At This Thoughtful Decor Store, You Can Bring Home the World
Living DNA tells the stories of traditional, artisan-made home accessories from around the world.
Stepping inside Living DNA’s flagship store at Furniture Gallery feels very much like entering a carefree holiday resort crossed with an art gallery.
Here, in an approximately 1,000 square feet showroom, a calming, sunset-coloured interior tastefully decorated with an array of exotic decorative wares – from handwoven viscose rugs to wall clocks made out of diatomaceous earth (a form of natural rock) – awaits everyone who visits.
The store’s unique, global-themed retail concept is a realisation of founder Denise Kaur’s plan to “take people away on a journey”, not unlike what she previously did with homeware and furniture brand, Departures and Arrivals.
“That said, this time round, we have evolved the concept to focus on mindfulness – the idea of being aware that the things around us carry meaning,” says Denise.
(Pictured above, Denise Kaur, owner of Living DNA)
Denise, formerly a banker, accomplishes this by splitting her time between managing the store and going on quarterly trips to source for unique, one-off products that are mostly made by using traditional materials and handicraft techniques.
“It all started when I first realised that we have never, as a society, really looked at mindfulness and awareness when it comes to the home,” she says. “We are growing awareness of what we eat, where our clothes come from. So, why not for the things we own at home too?”
Armed with this vision, Denise has since travelled to numerous countries, including India, Japan and Africa, returning each time with not only handmade pieces in tow, but also the stories behind them – which she eagerly shares through write-ups featured in-store as well as on social media.
Occasionally, before the items arrive, Denise gets a story to tell. “Once, our shipment of rugs from India was really late, so we rang up the supplier just to find out their truck driver was stuck in the highway for days with our goods because of a large group of pilgrims that crossed their path,” Denise recalls. “It was quite literally a cultural barrier for us!” [laughs]
When it comes to growing Living DNA’s inventory, the work does not stop with the curation and delivery process – Denise also does collaborations with local craftsmen in the countries that she visits.
The benefits are twofold: firstly, Denise gets to acquire firsthand knowledge about the cultural products that she brings back home, which she gets to share with customers; and secondly, she gets to collaborate with these craftsmen to create new items that are modernised for today’s homes.
Pointing out the various rugs on display, Denise explains that these partnerships allow her to tailor Living DNA’s offerings for local customers, by making them “more useful in Singapore homes”. For instance, she gets to give her design input about using rug materials “meant for the tropics” as well as “what colours appeal to the local crowd”.
Certainly, due to its modernisation, the resulting products can no longer be said to be fully traditional, but Denise firmly believes it is for the better.
“I guess, what I really wanted to add was, practicality. I feel very bad when people quickly bore of things and throw them away. Our items are designed to be used for a long time and because they have a story to tell, homeowners are more likely to keep them around,” she says. “In that sense, there’s personal meaning, and that’s very much real.”
What we saw at Living DNA
During our visit to Living DNA, we were introduced to a series of designer-quality, handmade products from around the world by Denise – here are the highlights!
1. Ikat Cushions from Davao, Philippines
“These ikat cushions are from my hometown of Davao in the Philippines, and they are made using a plant fibre called abaca, which is very hardwearing," says Denise.
"As for ikat, it’s a weaving technique that’s special too. Normally, you would weave the fabric first, before dyeing it. But ikat does it the other way around by colouring the threads first."
2. Lemnos Wall Clock
“These clocks are from a Japanese company called Lemnos, and each of them was designed in collaboration with a renowned designer. If you look closer, the fronts of these clocks are embossed with the chemical symbols SiO2, which represent Silicon Dioxide, or diatomaceous earth. Basically, it’s a type of natural rock that creates a surface soothing to the touch."
3. Wave Rug from India
“The Wave rug from India is currently my favourite in the store. The design is interesting. The weaver was inspired by the reflection of light on water, which is why the pattern varies between light and dark aquatic colours. The lines aren’t very definite either, which really adds to the organic look. I feel that this is a great addition to have, especially if you wish to introduce the element of water to your room.”
18 Tampines Industrial Crescent, #01-10B Furniture Gallery, Singapore 528605
Opening hours: 12 - 7pm (weekdays), 11am - 8pm (weekends).
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