SINGAPORE (EDGEPROP) - Founder of interior design firm SuMisura has charted her own course by turning vacant spaces into visions to behold, spurred by competition and constraints
Before SuMisura worked its magic on a penthouse in 3 Orchard By-The-Park, the 6,555 sq ft duplex unit failed to attract a buyer. The award-winning interior design firm was brought in after multiple attempts to market it by agents ended in vain, with the key feedback that people had trouble visualising the potential of its interiors.
One problem was the glasshouse enveloping a staircase in the centre of the penthouse, dividing the expanse of the interior into smaller pockets of spaces. With such a structure, “it’s actually difficult [for people] to see it as a big entertainment space”, says Angela Lim, director and co-founder at SuMisura. “And when people cannot see the value of it, they won’t buy.”
SuMisura's Angela Lim (Photo: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
Her mission was therefore, “to make sense of the spaces” in the penthouse and turn it into a unique selling point, shares Lim. A Bocci light installation was placed above the central staircase, with the intention to draw attention to it. “We wanted to make it look like an art piece in the middle of the house,” she explains.
With SuMisura’s vision, the penthouse was sold in six months to a Chinese national for $31.5 million on June 21 – or $4,805 psf, which was the highest psf price achieved for the development.
Another defining touch included turning a 1.8m to 2m long corridor leading to the powder room into a “linear library”. One wall was fully fitted with bookshelves, while the opposite side was furnished with a bar top and stools overlooking a window.
The "linear library" (Photo: SuMisura)
Lim also jumped on the chance to weave in the narrative of a well-heeled lifestyle. Instead of decking up all the rooms as bedrooms, the room nearest to the dining area was turned into a poker room. “We thought of doing something fun,” she says. “We fitted a nice daybed in there; if the guests get too drunk after the whiskey and poker, they can sleep in.”
The dining area was converted into a poker room (Photo: SuMisura)
Before its makeover, the 25th-floor unit boasted a vast roof terrace, left bare. “People are paying for roof terrace space, but in our very hot and cruel climate, it’s really very hard for anyone to imagine what to do [with it],” says Lim. SuMisura decided to spruce up the area by adding on semi-covered shelters, building an outdoor kitchenette, and introducing an option for outdoor cinema screening with projectors. It was done up “just to show that after dinner, you can also go up, gather [with others] and watch a movie,” says Lim.
The aggressive purchases of land plots over the past two years, from 2016 to 1H2018 - both in government land sales and collective sales - have led to increased competition among developers planning to launch their residential projects. There’s therefore, a greater need to differentiate their projects, says Lim. “That’s when they really have to think very hard and ask themselves, ‘What will set my project apart from my competitors?’”
The Bocci light piece at the 3 Orchard By-The-Park penthouse (Photo: SuMisura)
Currently, SuMisura’s portfolio of of showflats includes CapitaLand’s 774-unit One Pearl Bank, an upcoming development in the Outram-Chinatown district that takes after the iconic horseshoe-shaped Pearl Bank Apartments, a Brutalist structure of Singapore’s past. Her task was to design the two- and three-bedroom show units and she was given a “hygge” theme to work with. (The Danish term encapsulates the feeling of cosiness and contentment evoked by simple things or acts, and has of late been adopted by marketers to brand a lifestyle.) “The interesting part about [the brief we were given] was that it’s supposed to be clean, chic, and minimalistic,” says Lim.
One Pearl Bank's design was based on a "hygge" theme (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
SuMisura had to inject a more luxurious vibe, while keeping to the spirit of a natural, comfortable environment. Lim described her task as making “the marriage of the two” work, like an unyielding matchmaker of sorts. As a testament to its bold creativity, One Pearl Bank’s public preview on the weekend of July 13 drew a 4,000-strong crowd, and has to date sold 230 out of 774 units, according to caveats lodged with the URA.
The living area of a two-bedroom show unit at One Pearl Bank (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
Another themed development is 1953 by Oxley Holdings, a mixed-use project at the junction of Balestier and Tessensohn Roads, comprising 58 apartments and 14 strata commercial units. A melding of old and new, the development has seven of its retail shops and nine residential units that will be housed in a row of conservation shophouses, while the rest of the units are part of a new six-storey development. The former will be painted white and feature an art deco facade, while the latter will be dressed in black paint, a design that captures the amalgamation of new buildings constructed next to those steeped in history. When designing the interior of the showflat, SuMisura tried to instil its spaces with “old-world charm”. Based on URA data, 1953 has sold 30 of its 58 apartments.
A decade old now, SuMisura started out humbly. Even though some of the firm’s work today include Good Class Bungalows, the company’s early projects were mostly fitting out showflats of compact or “shoebox apartments”. The name SuMisura, in Italian, actually means made-to-measure, shares Lim, which she deems an apt description of what the company was doing then. In a team of 10, “we slogged through the nights”, she recalls. “Starting a company is no less than bringing up a child, there were the night feeds – we did our overtime, we put in the hours.”
Based on URA logs, 1953 has sold 30 of its 58 apartments (Photo: SuMisura)
Her most crucial takeaway from SuMisura’s growth journey is perhaps what the firm has successfully carved a niche in – how to make small spaces work. “You need to be very creative,” Lim asserts. “Unlike very big apartments where you make sense of the space by layering it sideways (because you’ve got the depth and the width), to make small apartments work, you layer it up,” she explains.
Lim’s favourite spaces to design are kitchens and bathrooms. “When you design other spaces, like living rooms or bedrooms, there are not many services, your hands are not tied. So it’s not as challenging.”
Designing her favourite rooms, however, are “a little like working with mathematical equations – you have to solve the puzzle and find the solution to that”, she describes. “Doing the Lego work is very fun, because you know that the pipes are here, the services are there. So you have certain boundaries and limitations, but you will try to break it and still make it work. Eventually, the entire layout is better,” she explains.
SuMisura designed the One Pearl Bank showflat to be clean, chic and minimalist, while including tinges of elegance and opulence (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
As SuMisura gained recognition in the interior design arena, Lim’s vision for the company and the jobs it took on also changed. “When I first started, I was more selfish then. Somehow I got this idea that I know what [makes] good design… which is why my focus was only on doing showflats where the developers would trust me and give me a free hand,” Lim recounts.
But as the company grew, and the design scope expanded even as the firm took on more jobs, she realised the way to have repeat clients was to “create something that will make everyone happy”, and not just herself. The satisfaction she draws from the awe of a client when he walks into a SuMisura-designed space is what drives her harder.
Lim foresees natural designs to be the upcoming trend. Three years ago, the use of metals and maximalist designs were in, but that is now tapering off. This April, when she visited the Salone del Mobile.Milano – an annual international furniture fair where the professionals in the industry convene – Lim noticed that brands were doing prints of monstera ferns on almost everything. “We are seeing it printed on big huge wallpapers, on big panels of blinds and curtains. We are seeing it printed on mosaics, even on ceramic tiles.” She attributes the “big prints” to the influence of the maximalistic era on natural designs.
SuMisura designed 1953’s show unit to adopt an “old-world charm” (Photo: SuMisura)
And what of SuMisura’s future? Lim envisions it becoming an international name, not akin to the “next Wilson [Associates] or the next Hirsch Bedner”, but “well sought-after” and known instead for the “quality of work that we produce”. She has a preference for keeping the team lean, otherwise “you end up just managing people”. But setting high aspirations is a must: “I’ve always felt that it is important to dream big so that if you fail, you won’t be too far off.”