Interview: We Learn How To Make The Most Of Our HDBs

Interview With Denise, Founder Of Living DNA

When it comes to home décor, there’s no better person to talk to than Denise, the founder of Living DNA—an award-winning rug and homeware store located in Tampines. Last week, we sat down with Denise to pick her brain for some personal tips on how to beautify a home, and how we can make the most out of limited living space!

A TOUR OF DENISE’S FLAGSHIP STORE

To kick things off, Denise took us on a little tour around her store, starting with the handmade eco-friendly bathroom rugs from India, which are currently her store’s best sellers. “It’s great cause it’s something that you can chuck in your washing machine, but it’s also more interesting than the plain and boring ones people usually get for their homes,” she explained as she walked us through the array of uniquely designed pastel coloured rugs. I have to say, the bathroom rugs were really soft, and we couldn’t resist purchasing an ombre one for our office as well!

Of course, we can’t forget about the soft handmade rugs displayed on the floors, which are mostly sourced from India and Turkey. “India and Turkey are known for centuries of rug-making. What I like about them is that they’re modernizing countries, so you have many designers that use a mix of traditional and modern designs, which is seen in our carpets. Every single rug is woven in a slightly different way (be it through braids, crochet and so on), which makes them very textural,” she explained.

Sitting on the shelves of Living DNA were also modern Moroccan and Indian home décor pieces made in Kenya and Uganda. “This is where fashion meets interior,” she explained. “We partnered with a jewellery designer who makes Kenyan jewellery. She uses rusty-tones and art designs to make African piece with elevated style,” Denise added as she showed us the different vases displayed on the shelves.

WHY START A HOMEWARE STORE?

Having previously worked as a banker, we were curious to find out how and why Denise ended up starting a homeware store. “I liked my math and all that, but at the same time I started realizing that I wanted to do something on my own because I felt that was really my way forward,” she recalled.

Denise went on to explain that she strives to live as consciously as possible, be it through wearing sustainable clothes, or being mindful of the food she consumes. When she was planning the interior of her own house after getting married, she realized that many things are mass-produced and because of that, her home didn’t feel unique as most products were mass produced. With that in mind, Denise started hunting for unique home décor items when she embarked on her travels.

“When I got to India I found out that they had really good weavers, and when I got to Thailand, I met old families who made bronze or ceramic cutlery! They’re really good for everyday practical use, not just beautiful things to look and admire, so that’s how the passion grew,” she explained.

ON HER PERSONAL AESTHETIC WHEN IT COMES TO HOME DÉCOR

“I like more of an (as you can see), naturalized luxe bohemian look. Bohemian because I get things from everywhere during my travels, but I like it in a more elevated and sophisticated manner, and the secret to achieving that is to pick the right colours,” she illustrated.

Denise specifically chooses all the products in her store to be in soft colours and strong colours like blacks or reds only act as small finishing touches to her products. “When we go to the artisans, we actually dictate what kind of colours we want so that it would be easier for our customers to match the homeware with their regular contemporary furniture,” she added.

ADVICE FOR A SINGLE SEAMLESS AESTHETIC AT HOME

Denise excitedly shared an interesting 60-30-10 rule that one can apply with colour in order to create a single seamless aesthetic at home. That means, 60% of the house should be one colour, 30% should be a second colour, and 10% would be the third (which would usually take the form of a metallic hue).

“In my own home, 60% of it consists of more neutral colours like whites and woods, 30% of it is deep bright blue, (a little like Santorini blue), and the last 10% of it consists of silver,” she described.  

Denise went on to explain that when we stick to a colour, it becomes much easier for us to style our home. She also came to our newly furnished office when it was completely bare and recommended that we stick to one hue of metal as mixing metals would be a little tricky (we went with gold by the way).

WANTING TO ACHIEVE A MORE SPACIOUS LOOK IN A HDB

When asked about her tips for those who want to achieve a more spacious look with their HDBs, Denise revealed that sticking to the same colour scheme within the entire home will make a huge difference.

For example, when I told her that my favourite colours were grey and white, Denise recommended picking more textured greys like knitted materials for one room and perhaps be grey and white stripes or floral prints for other rooms. The main idea was to add variations to a single theme but sticking to an overall colour scheme.

This lets the eye continuously travel around a space, making it appear larger! When we use contrasting colours within a room, the eye tends to stop where there’s an obvious colour change, making the size of the room more apparent, emphasising how large or small the room really is.

THE HOME DÉCOR ITEM THAT MOST PEOPLE OVERLOOK

“I’d definitely recommend soft furnishings for any home. When you first move into a house, we buy things like a sofa, a dining table, or a TV console etc. But after all that, we often wonder how come our houses don’t feel like homes yet,” she said.

In order to keep your house from looking like a showroom, Denise recommends having something soft, be it a rug, throw blanket, or a cushion. “The moment you put something soft in a room, there’s already the mental connotation that this place is welcoming. A rug also works to put things together. For example in a living room setup, if you just put a side table or a coffee table, all of them don’t come together. However, once you put a rug, it puts the whole look together,” she added passionately.

ADVICE TO PEOPLE WHO HAVE YET TO FIGURE OUT THEIR AESTHETIC

Of course, being inspired by images of beautiful homes is helpful, but it’s not that simple when it comes to building an aesthetic for ourselves and our living spaces.

“I’d say, it takes experiences to discover your personal style, so don’t spend so much in the beginning. Even if you do a lot of research on Pinterest, discovering your personal style is really something you figure out over the years, as you travel or get exposed to different trends, realizing what are the things that you really like,” Denise said.

ON CURRENT HOME DÉCOR TRENDS

“I think an interesting trend that’s on the rise is that people’s tastes are becoming more individualistic. There are so many couples who are of a mixed culture or nationality right now, so their homes also reflect that mix of both individual’s style combined,” Denise noted.

Apart from that, Denise pointed out that wallpaper is back on trend! Instead of plain or neutral-toned walls, there is an increasing number of people who are opting for feature walls or walls with bolder colours.

Denise also mentioned that she feels very encouraged that more people are coming to appreciate handmade goods. Just like how more people are getting conscious with fashion, people are also interested to know the origins of their homeware and if they were ethically made.

“It’s nice to see these people ask these questions because you know that these are important things to think about. Many people now understand that if things are made ethically, they’re not always cheap, and that’s okay. You have something that lasts a long time and is also a conversation point. It’s like a bonus, rather than just something that is beautiful. It’s beautiful with a heart.”

If you’re planning to move into a new home, or are simply finding ways to spruce up your house, do check out Denise’s flagship store at Tampines, or her online store over here! It was such an insightful experiencing speaking with Denise about the different ways to beautify a home. And whether you’re a new homeowner, or are just looking to spruce things up, we hope this article has given you some newfound inspiration and insight!

Steph

Kathleen Leong

Hi, I’m Kathleen, but most people just call me Kat! I'm a fashion and beauty writer by day, and a serial meme sharer by night (also by day tbh). I love to binge watch Keeping Up With The Kardashians, have long conversations with my dog, and reminisce about the 90's. I also choose to live my life by our queen Rihanna's wise words: "Werk werk werk werk werk".

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