Cover An earthy palette produces a calming effect in this apartment

The local studio Evocateurs counts Hollywood star Jet Li and more notable tastemakers among their clients; here’s how the Singapore-based design firm stays true to its approach of crafting experiential homes, restaurants and other stunning venues

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a seismic shift in the way we live, with more people staying at home as part of the new normal. This has elevated the role of our abodes to personal sanctuaries in the truest sense; more people are remodelling their homes to create spaces that provide comfort in these unsettling times.

A personalised interior can provide much solace, while engaging all your senses. It is precisely this experience that design firm Evocateurs seeks to provide homeowners. Helmed by principals Lian Miew Ching and Jennifer Murray, the firm prides itself as “spatial provocateurs, sensorial craftsmen and style aesthetes”. It crafts homes that engage the five senses; as the designers explain, sensory perception merges with memory, resulting in a heightened appreciation of one’s abode.

“We design from a perspective of evoking a sensation, a memory, and an emotional response through the physical space,” says Lian. “Nothing we do exists in a vacuum; the feeling (of a space) is key (to our approach).”

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Evocateurs was formerly known as The I.D. Department (IDD), a firm under The Mill Group design consortium. The decision to rebrand the practice was made a few months ago to more accurately reflect its current scope of expertise. Referring to the name change, Lian says: “This (sensorial approach) is exactly what Jennifer and I were doing all along, we were just putting a name to it; one that expresses our way of working. It is precisely our unique selling point.”

Adds Murray: “We needed to showcase who we are now as a company, as opposed to who we were about 25 years ago (when the IDD launched).” Evocateurs employs fewer than 20 staff to “keep it more personal”, says Murray who, along with Lian, is personally involved in every project the firm undertakes.

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We design from a perspective of evoking a sensation, a memory, and an emotional response through the physical space.
Lian Miew Ching, principal designer at Evocateurs

Both designers bring a wealth of experience to the table. Lian has worked in hospitality design for over two decades, crafting luxury properties such as The St. Regis Zhuhai, The Ritz-Carlton Jakarta and Hotel Indigo Shanghai. Murray graduated as an architect, working at firms such as Broadway Malyan in the UK and Jackson Teece in Australia on residential and commercial projects before switching to interior design as she preferred the more personalised approach. “We come from different backgrounds, which is perfect for Evocateurs because we each have a completely different design flair and experiences,” says Murray.

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We come from different backgrounds, which is perfect for Evocateurs because we each have a completely different design flair and experiences.
Jennifer Murray, principal designer at Evocateurs

These experiences have served Evocateurs well. To date, the firm has worked on a wide range of commercial projects that include the VIP lounge at American glass artist Dale Chihuly’s exhibition at Gardens by the Bay, restaurant-bar Vue at OUE Bayfront, Alchemist café and Covette aesthetic clinic, to name a few. The studio also regularly collaborates with celebrity homeowners, including Singaporean fashion designer Benny Ong and Hollywood action movie star Jet Li; the firm put its unique touch on the latter’s Singapore abode.

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In essence, Evocateurs’ distinctive approach triggers and amplifies the senses, activating sight, touch, sound, smell, taste, and memory. “If I were to design a resort, I would first think about the feeling of walking barefoot on the sand, the warm sunlight on your face, and the breeze in your hair,” says Lian. 

According to the designer, it’s all about translating intangible sensations into physical spaces, while crafting interiors that evoke a feeling or a fond memory. “When people don’t eat out so often anymore, how do you bring the fine-dining experience into a private home? It’s not just about making a beautiful dining room; you have to understand the fine-dining experience,” she explains. “You can invite a private chef, have an area where you can enjoy an aperitivo with a view, and another area where the wait staff can prepare the drinks out of guests’ sight—it’s about bringing that extra layer, on top of designing a beautiful dining room.”

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Anticipating these needs and finding solutions to the requirements set by the client are all part and parcel of the studio’s bespoke approach. “Designers are problem solvers, first of all,” says Lian. “We develop an intimate knowledge of the clients’ lifestyle and put ourselves in their shoes; as consultants, we guide and help them to achieve their goals.” 

Murray shares that the projects she enjoys the most are the ones where clients “give us freedom to be designers”. One client approached the firm stating that she loves flowers, candles, baking, and the smell of macarons. “I was already starting to get an idea of her lifestyle,” says Murray. So Evocateurs fashioned a patisserie-style kitchen for her, taking into consideration all the things she loves. Here, she can have afternoon tea with her friends, and enjoy their homemade baked goods together. Another client adores a particular scent, so the firm infused her whole space with that fragrance. “As soon as she steps into the house, she smells her favourite scent,” says Lian.

While the ongoing pandemic restrictions have impacted its workflow, the firm is striving to circumvent these challenges as best as it can. Lian cites the inability to meet clients in person as one stumbling block. “We’re service providers; even if the meeting is held through Zoom, a certain level of service is lost in that translation, particularly with overseas clients,” she says. 

The firm relies on its overseas vendors to produce separate sets of materials for clients in such cases. “And even if we can’t meet the client in person, we ask hypothetical questions to help us (understand) their personality.”

Looking ahead, Evocateurs intends to grow its expertise as designers, land more projects in Europe, and maintain its standing in the local market. “We don’t want to conquer the world, but we have a reputation as top designers in the luxury market in Singapore, and we want to continue with that,” says Lian. “When someone wants mind-blowing design, (we want) the only name they will think of (to be) Evocateurs.”

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