Cover Amanda Gunawan and Joel Wong, co-founders of OWIU Design

OWIU Design co-founders Amanda Gunawan and Joel Wong boldly explore diverse creative trajectories with their interdisciplinary practice that crafts soulful spaces, homeware and custom furnishings

“The only way is up”—that’s the forward-thinking motto of Los Angeles-based firm OWIU Design; its name is an acronym of that creative maxim. “We believe it is our duty to make sure that a space is not just built to last, but also built to evolve with its inhabitant,” says Amanda Gunawan, who co-founded the firm with her partner Joel Wong.

The duo met in Singapore—Indonesia-born Gunawan was raised in the city-state from a young age, while Wong is Singaporean—and they both studied at the Southern California Institute of Architecture in the US. 

They established OWIU Design in 2018 after a year spent working at Morphosis Architects. “We chose Los Angeles as our base as we felt like there is a very strong and supportive creative community. There are also a lot of opportunities from the design and build aspects,” explains Wong. The firm notably worked on a recent home renovation for actor Henry Golding in Los Angeles. 

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The firm has worked on projects spanning from cafes to luxury homes, some of which belong to celebrity clients. In Singapore, the studio transformed the interior of the office lobby for ADDP Architects and has also designed the interiors of dining venues for hospitality group Proper Concepts, which include Rappu Handroll Bar, Mezcla and GOHO Kaiseki.

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Materials play a key role in their multidisciplinary projects; in fact, the pair were so taken by the build aspects of one of their early projects, Biscuit Loft, that they started Inflexion Builds, which runs its own woodwork shop.

“We have always been about thoughtful design and careful craftsmanship,” explains Gunawan. “We were so hands-on with building Biscuit Loft and we realised how important it was for us to control the construction of a project. And once you cross that path, you can’t go back.” 

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Never one to rest on their laurels, the duo are also developing the studio’s fabrication capabilities, and are also experimenting with producing custom furnishings. They have also launched OWIU Goods, a product line offering ceramic homeware, after the design team found an interest and affinity with making ceramics during a company bonding activity.

“We got really into it, and everyone kept making them,” Wong recalls. The firm started selling the excess pieces, and have since also offered custom vases and tableware to clients. 

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Creative and curious, the architects remain compelled “to propel design forward”, with expanding the studio’s capabilities. As Gunawan puts it: “We believe in being on an upward trajectory.”

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