We find out why The White Rabbit was such a milestone project for design firm Takenouchi Webb as well as their plans ahead

It’s hard to pick out a specific element that distinguishes a Takenouchi Webb project. But that also exemplifies the firm’s award-winning approach to design, which has resulted in timeless, elegant interior spaces that are unique to each site.

Helmed by British architect Marc Webb and Japanese interior designer Naoko Takenouchi, the dynamic duo are the creative minds behind some of the most memorable dining venues in Singapore; the practice also scooped up the Design Project of the Year accolade for the Straits Clan project at the Tatler Design Awards 2019.

From a restaurant-bar in a 1940s chapel (The White Rabbit) to a members’ club (Straits Clan) situated in a conservation shophouse, the firm is a practiced hand at melding each project’s historic significance with contemporary accents. The studio’s most recent projects include the Shang Social at Jewel Changi Airport, the first standalone restaurant for the Shangri-La Group, as well as other restaurant projects in the region.

How would you describe your design philosophy?
Marc Webb (MW)
We like to describe ourselves as an integrated design firm as we develop architectural and interior environments on all scales, from the architecture to the smallest detail. Whatever the scale or brief, we always approach each project the same way—as a carefully considered combination of materials, detailing and precision combined with practical problem-solving.
 
Which project would you consider as a key milestone?
MW
The White Rabbit is probably the most significant project for us as it was our first completed project in Singapore. It started our long-running relationship with The Lo & Behold Group, with whom we have done many more successful projects over the years. It is also where Naoko and I got married!

How has your design dynamic changed from working as a couple to managing a team?
MW
We are still a relatively small office, with 10 of us in total. This is a big change from when we started; Naoko and I used to work from the spare room in our apartment. We are still totally involved in every project that goes through our office. We are only able to do this due to the size of our office, but we feel this maintains the quality and consistency of our work.

What are some trends that will continue to shape the local dining scene?
MW
From a culinary perspective, there is certainly a continuing trend of natural and organic produce. From an operational perspective, restaurants are looking more towards using fewer service staff and exploring ways of using technology to achieve this.
 
With the rise of social media, there seems to be a greater desire for restaurants and bars to make a quick visual impact. This can sometimes detract from the overall design as clients look for that Instagram moment. We try to avoid this and always look at the design holistically and as something that will be long-standing. 

Tell us more about your plans ahead.
MW We currently have quite a wide range of projects in the office, with a mix of restaurant, hotel and residential. One recently completed project is for Shang Social at Jewel Changi Airport. This is the first standalone restaurant for the Shangri-la Group, and we are also working with them on some other restaurant projects in the region and in Japan, which is very exciting for us.