Cover Available at Space Furniture, the Poliform Senzafine walk-in closet is one of the open-shelving options popular among homeowners right now

Whether you’re contemplating new configurations or refreshing your existing cabinetry, experts share clever designs to consider for an inspired refresh

A home is the sum of its parts, and cabinetry plays a fundamental role in its interior design. Beyond the functional purpose of providing storage, such bespoke joinery can also elevate the overall aesthetics of a space.

“Think about cabinetry as a form of defining space,” says Rene Tan, co-founder of homegrown studio RT+Q Architects. “Cabinetry (can be like) little buildings, rather than little things that fit into corners.”

Zurich-based interior designer Ina Rinderknecht agrees. “Cabinetry offers you a large creative playground,” she says. “Think outside the box to create a statement piece; there are so many decorative options and materials one could use, from wood and glass to wallpaper and metal mesh.” She also recommends incorporating ambient lighting in your display shelves to highlight the decorative pieces you’d like to showcase.

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In a tropical country like Singapore, warm temperatures and intense humidity can easily affect the condition of your wooden furnishings. Give your cabinetry a wood-friendly environment to extend its lifespan. “Moisture should be wiped from surfaces immediately to minimise damage,” says Rinderknecht. “Wood expands as humidity increases and shrinks as humidity decreases. You can use dehumidifiers and air-conditioners to control excess humidity.”

Tan agrees: “Air-conditioning dries the space, so moisture will not build up.” Here, we glean tips from the experts on how you can select the best pieces for your home and keep them in tip-top shape.

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1. Look for open-concept shelves

Among the popular designs right now: open-shelf options that take a cue from fashion boutiques. “We are seeing an increased interest in open-concept wardrobes that are finished in metallic lacquer—which has always been a popular choice—as well as leather,” says Isabella Lim, senior marketing executive at Space Furniture.

Consider replacing old sideboards with standout accent pieces that also act as a focal point in your home. “Clients are (increasingly) seeking out cabinetry that is not only functional, but also enhances the spatial design,” says Lim. “There has been a growing interest in products that are out of the norm, such as the Edra Scrigno cabinet.”

2. Elevate a blank canvas

If you’re commissioning bespoke cabinets, Chloe Elkerton, founder and creative director of E&A Interiors, suggests experimenting with a mix of colours and materials to create a layered look. “Add details such as moulding, groove lines, or a trim to stop carpentry from looking too flat,” she says. “Consider incorporating arches, or use rattan-inset panels to add texture as well as a natural touch.”

3. Switch out your drawer knobs

While completely overhauling your home’s joinery might sound like the best way forward, it isn’t the only way. If your cabinets are in good condition, consider giving them a new lease of life by adding decorative elements; it’s also a more sustainable method to update your abode with a decor refresh.

Switching out the handles and hardware is a simple yet impactful way to transform an existing piece. “You can turn a ho-hum kitchen or vanity into a masterpiece just by changing your hardware,” says US-based designer Michelle Nussbaumer. “I don’t think people realise how important hardware is. This small change can make a huge impact!”

4. Pattern play

Another tip: try applying patterns onto the shelves. Whether you use a wallpaper or a decal, the end result can create a fresh and modern look. “Use a beautiful patterned wallpaper as a backing on cabinetry such as a bookcase; this will add colour and pattern to a space,” says Elkerton. “Stencils are also a good way to update a plain chest of drawers and create pattern and texture.”

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5. Consider colour

You can also consider repainting your cabinetry in a new hue. “Colour is very important—be bold and use strong colours on carpentry,” says Elkerton.

Rinderknecht agrees, while advising that homeowners should consider leaving this to the professionals so they don’t risk damaging their beloved furnishings. “(While) giving your cabinets a few coats of paint can change the look of your cabinetry quickly, more precise treatments such as sanding, staining, repainting or refinishing depend on the existing finish of your cabinet,” she says.

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6. Think vintage

Refurbished pieces from vintage stores can also make beautiful additions to your home, while adding a touch of history to your interior. “A restored piece made of good solid wood can last a few generations,” says Brillyn Toh, managing partner of local vintage furnishings retailer Hock Siong & Co. “Compared to furnishings made from composite board or plywood, the quality of solid wood furniture is unbeatable.”

7. Add wooden warmth

Desmond Lee, founder of vintage Scandinavian furniture store Copan, agrees, highlighting the allure of thoughtfully crafted furnishings. “A well-made vintage piece that has been restored the right way can be expected to maintain its lustre and appearance for decades if it’s well taken care of by its owners,” he says. “In addition, timber varieties such as Brazilian rosewood, used in the past for furniture-making, have since become endangered. Refurbishment and restoration is hence a more cost-effective and environmentally friendly option.”

Tan concurs. “Rather than start afresh, we try to work with what’s available and make the best of the situation,” says the architect. “These challenges normally produce surprisingly interesting results; we don’t simply destroy things in order to be creative.”

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