8 Creative Professionals In Asia And Their Imaginative Workspaces
Paulius Staniunas, creative director of All is Amazing (Malaysia)
How do you describe your office?
My number one goal was cosy multi-functionalism. It can be a photo studio, it can be an office space, it can be a creative workshop or a gathering place, but it doesn’t lose charm. It has lots of wooden furniture, books and quirky corners where you can take photos. It’s a place where I want everyone to feel inspired and creative.
What makes it special?
I always wanted a space with lots of natural light, plants and carpets. A high ceiling and open plan concept are very healthy for creativity. My vision is for everyone to communicate and share ideas, hence walls are obsolete. It’s special to me, because it reflects what’s happening in my head every day and what drives my creativity.
What inspires you in this space?
There are works from Malaysian artists, books and magazines with our photos featured in them, a Polaroid wall of the people who have visited our space, and old, charming and perfectly functioning vintage cameras. But people that work and hang out here are the key to the inspiration. Without them, anything we have in the studio is worthless.
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Gabriel Tan, founder of Gabriel Tan Studio (Singapore)
Natural simplicity is the thread that runs through the pieces designed by Gabriel Tan, whether they’re acoustic panels made from cork for Swedish brand Abstracta or the Aurora carpet for Asplund, which depicts the undulating Northern Lights underfoot. Natural materials also abound in Tan’s workspace in his home office in Serangoon Gardens, a quiet residential enclave in the north-eastern part of Singapore.
Next to his desk is a wall where he lines samples of tactile materials side by side, ranging from cork to charred cedar wood. “I work in the living room of a single-storey landed house built in the 1960s,” he says, adding that he prefers working on a desk close to the window. “I have natural light coming in from the side, and that is great for sketching.”
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With Tan also helming the creative direction of door-handle maker Turn, Japanese furniture label Ariake and Portuguese craft brand Origin, he is constantly sketching and likes to keep his drawings taped onto the wall. “This way, I can revisit old ideas easily—sometimes I choose not to continue with the concept for the moment, but it could be the spark for another project in the future. So if I feel that it is an idea worth holding onto, it goes to the wall and not the bin.”
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Lee Chi, botanical artist and founder of Botaniplan Von Lee Chi (Taiwan)
Lee Chi created his design studio in 2013 to explore the relationship between plants and spaces. His imaginative, organic sculptures transcend anything so mundane as a common bouquet, attracting attention from global fashion brands, including Chanel, Gucci and Boucheron, that have sought out his designs.
As an ultra-marathon runner, Lee says he views landscapes from a different perspective, having covered a lot of ground. That’s reflected in the rather freeform nature of his studio.
“I like looking for my muse in a comfortable working space,” Lee says. “The imagination of the studio at the beginning was to create a spacious office. There are many personal items in it, for example, collections of architectural works, albums of artists and books about the environment. Those are books that I need to find inspiration at any time. In addition there are some supplies that may be used after work, such as the kendo equipment and long-distance running shoes, in which you can find the spirit of concentration.”
Conrad Lee, founder of Boxzes Studio (Hong Kong)
What’s your office like?
Boxzes Studio is where I spend almost two-thirds of my day. Therefore, I wanted to create a space that not only is unique to Boxzes by design, but also motivates me to make the most out of my day. I designed my workspace to be used for different purposes: a showroom, a work area, a photography studio and an art gallery.
What makes it special?
One of my favourite features of the studio is a large multifunctional art piece created in collaboration with renowned Danish artist Christian Storm. It adds a bright energy that helps to inspire me and provides an eye-catching centrepiece for the room. However, what makes my workspace so special to me is having designed the room from scratch and being surrounded by products I worked hard to design. It gives me a sense of belonging and motivates me to keep working hard.
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Cui Shu, founder of Cun Design (China)
In 2017, Cui Shu decided to build his design studio in a decades-old factory in Beijing’s Chaoyang District that had been transformed into a creative industrial park. The building is divided into zones with distinct functions, where workers can focus on specific tasks. The central “image area,” with is dramatic book displays, a mirrored ceiling and even a motorcycle, was designed to represent the company’s brand image to its clients, while “the main brain area of self space” was created as a bright, quiet, art-filled location for designers to contemplate.
“Considering my office style, on one hand, I think it suits well with my personal temperament and personality, and on the other hand, it matches with the space itself,” Cui says.
