Matthew Shang of Matthew Shang Design Office (MSDO) discusses the beautiful ways to combine modern influences with unique localised nuances

“A modern Asian approach presents the self-confidence of an Asian perspective that knows the world and takes the best from it while celebrating the local context,” declares Matthew Shang, creative director of Matthew Shang Design Office (MSDO). When translated into an interior, a modern Asian scheme would thus combine what Shang describes as “a global awareness of design but a subtle awareness of the nuances of Asian and Southeast Asian art, design and craft.”

The Singapore-based designer, who founder his namesake firm with his partner Paul Semple is well versed in marrying an international flair for interiors with elements relevant to each project's local context. The dynamic duo and their team have created stunning interiors for various restaurants and bars in the city state and other hospitality and commercial projects around the world. Recent projects completed by the firm include Revolver and Hamamoto, two strikingly different restaurants on Tras Street that respectively take a cue from Indian cooking traditions and Japanese aesthetics. 

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Matthew Shang, creative director of MSDO
Above Matthew Shang, creative director of MSDO
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Above Designed by MSDO, Hamamoto is a Japanese restaurant with a modern layout inspired by European theatres

Whether you’re looking to do a complete modern Asian interior makeover of your home or add a local touch to a space, these are some pieces to consider for your next decor project, as recommended by Shang.

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1. State Of Zen

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Above B&B Italia Ayana outdoor sofa and coffee table by Naoto Fukasawa, both from Space Furniture

Part of the appeal of this cross-cultural aesthetic is its subtle combination of traditional Asian elements with modern forms. Adds Shang: “Be brave, mix old and new, traditional Asian elements with modern forms. That is the modern Asian approach.”

The B&B Italia Ayana collection by Naoto Fukasawa from Space Furniture exemplifies this approach. Shang describes it as having an almost “fifties’ feel”, while the low height of the seats and coffee tables recalls the design of furnishings used in rooms with Japanese-style tatami flooring.

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2. Treasure Hunting

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Above Vintage ikebana vessels, from Aa Furniture

Souvenirs and vintage finds, such as these ikebana vessels sourced by Aa Furniture, can add character to your abode. “Embrace the breadth of original things: mix and match items, and celebrate your quirky collection of things,” says Shang. “Singapore is a melting pot, so enjoy showing that it is!”

3. Get Cosy

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Above Arflex Cross chair by Marcello Cuneo

Embrace a hospitable mood with an ample mix of comfy seats for everyone: “Social moments in Asian cultures mean so much that bringing comfort and ease to these gatherings should be encouraged and celebrated. Make your social spaces sing to accommodate a growing crowd or growing family,” says Shang. 

He highlights plush seating options such as the Arflex Cross chair by Italian designer Marcello Cuneo. “The low version of the Arflex Cross chair is wonderful, combining simplicity with comfort.”

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4. Lounge Easy

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Above Baxter Dharma outdoor sunbed by Studio Pepe from Space Furniture

Make a playful nod to the traditional Chinese daybed by incorporating a modern design such as the Baxter Dharma outdoor sunbed by Studio Pepe, available at Space Furniture. “I have long been a fan of the delicious forms of the studio's work; particularly this combination of exquisite materials and a graphic form,” says Shang.

5. New Weaves

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Above Gebrüder Thonet Vienna NYNY storage unit by Storagemilano from Space Furniture

Modern furnishings with hand-fashioned woven textures will complement a modern Asian scheme, as these are reminiscent of the traditional rattan pieces found in tropical abodes. Shang cites the Gebrüder Thonet Vienna NYNY storage unit by Storagemilano, available at Space Furniture, as one of his favourite designs. “I love this piece because it marries handcrafted elements with a modern, urban form,” he says.

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