An interior designer with a passion for furniture, Peter Tay believes that the pared-back beauty of a piece of furniture embodies the meaning of ‘form follows function’. When asked to name his number one furniture classic, many iconic designs come to Peter Tay’s mind, but he finally singles out the Easy chair by famous Brazilian modernist architect Oscar Niemeyer, simply because “every architect knows it”. To the celebrated Singapore-based interior designer and avid furniture collector, an iconic design is one that lasts decades like good architecture and defines the identity of a period.
In particular, the postwar 1950s and countercultural 1960s are his favourite periods, as they saw the birth of the modernist masters who represent a significant movement and style of design to him. Other design icons that strike him are Le Corbusier, Charlotte Perriand, Marc Newson, and Jean Prouvé. A particular favourite of his is Perriand’s Three-legged stool, which he acquired as a student at London’s Architectural Association School of Architecture in the 1990s and now keeps at home.
A brief tour of one of his collections (Tay has two offices and collections in Singapore) is a walk through mid-century Modernist to contemporary industrial design. Perriand’s Bibliotheque bookshelf snuggles with a Mies Van der Rohe Barcelona couch and Serge Mouille floor lamp, overlooked by a Moooi Horse lamp and Poul Henningsen’s Artichoke lamp, at the awe-inducing entrance. The collector – who mentions he has acquired almost everything in 1000 Chairs (Taschen, 2000) including Charles and Ray Eames, Hans J. Wegner, Verneer Panton, Philippe Starck, Marcel Wanders, and Ron Arad – loves and collects these items as pieces of art. Yet, the Easy chair is coveted by Tay because it’s no longer in production.
Unsurprisingly, Tay’s love for furniture plays a big role in his interiors. Although Tay studied architecture and later had a stint working for architects Stefano De Martino and Raoul Bunschoten in the UK, when he returned to Singapore about 10 years ago, he decided to “follow his heart” and pursue a career in interior design instead. He sees these fields as natural complements. “Architecture needs to be complemented by interiors, and interiors need to be complemented by furniture.”
With a modern aesthetic, Tay has established a niche for himself in luxury interiors predominantly designing private residences, apartments and showrooms, and is currently working on a number of bungalows in Singapore’s famous Bukit Timah and homes in The Marq and Sentosa Cove. A believer in form follows function, he explains that while form is actually very simple, design stems from a clear function. Instead of decoration, interior design is really about creating spatial quality. As for furniture’s role in this, “One furniture [piece] can tell the whole story.”