How A Local Design Firm Turned Laminate Into A 3D Piece Of Art
With heavy emphasis on collaboration and experimentation in the design process, creative director Dennis Cheok’s approach to every project—whether a space, product, or graphic—begins with a blank slate. “We start each project free of pre-conceptions,” explains Cheok, who leads interdisciplinary practice Upstairs_ x In-Expat. “We seek design cues through the brief, the locale, the materials. It’s a lot to do with asking the right questions in order to tell a good story—both to ourselves and to the clients.”
Helmed by Cheok, the all-in-one design consultancy was created in partnership between design practice Upstairs_ and carpentry studio In-Expat. After a collaborative process of editing and refining to determine the project’s essence, the creative team conceptualises and experiments with design strategies to translate that essence into an intentional, meaningful, and tangible manifestation. Cheok describes this cerebral approach as part strategic thinking and part fate: “We never know what might inspire us in a particular time and place.”
As the firm’s design approach is never stylistically driven, representing the firm’s aesthetic style in an original artwork of Arova laminates was, Cheok admits, quite the challenge. For inspiration, Upstairs_ x In-Expat turned their attention to the nature of the material itself.
“Laminate is typically conceived of as a flat, two-dimensional material; designed only to be seen from the front, its back and edges intended to be disguised from sight,” says Cheok. To challenge these notions of how laminate is perceived, Cheok and his team refashioned laser-cut pieces of the 1mm-thick in Serieux Snow into a striking three-dimensional matte-white object, measuring 40cm on each side. He quips: “Besides making a statement about its existence, the Snow Form makes a pretty good stool too!”
Cheok also likes to incorporate what he calls “easter eggs”: little and often nostalgic design touches that add an additional layer of meaning and soul to each project. This particular artwork’s easter egg is a small brass stud, positioned at its top corner; it’s a nod to the ubiquitous brass fastener used to bind the printed design decks that the design consultancy presents to clients.
(Related: Art Talk: Jeffrey Deitch On What Makes Good Art)
Arova is located at 7 Mandai Link, #04-03 Mandai Connection, Tel: 6363 1661
Art direction and production: Khairul Ali
Photography: Cai Hui Xin/ Calibre
This article was adapted from a story in the June-July 2018 issue of Singapore Tatler Homes.