White Corporate is an interior design company which was set up in Singapore in 2001. It has three affiliated companies, White Space Living, Substance Living and White2 Partnership, providing design consultation and project management services for residential and commercial projects.
White Space Living focuses on Singapore’s public housing apartments, while Substance Living serves condominium, terrace house and bungalow projects, recently expanding into A&A (Addition & Alteration) work and construction.
White2 Partnership was formed in 2004 to focus on commercial projects like show flats, office, retail stores, F&B outlet, education facilities and hotels.
Roy On, business development manager, White Corporate said the owner of RI Stationers, Kathleen Loi, approached the company via its website to design her shop. She liked the concept and design which it proposed for the store and there was an easy chemistry between the client and the design team.
The brief was to design a store with a neutral palette to highlight its products, which are mainly locally designed journals, photo albums and greeting cards that come in a myriad of colours.
It was also asked to use cement screed finishing to create a raw feel and back-to-basics interior for the store ambience. The team was led by Thomas Tham and Ummi Nadhirah Binte Harun.
“We take every project very seriously. Especially for commercial projects, it is not just about having an impressive design. But a design that is functional for the client’s daily business operation,” said Harun.
“Thus, besides equipped with the latest commercial design trend, we must also have an in-depth understanding of the client’s business operation module and knowledge of their products or services. So that the design will be one that is exquisite and yet functional.”
On said the team conceptualised the store based on an origami theme and its intricate paper folds and got some design advice from Ted Givens, AIA (American Institute of Architects).
Givens, a partner at 10 Design in Hong Kong, is an award winning lead designer on projects ranging from exclusive resorts and hotels to large corporate headquarters. The overall concept of the design reflects the basic product of the store which is paper.
The design team incorporated a neutral colour palette to act as a backdrop for the colourful products that are on display and sold in the store and combined raw finishes like cement screed with a more refined finish like walnut wood and glossy white laminate to strike a balance.
“We put in extra attention to the carpentry detailing to suit the client’s needs. The display counter is customised to include pigeon holes for their pen and pencil products. We created a light box display shelf for the client to highlight their new arrival products,” said Tham.
“Another important feature is the glass showcase which our client uses to showcase how they can customise or personalise the products specifically for their customers.
“We designed the pull out trays to display their wrapping papers. In this way, customers can view the whole wrapping paper design easily.
“We have also designed the greeting cards display area as part of the whole feature wall.” To create a focal point, White2 Partnership designed an origami patterned ceiling at the centre of the store where the cashier is stationed.
Indirect lighting on the false ceiling and feature wall gives the store a soft ambience combined with halogen lights to highlight the products.
Two big dandelion shaped pendant lights, which hang down from the ceiling directly above the island counter, give the store an intimate, relaxed and cosy atmosphere.
Due to the shape of the plan, it also managed to create two store rooms for the client so that the owner gets to use one of them for storage and the other one as a mini office.
The whole design concept was fine tuned throughout the course of one month. After confirmation, it was given another month for the renovation work. As the store is located within a shopping mall, work could only be commenced during none retail hours.
“The workload was unlike residential projects, which usually have a deadline between one to six months depending on the scale of project,” said Harun.
“However, for commercial projects, whether it is an office or retail store, only two weeks to a month time frame is given to deliver the project. Thus, project management to ensure it delivers on time is very crucial.”
The floor plan that the team was given has an 800mm wide round column smack at the front of the store, which is unsightly near the entrance.
To hide it, White2 Partnership designed a window display feature with origami folds to showcase the new arrival products and on sale items.
It also designed a back lit signage that faces the oncoming human traffic from the walkway in the shopping mall to create awareness to the shoppers and capture their attention when they walk by.
There is another round column at the back of the store but instead of hiding it, the team turned it into a feature by using the client’s graphic prints to wrap around it. This helps to add some colour to the interior and gives the store a more cheerful vibe.
“Usually, when undertaking a commercial project, we will try our very best to fulfill the client’s request. This is because no-one knows their products better than themselves.
As an interior designer, we have a role to play in proposing ideas which can transform the store to highlight their products and turn it into a unique shopping experience for their customers,” said On.
“Their requirements also give us a better understanding of their store operation. Therefore, it is a piece of very essential information to us so that we can apply that during our design process. So when the project is completed, it will be one that is functional to their business needs.”
“Hence, we got our inspiration from our client’s vision and through analysing and understanding their needs; we turned the idea into reality.”
On added that in a cosmopolitan society like Singapore, every shop is now moving towards creating a branding of its own by using unique design concepts and materials.
“There is no one particular style that every client or designer follows right now. The challenge for retail store design is how we can blend in the design to suit the culture and lifestyle of their respective consumers,” he said.
“With globalisation and the social media, the Gen Y consumers are very well informed with their interests.
This group of customers do not buy a particular product just for what it is or simply engage a service plainly for their needs. What they are actually going after when buying is the entire concept behind a product.
Therefore, these pose a very challenging task to designers when it comes to designing a shop. “Now, a good shop design has to take into consideration all the above mentioned factors so that it can play a part in creating a good brand and engaging with its customers.”
White Corporate celebrates its 10th anniversary this year and has been steadily growing its client portfolio with more than 300 projects to date.
It recently expanded its team and has moved into a 3,500 square feet office. The new office has been equipped with the latest technology in web conferencing, which will enable the designers to communicate and do business with clients and partners from any part of the world. It is also working with local and overseas property developers on their residential, commercial and industrial projects in Singapore.
“After a decade establishing the company in Singapore, we are challenging ourselves to expand outward from our comfort zone,” added On. “We are looking forward to engaging in projects from overseas, specifically Asia Pacific and UAE. We want to establish ourselves as one of the leading design firms in these regions.
White Corporate is always looking at ways to maximise the potential of space to improve verbal and visual contacts, while maintaining an aesthetically pleasing design.”