In “T Home”, we ask creative people to design a specific room in their proverbial dream house — or, essentially, to give us a voyeuristic glimpse into their unbarred notion of what living well means.
Of all the rooms in the standard house, the dining room is perhaps the most ritualistic. As a room that’s organised to serve a specific function — for people to, well, dine at — it’s the space that easily comes to mind when one thinks of family gatherings or holiday occasions.
“Food unites people,” says Low Chee Khiang, co-founder and principal designer of Singapore-based design firm, 932 Design Consultants. “I design dining rooms very frequently. In fact, I have to design one for almost every project. And I believe a dining room should embody the spirit of togetherness.”
While the idea of a house’s dining room is still synonymous to the camaraderie of communal eating at home, its design has undergone transformations over the decades, having been subject to the shift of tastes and economic climates. In simple colonial houses of the past, families ate in the kitchen. The dining room came into existence by detaching itself from the kitchen as a commodious place of its own. And when real estate price surged, it returned to being just an “area,” sharing an L-shaped space with an open kitchen in the far corner of a living room in a public housing estate.
Though one thing has remained the same throughout the decades: the dining room, be it a formal enclosure or a designated corner, is one of the many parts of a living space — never a detached standalone entity.
932 Design Consultants
“I want the nature and the materials that I use to be one with the space. I designed and incorporated the seats to be part of the structure rather than as separate chairs,” says Low.
So when we asked Low to design his ideal dining room, what came back was a refreshingly ambitious vision: a dining pavilion, removed from a house and set in an imaginary savanna-like setting, sequestered away from modern civilisation. “When you start to design contemporary spaces — for example, condos, HDB units or a landed property — these are the spaces that confine to very predictable dining rooms. There’s the standard table which becomes the starting point for you to decorate the dining rooms nicely. But, at this point in time, I feel my idea of the perfect dining room shouldn’t be restricted by its environment nor space,” the designer says. The time-strapped lifestyle of urbanity hardly lets anyone to really sit down and enjoy a meal, Low explains, so he thought of his dining pavilion as a reunion site: a place for him, his family or friends to inhabit together and eat “without having to think about what’s going to happen.”
Aptly named “Reunion Pavilion”, the escapist dining room is a cylindrical open-air chamber where a round table is planted below the bare solid oak flooring. Its 12 seats melds into the structure, rather than being separate pieces of furniture. When the resident of the pavilion is seated, their perception is in line with the panoramic window — white semi-sheer drapes billowing around it — that frames the surrounding field of nature.
932 Design Consultants
Of the circular silhouette of his dining pavilion, Low attributes it to its cultural symbolism. “I’m Chinese, and circles carry different meanings in the Chinese culture — continuity, unity, togetherness. This is what I feel a space should embody,” he says.
Right above the table, the circular canopy opens to a smooth skylight. The pavilion’s sense of lofty proportion and a lack of colour and adornment is counterpoised with raw, textured wood — its sparingly arrayed and geometrically precise contours evoking a meditative silence. Unbarred by embellishment, there’s a constant presence of wind and earth, where a permanent air of afternoon lingers.
To Low, simplicity is luxury. His method of subtraction means eschewing walls, or even the need for other rooms. The pared-back approach lets the role of a dining room be at the heart of it all. So what does a good dining room meant to be? “A space that’s really comfortable for you to sit and eat, and maybe enjoy and spend the rest of your day at,” says Low.
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