Cover Tiong Bahru desk from Scene Shang

Bring a slice of Singapore home with furniture and decorative art that pay homage to our local culture and heritage

This article was first written on March 24, 2021 and updated on August 3, 2021.

There are many things to love about Singapore. Whether it’s the vibrant food scene, the iconic landmarks and architectures, or the hidden gems in charming neighbourhoods, our sunny island holds a plethora of appealing factors. If you’re looking for charming mementos of Singapore, these keepsakes crafted by artisans and local designers will definitely help commemorate your love for the Lion City.  

See also: How the Tatler House Singapore Shophouse Celebrates its Local Roots

1. Commune

With a focus on creating contemporary pieces through impeccable craftsmanship and quality materials, Commune stands out in the market with their stylish contemporary designs. The homegrown label designs with an eco-friendly touch in mind, featuring sustainable and recyclable materials such as ethically-sourced wood as well as lacquers and coatings with low lead content. Each piece is also crafted to fit a variety of spaces, including apartments, so as to provide versatile functionality. Its sister label Alt.o by Commune features collections in larger dimensions that are suitable for landed houses with spacious open-plan living and dining areas.

Our Pick: Flint dining set

This chic dining collection features an extendable dining table and four side chairs. Crafted from solid oak wood, the contemporary set features a timeless mid-century modern design aesthetic. Flaunting a streamlined Scandinavian appeal, the refined pieces will look at home in any stylish abode.

Available from Commune

See also: How Local Design Brand Commune Builds On Its Family History Of Furniture Making

2. Photo Phactory

Inspired by Singapore’s vibrant culture, photographer Valley Arora first started local lifestyle brand Photo Phactory to combine her love for photography with our island’s colourful heritage. The photos that Arora snapped of colourful shophouses around the island served as inspiration for Photo Phactory’s array of products, which includes serving trays, coaster sets, placemats, and more.

Designs that connect the past and present with vivid colours and a local flavour are the hallmarks of decorative items from the homegrown brand. 

Our Pick: Peranakan Tiles tray (College Emerald)

Bright and colourful, this serving tray draws inspiration from the ceramic tiles that once lined the abodes of traditional Peranakan homes. Crafted from durable wood, the eye-catching tray features dynamic motifs that are placed together to form a stunning collage that celebrates Singapore’s vibrant heritage.

Available from Photo Phactory

3. Akar de Nissim

Homegrown furniture brand Akar de Nissim is known for its stunning and elegant furnishings that are crafted with meticulous attention to detail. The esteemed brand blends cross-cultural elements with fine craftsmanship to produce distinct designs.

Their métier is their signature 10-layer lacquer process, where artisan craftsmen expertly layer each stunning creation with vibrant lacquer. Each piece is meticulously hand-polished after, which results in a luxurious shine and smoothness that radiates.

Our Pick: Iris coffee table

Akar de Nissim’s signature bestseller, Iris, boasts the brand’s unique ‘squircle’ (square-circle) design. The statement-making coffee table can be created in a variety of finishes, whether it’s a quietly elegant straw marquetry tabletop or Tahiti shell mother-of-pearls in a stunning starburst effect. Fully handcrafted and hand-polished, the table presents the best of both form and function.

Available from Akar de Nissim

See also: How a Minimalist Local Furniture Brand Combines Its Asian and European Influences

4. Louise Hill Design

Singapore-based designer Louise Hill creates colourful and eclectic art pieces through her eponymous brand. Hill taps into her background in graphic design and photography, mixing her artistic skills with her love for Asia.

Using a vibrant combination of colour and imagery, Hill’s multilayered prints exhibit Singapore’s rich culture. Her prints of Singapore are captivating and spirited; each piece is inspired by various trinkets and places that Hill comes across, and features a mixture of local architecture, vintage homeware and embroidered fabrics.

Our pick: Singapore Shophouse

This colourful artwork created by Hill reflects Singapore’s deep cultural heritage with historic shophouses and tiffin carriers of yore.  It weaves in a traditional Peranakan colour palette alongside an array of vintage embroidered fabrics, tiles, tea flasks and tiffin carriers. Vibrant and colourful, the beautiful collage delivers an abundance of inspiration and liveliness.

Available from Louise Hill Design

See also: This Artist Creates Eclectic Collages Inspired By Singapore and Her Love of Vintage Style

5. Scene Shang

Introduce classic eastern touches to your space with Scene Shang’s chic and contemporary pieces. With roots planted in a rich Asian heritage culture, the Singaporean furniture, homeware and lifestyle label offers luxurious modern pieces designed for the abode. The team at Scene Shang work closely in hand with traditional artisans from around Asia to design a range of heirloom furniture and decorative fittings, resulting in unique pieces with distinctive backstories.  

Our pick: Tiong Bahru desk

Constructed out of solid elm wood, this contemporary desk is part of the brand’s Tiong Bahru collection. The pieces in the collection are inspired by the classic Art Deco architecture that was built during the 1930s in the Tiong Bahru neighbourhood. Shaped by Art Deco lines and curves the timeless desk piece is framed with elegant powder coated stainless steel frames.  

Available from Scene Shang

6. Onlewo

Creating pattern designs with stories is the modus operandi for local design studio Onlewo. Taking inspiration from its local Singaporean roots, the brand puts a contemporary twist on prints that are inspired by the culture, heritage, places, and food in Singapore and Asia. This creates a recognisable collection of pattern designs that resonates with those who live in Singapore. 