On the ceiling of a conference room, he placed a transparent fish pool that, in daylight, casts a beam of variegated light to make the space seem more lively. A staircase with a panoramic mirror connecting the second and first floors forms a V shape, above which hangs a model of a tyrannosaurus together with a flock of birds, creating a dreamy scenario. He also built a bar on the first floor that is equipped with removable tables, where colleagues have added their favourite personal items to make the place seem closer to them. In his own office, Cui installed a separate stairway that leads to a tearoom, a treat he designed for himself for receptions and personal reflection.
“In addition we hung a big tree divided into two at the top of the building and placed lighting on the back of the tree, so that the light reflected to the top will solve the overall lighting problem more gently,” he says. “Meanwhile, it also represents a design contradiction between rationality and sensibility. I definitely believe this idea fully reflects my own temperament and personality.”
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Kenneth Cobonpue, industrial designer (Philippines)
Where do you like to work when you’re home?
I have more than one spot at home for my workspace. Sitting in one space all the time would bore me. And when inspiration hits me unexpectedly or there’s an email I need to answer right away, I can go to the nearest nook at that moment to sit down and answer that email, sketch or take a call. I also have a garage workspace where I sit down and plan my latest car restoration. Collectively, my workspace at home is very open and non-constricting. It’s also minimal in the sense that it has no filing cabinets and whatnot, just essentials like a notepad and a computer along with views of the foliage outside. It also welcomes a lot of natural light, has splashes of colours and casual furniture from my collection.
What’s something that inspires you in your workspace?
There’s a huge painting on my wall by Christian Tamondong. No matter how tired I am from the day’s work, my spirits are lifted whenever I step in and see it. I make sure to surround myself with plants to bring the outdoors in as well as things that are personal to me gathered from my travels. I have wind-up toys, wooden dolls, mechanical clocks and stuffed animals. I have a small collection of classic sport cars from the 1950s and 1960s, and I have a work table set up in my garage as well. I believe it’s important to have an environment that’s filled with the things you love to make each workday enjoyable.
What’s your actual office like?
Being at home made me rediscover the spirit and inspiration of all the things I designed and collected over the years. My workspace at the office is smaller, the four corners are more defined, and it’s more spartan. My office also holds a lot more stuff like documents, swatches and books. I have a library where my team can pull out books if they need inspiration or reading material. My home workspace is much more personal with objects that are dear to me.
Realrich Sjarief, architect and founder of Raw Architecture (Indonesia)
How do you describe your workspace?
I work and live in one space. It’s an experimental space where I [can try] new designs and approaches before executing them for clients. I love the round window that can be opened and closed, and my unique bookshelves.
Is there anything you keep there for inspiration?
Greenery, ponds and fish.
How do you keep your workspace tidy and efficient for your creative process?
I love the French idea of mise en place, the culinary phrase that means “putting in place” or “everything in its place”. It refers to the preparation of ingredients and setup required before cooking. In architecture, it’s an idea that can be applied to organisation, how to start with details [in mind] in order to [make] projects as perfect as I can.
Somnuek Klangnok a.k.a. Parn, artist (Thailand)
Firmly in the top echelon of Thailand’s current crop of contemporary artists, Somnuek Klangnok, who produces illustrations and paintings under the name Parn, is known for his unique style, which boasts exaggerated lines and forms in almost caricature-like depictions. He produces his work at his Bangkok apartment, where a small corner of the house is set up as a creative space. “To call it a studio might be overstating things,” he laughs. “But I love this space. I find it very relaxing and I spend much of my time here even when I’m not working. It’s my nest, my place of personal comfort and safety, and if I had to describe it I would say it is like something from Alice in Wonderland—ordered chaos built on streams of vivid imagination.”
The tools of Somnuek’s trade are everywhere—tubes of paint, pots of brushes and canvases galore stacked against walls and on the large wooden table where he paints. What also catches the eye are bright floral arrangements. “I do them myself. Having fresh flowers makes a space livelier,” Klangnok says. “I think it’s important to make your home work area inviting and beautiful because a beautiful space helps to inspire. When I’m here working I play background
Currently preparing to exhibit his latest collection of paintings in New York, although exactly when that will happen depends very much on the pandemic situation, the artist cites a latest personal achievement brought on by the lockdown. “I have been going to bed early and waking up to see the sunrise. I’m a night owl, never have been a morning person, so that’s quite an accomplishment for me,” he laughs.
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