchen allows for conviviality. Having an island in the kitchen is essential for culinary showmanship,” says Cameron, who’s also one of the international panellists on AkzoNobel’s ColourFutures trend analysis. “Another reason why open kitchens are in is because homes are becoming smaller and there is a need to come up with innovative solutions for functionality, and shared spaces is one of them,” he adds.
Source: Cameron Woo
The choice of an open kitchen, and the inclusion of an island in one, though, depends largely on the homeowner’s demographics and lifestyle. “In Singapore, they tend to appeal to young couples who don’t have children or don’t cook very much,” says Adrian Chua, Director of interior design firm Sevenvine. “When we propose an open kitchen, we try to carve out a wet kitchen as well, to contain the grease so the island ends up more of a lifestyle feature than utilitarian.”
According to Mei Teh, Principal Design Consultant of Story of Us, many of her clients feel “safer” with a semi-open kitchen for similar reasons. “Often, they may like the open feeling of a lot of light and fresh air coming through, but are concerned about the smell when they are doing very heavy cooking,” she says. When planning to include an island, an important consideration is whether the space allows for a good-sized island for the concept to work well. She recommends a minimum of 1.5m in length and depth of 800cm.
Macro Trends & Micro Apartments
“The trend right now is the Tiny Home or Micro Apartment, or what we call Nano Apartment,” observes Cameron, who recently wrote an article titled “The Nano Apartment: Home or Cell” on housing quality and affordability in Singapore and Hong Kong for Singapore-based Construction+ magazine.
Source: Cameron Woo
When conceptualising space in a tiny home, “duality of space” is key, notes Cameron. And as counter-intuitive as it may seem, the smaller the space, the higher the cost of doing it up. This is because the requirements are higher and it’s more challenging for the designer.
“Designers must now have enormous expertise in being innovative to devise incredible solutions. They have to think both horizontally and vertically to create multifunctional spaces and space-saving solutions. It’s about how to utilise every cubic footage in the space; it’s about planning the volume of space now rather than on a single plane,” Cameron explains. The smallest nano apartment his firm has designed was 250 sq ft.
As spaces no longer serve just one function, the concept of the “study niche” or “study loft” has also recently emerged. “People are now working across different timezones so the requirement of a study is now a must,” states Cameron. “In the past, they may have used a spare bedroom but with tiny homes, they don’t have the luxury of a spare bedroom so we have to carve out study niches.”
Source: Cameron Woo
And what of overall aesthetic trends?
Mei of Story of Us has observed a move towards modern minimalism characterised by a “natural” feel with elements of wood and green. “Previously, the Scandinavian as well as industrial looks were in, but now people are going for very clean-cut and minimal styling.”
Noticing a similar trend, Adrian of Sevenvine says: “Scandinavian is dying off but I see some interesting Norwegian influences as well. It’s back to basics where the form is very simple with pure clean lines. These days, homeowners are also going for wood grains that are more grey in tone than brown. Luxe is still in with a touch of glamour but tweaked to an edgy, chic look. Previously, people wanted a more ‘bling bling’ look but now they want a more relaxed and chill feel.”
By contrast, Cameron believes “there’s no such thing as a design concept trend”, as concepts are “unique to each client, especially in the luxury field” which he works with a lot. “We’re solution-focused rather aesthetic-focused alone. A lot of people are looking to – believe it or not – glorify the past. There’s been a natural inclination towards the retro look; what’s happened in the ‘60s and ‘70s. As one of the 10 panellists of experts in the world with AkzoNobel, we meet every year with leaders in technology, futurists, etc, and we’re seeing a yearning for a glorified past,” he concludes.