Onlewo’s unique designs are available in a mixture of varying expressions and colour options. Besides showcasing their iconic pattern designs on wallpapers, upholstery and curtain fabrics, the brand also creates them on clothes and accessories, as well as furniture and homeware such as lamps, ottomans and coasters.  

Our pick: Kopi Velvet Ottoman with Brass

Inspired by the iconic traditional Singaporean breakfast of kopi-kaya-loti—where one tucks into a hearty breakfast consisting of toasted bread overflowing with kaya and butter, soft-boiled eggs and a cup of steaming hot traditionally-brewed coffee—this ottoman reflects a part of Singapore’s vivid food culture. Bright and colourful, the ottoman is crafted with velvet fabric and accented with a solid brass base for a luxurious touch.   

Available from Onlewo

7. Supermama

Homegrown lifestyle label Supermama offers locally designed homeware and souvenirs. Founded in 2010 by Singaporean couple Edwin Low and Meiling Lee, the brand features porcelain ware and tableware crafted with a unique Singaporean design approach. Most of Supermama’s pieces are created by some of the finest craftsmen in Japan.

See also: How Supermama Founder Edwin Low Overcame Obstacles to Grow a Unique Singaporean Brand

Our pick: House of Stories Plate from the Singapore Blue Collection

Featuring a custom motif designed by Tatler Homes Singapore, the iconic shophouse windows printed on the plate symbolises a way of seeing and sharing a glimpse into the lives of those who reside within. Each piece is carefully crafted by artisans from Japanese porcelain brand Kihara in Arita.

As part of the Supermama Singapore Blue collection, which features the collaborative works of 20 homegrown brands and designers, the back of each plate features the Merlion Kamon emblem.

Available from Supermama Store online

8. Emperor’s Attic

Led by owner Chantal Travers, the Emperor’s Attic team sources for one-of-a-kind furnishings that are independently authenticated as a genuine antique, vintage or reproduction that has been traditionally hand-crafted by an artisanal craftsman.  

Besides retailing vintage and vintage-inspired statement pieces, Travers also offers a revolving collection of Singapore- and Asian-inspired artworks. These are created by varying locally-based artists, of which currently includes Elena Merlina, Diana Francis, Louise Hill, Deborah McKellar, John Mathis of Tatsu Maker Works.

Our pick: Warwick chair by Layard Interiors

Classic and casual, this rattan chair introduces a tropical theme into any space—perfect for our sunny island. Designed by Layard Interiors, the Warwick chair is named after founder Anna Layard’s mentor, friend and designer Warwick Purser. The statement piece introduces a breezy contemporary chic look into any space.

Available from Emperor’s Attic

See also: Enrich Your Home with Pieces of History and Local Culture by Shopping at Emperor’s Attic

9. Timeless Gifts

Up your gifting flair with one of the many charming local pieces that Timeless Gifts offers. Established in 2018, the platform features premium local art, fabric collections, and other notable memorabilia. The shop is helmed by Zak Lo, owner and principal art consultant at Living with Art, a local art gallery that showcases an array of works by artists worldwide.

Each piece at Timeless Gifts is individually handpicked and curated to best showcase and celebrate Singapore's multicultural heritage. These pieces make the perfect presents for friends looking to own local keepsakes in their homes.

Our pick: Royal Blue Peranakan Kamcheng Artwork by N’Nel Painting

A classic Peranakan porcelain kamcheng takes centre stage in this intricate art piece. The kamcheng, otherwise known as a ‘covered jar’ in the Hokkien dialect, features elaborate motifs in the form of peonies and a peacock. Done by contemporary artist Nathalie Laoué of N’Nel Painting, the framed print infuses a dose of colour and Peranakan charm.

Available from Timeless Gifts

See also: Living With Art Founder Zak Lo Found His Creative Calling By Opening A Gallery

10. Talking Textiles

Inspired by Singapore’s rich heritage, Talking Textiles creates artworks and textiles that reflect our island’s melting pot of cultures. An art and design studio founded by South African artist Deborah Mckellar, the studio’s colourful pieces are created with layers of stitch, remnants of fabric, silk-screened images and printed patterns. Mckeller, who’s based in Singapore, harnesses her experience in textile design and mixed media art to create original artworks. 

Our pick: River City Canvas Limited Edition Print

Available in a limited-edition run of 20 canvas prints, this made-to-order artwork by Talking Textiles features Singapore’s iconic Marina Bay skyline. The canvas print combines acrylic painting, silk screen printing, fabric appliqués, stitchwork and wave motifs on a linen canvas. Coated with a protective layer, the print is resistant to scratches, stains and water damage.

Available from Tatler Homes Curates

11. Ipse Ipsa Ipsum

Launched in 2016, Ipse Ipsa Ipsum offers unique handcrafted furniture and artefacts. You won’t find any mass-produced furniture here; instead, each piece produced by the brand is a careful collaboration between the designer and artisan. Individuals across various design disciplines work together and produce original wares.   

No two pieces are identical at this local design brand. Each handcrafted product has variations in tone and details, resulting in exceptionally distinctive pieces. Traditional techniques such as hand etching and nickel plating are implemented here, with a contemporary twist.

Our pick: The Palm Tree Lamp

This eye-catching table lamp will steal the limelight in any room. Available in two differing metal finishes, antique brass and polished steel, the lamp had its glare of publicity when it was featured in the Hollywood blockbuster Crazy Rich Asians. Make time to rewatch the film if you didn’t catch the standout lamp during your first viewing; you might be able to spot dozens of other pieces from the local brand in the film as well!  

Available from Ipse Ipsa Ipsum

© 2022 Tatler Asia Limited. All rights reserved.