Summer All Year Round

Working closely with its clients and becoming friends with them had allowed this interior design firm to make a name for itself. But its owners say the best is yet to be

It is common to hear bankers leaving their high-paying jobs to become chefs and yoga instructors, but in the case of Larry Lim, things turned out to be a tad different.

Three years ago, armed with an MBA, Lim started contemporary interior design outfit Summerhaus D'zign. He made the decision to climb off the corporate ladder after being inspired by the entrepreneurs e met during his stint at the Bank of East Asia. Motivated to take after their footsteps, he took the plunge, "I had to try. I didn't want to grow old regretting nor doing it."

Interior design seemed the obvious choice, since he could leverage on the expertise and skills of his wife, Jess Koh, herself a 10-year veteran. After convincing her, he registered Summerhaus D'zign and six months later, bade his banking career farewell to focus solely on his new business.

"We hope to become the interior designer of choice for high-end condominiums and landed property owners," says the entrepreneurial 32-year-old, who oversees the strategic direction of the firm, while Koh helms the design team.

At Summerhaus D'zign, every client is a personal friend and they are encouraged to get heavily involved in the design process to create homes that are customised exactly to their needs and wants.

A sense of novelty is also is differentiating factor from its competitors. "We aim to create something new in every project we embark on. Every project must not look the same as the previous," explains Lim.

Client satisfaction ranks high in importance. The beauty of a design is subjective, which is why we firmly believe in only incorporating details that will appeal to our clients," reveals Koh , when asked about her design philosophy.

No surprise then that it has a satisfied stable of customers and Summerhaus has grown today from a team of two to six, with turnover surpassing the S$1 million mark in March this year. Its portfolio too has evolved from newly-built condominium projects, to resale units and now, landed property. 

Earlier in the year, it was also nominated for the Asia Pacific Entrepreneur Award 2015, organised by Enterprise Asia, where it won under the Most Promising category.

But Lim is not allowing them to rest on their laurels yet. He is in this for the long-term, and has even envisaged where Summerhaus D'zign will be 20 years from now. In additional to regionalising the business and expansion into different project types such as commercial work, he is also looking at vertical integration.

"We can evolve from interior design to architecture, and possibly a boutique developer, where we leverage on the expertise of partners to purchase land and build houses for sale. There is still much to do as Summerhaus grows."

10 Minutes with Jess Koh

What is trending in home interiors, and how to prepare to for that impending renovation - Summerhaus D'zign's principal designer provides all the answers

What should homeowners prepare before meeting with the interior designer?

Homeowners should come ready with photographs of homes they like, and tell us what they like about them (e.g. colour scheme, layout, shape etc). They should also think about their current problems - for instance lack of storage space, bad experience with certain materials - and create a wish list for their new home.

What is the most popular style homeowners are asking this year?

We see an increase in request for homes to look like hotels - something opulent and grand like a five-star hotel, that also looks expensive. Earth-tone colour scheme are also very popular.

What will you recommend homeowners do with awkward corners, or unconventional spaces?

Factors like size and location of the corners affect what can be done. Typically, we can transform those areas into a sitting area, cosy corner for the family, accent space or even regularise the shape if it is not a large area.

What's the most common advice you've had to give?

Homeowners should base their decisions on what they like instead of following trends. A home is a private sanctuary so it is best not to design it like a "museum" - nice at a glance or two, but the novelty wears off after a while. And if it's something they really want, I'll be happy to help them realise it.

What comprise a contemporary design scheme?

Contemporary interiors reflect what is current, so the elements change depending on what is in favour. For example it is common to have hints of minimalism, matched with monochromatic colour schemes. Natural elements like wooden finishes, or even industrial elements like a cement wall, can be incorporated. I like clean, open spaces where I can add elements adopted from modern designs such as lighting and colour contrasts. 

How do yo approach the issue of what to do with the existing furniture?

We always ask clients if they have any existing furniture to incorporate into the new design scheme. Sometimes, we can use them, or offer a design style to complement the furniture. But we believe in being upfront - if it doesn't fit, we will say so. We had a homeowner who wanted an English style home, but fitted out with their antique Chinese rosewood furniture. After seeing the initial renderings, the homeowner agreed to a change of design style instead.