Oki Sato

Taking Inspiration From Everyday Objects
Oki Sato, founder of Japanese design firm Nendo, has worked with a diverse clientele. Whether he is designing for Hermes or Cartier, Starbucks or Puma, one thing shines through – an elegant and simplistic touch that makes his work distinctive.

The Toronto-born designer might have won awards like Designer of the Year in 2012 by established design magazine Wallpaper and the Elle Deco International Design Award, but he remains humble. While many designers are eager to create a product with dramatic effect, Sato prefers to focus on the little things. His design philosophy is a single exclamation mark that captures the “ah-ha” moment experienced by many in daily life.

“It’s the little details that make you look at an everyday object in a new perspective. That’s what I want to achieve,” says Sato.

And that he has, with designs like the Lamp Shower for German fittings manufacturer Hansgrohe that makes you re-think what has become an everyday habit. Instead of a typical rainshower, Sato designed a light bulb and lampshade frame to have enough space in between, making use of electricity and water to create the effect of water falling from air. The mark of true commitment? Sato himself, suited up with a book in hand, gamely sat under the shower to show how the design works (even though he got soaked by cold water in the process).

Chess becomes a visually stunning  battle of wits with the Harcourt glass chess set.
Chess becomes a visually stunning battle of wits with the Harcourt glass chess set.

“Design needs to speak directly to the consumer and engage him,” continues Sato, who believes that this is also the reason why conventional daily objects are the best medium to express a designer’s idea and view.

His favourite chair, the Su stool – he designed it for American furniture company Emeco and which was showcased at Salone Internazionale del Mobile di Milano (Milan Furniture Fair) last year – is his example of fun yet functional design. “You can come up with many combinations of legs and chair seats just by using a coin to fix the parts for assembling and installation,” says Sato.

He was in town recently to curate a design exhibition titled Hidden – Unveiling Japanese Design, organised by the Japan External Trade Organization and Design Singapore Council. His designs can be found at local shops like Tokyu Hands.

Patrizia Moroso

Aiming For The Stars
For Patrizia Moroso, creative director of home-grown Italian furniture brand Moroso, design is in her DNA. As a girl, Moroso spent her childhood surrounded by fabric swatches and pieces of wood that made up her childhood treasures. Post-WWII Italy, in a state of smoke and ash, would serve to further inspire her. “After the war, what I wanted to convey in my work was happiness. Colours, new shapes; a break from the past,” says Moroso.

To do this, she worked with international designers to incorporate design research into what was once just a small family-grown business that focused on traditional sofa designs. Her forward thinking has not gone unnoticed, as Moroso was appointed Cavaliere del Lavoro by the previous president of the Italian republic, Giorgio Napolitano, last year. The award is presented annually to only the top 25 Italian business leaders who have distinguished themselves in various sectors of the Italian economy.

And it definitely helps that she seems to have a knack for picking out forward-thinking designers that go on to achieve big things. Take Spanish designer Patricia Urqiola, for example. “When I met Patricia in 1998, I could sense her passion and the energy of a great designer in her,” says Moroso. Urqiola was recently picked by The Financial Times as one of 10 designers who has shaped today’s aesthetic.

British designer Ross Lovegrove’s Diatom chair for Moroso draws qualities from nature.
British designer Ross Lovegrove’s Diatom chair for Moroso draws qualities from nature.

Little wonder then, that Moroso’s favourite chair is from the Fjord seating collection by Urqiola, designed in 2000 for her label. The chair has gentle curves and a shape that is split between the back and an armrest that mimics a broken seashell. “It speaks to me because the perfect symmetry is perfect for perfect times, but we are living in a broken world. The depth of the project and how the design is self-reflective are what Moroso stands for – constant self-awareness of the past, the moment, and what we have to do for the future.”

In Singapore, the Moroso brand is carried by furniture retailer XTRA.

Nikki Hunt

It’s In The Blood
Singapore-based interior-design firm Design Intervention might have four of its furniture designs shortlisted this year for the International Product Design Awards by leading UK interior-design magazine Design et al, but its founder Nikki Hunt was not always a design fanatic. In fact, the London-born shares that she “hated it” as a girl, as she often had to tag along on assignments with her interior-design mum.

It was being a mother herself that pushed her to consider switching careers from investment banking to something that allowed her to spend more time with her kids and, in the end, Hunt found her way back to the designing world. “It’s in the blood,” she says.

It started with freelancing for friends and, when her kids started school in 2004, Hunt decided to set up shop in Singapore. She chose a quiet corner of Loewen Road for the physical space, but her steady stream of clients has caused a buzz in that area.

“When I first came here, if you asked what an interior designer was, it would basically be a building contractor,” says Hunt. “Today, more people are realising that good design can change the way you feel.”

The Imperial Trellis Design table sits on a base that is inspired by Chinese lattice patterns.
The Imperial Trellis Design table sits on a base that is inspired by Chinese lattice patterns.

Especially when it’s personalised. “I think what’s happened in the last couple of years is a global influence in the design landscape. When you go to a shop in Singapore or in London, they all sell the same tulip table and Eames chair,” says Hunt. “And our clients want to create unique homes.”

So, Hunt decided to return to what she started designing before interior retrofits – loose furniture pieces. “We take on a project, and we put one or two unique furnished pieces that we create just for that particular home,” shares Hunt. Her most challenging project? Turning a stuffed crocodile into a functional furniture piece.

Hunt’s personal taste, however, leans towards contemporary elegance. Her favourite piece to date is the Imperial Trellis Design table, of which the design is based on Chinese lattice patterns. “I wanted to reinterpret the design in a modern way, so we worked the scale and we made it in polished stainless steel, with a mirror finish. But the lines of it are classic Chinese,” says Hunt.

The bespoke signature series by Design Intervention will be available for sale from this month.