'Vertical gardens are getting popular, and they are suitable for spaces like balconies, patios, courtyards even indoors, such as in the living rooms.'
Mr Theoh, who started his research and development into his own vertical garden system after he saw what French botanist Patrick Blanc did
WALLPAPER with floral or damask prints or stripes are aplenty at the shops, which is why Mike Tay's range of wallpaper is a refreshing change. Take a closer look at his wallpaper, and you may find a kueh dadar, a pineapple tart and an ang ku kueh on it.
The wallpaper is part of the Kueh Culture range of wallpaper which Mr Tay creates.
The former assistant vice-president for airtime sales started Onlewo, a wallpaper design company. Onlewo is a play on the Chinese phrase "an le wo" meaning a safe and happy home. Wallpaper was the rage back in the 1980s during Mr Tay's growing up years, but he didn't have any wallpaper in his home then. "What we had instead were very lovely retro-patterned curtains that reminded me of wallpaper I had seen in magazines and movies."
He decided to focus on wallpaper, as "it is a great alternative to a plain wall coloured by paint or other materials". To stand out from what is already available in the market, Mr Tay focuses on Singapore's heritage and culture. Apart from the Kueh series, there is another on Peranakan floor tiles, usually found in homes of old walkup apartments in Tiong Bahru and Joo Chiat.
Old apartments inspire Mr Tay. Besides the floor tiles, old window grilles with their geometric or filigree patterns were the inspiration for the Windows range of wallpaper.
Mr Tay has also designed wallpaper based on two neighbourhoods - Little India and Tiong Bahru, the latter being his home in recent years.
These two sets of wallpaper depict scenes from the area. On the Little India wallpaper, Mr Tay draws shophouses at Kerbau Road and Dunlop Street, alongside floral garlands, buffalos and elephants. The Tiong Bahru wallpaper contains Tiong Bahru Market, a block of SIT flats, a lion dance performer, cups of kopi-o and steamed baos.
"I would plan the narrative and the iconic elements that are crucial to telling the story in my head and then head down to take some photos to draw them out," says Mr Tay. "The icons are important and representatives in these two conserved estates, such as the market or the flats, which are key to telling the story about Tiong Bahru."
Mr Tay's drawings, which are either done by hand, or on computer, are digitally printed on environmentally-friendly and non-toxic paper. Each roll of wallpaper is 1.3m wide and 10m long, and retails from $750 to $1,200.
Each wallpaper comes in a variety of colours, including red, grey, turquoise and black, which makes them versatile. "The different colour choices offer varied moods and ways to pair with other furniture materials and style to create fun, calm or vibrant home ambience," says Mr Tay.
He adds that as the icons are digitally printed, he is also able to offer bespoke service on colour customisation which cannot be done for wallpaper bought off the shelves. Mr Tay is also able to do bespoke prints on wallpaper.
"I want the wallpaper to be part of somebody's 'an le wo', by creating prints that get people smiling and later, sharing their own stories," says Mr Tay.
Fluidity and energy
WHAT started off as a way to decorate the walls without having to spend too much money, has turned into a second business for Mike Foo, who is better known as the co-owner of bookstores, Woods in the Books.
Mr Foo and his wife, Shannon Ong, started Woods in the Books in 2009 at Club Street. That has since closed, but they have opened two more - at Millenia Walk and Yong Siak Street.
The locations are different, but a connecting feature are the illustrations on the walls which are done by Mr Foo.
"It all started simply because we had no budget to decorate the blank walls in our store, be it using wallpaper, doing a feature wall or even carpentry work," says Mr Foo. "Since I can draw and enjoy drawing in large format, having illustrations on the wall is a natural solution for us."
Before starting the bookstore, Mr Foo, who graduated with a diploma in communication design from Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, worked as a senior web and print designer.
His illustrations have a whimsical feel about them, such as a group of figurines playing about, on the shopfront of his Yong Siak Street store.
Mr Foo has also painted polar bears, whales, elephants and toy makers, among other pictures. "I love the fluidity and energy of lines, at times I like to add on splashes of colours," says Mr Foo, describing his illustration style.
His illustrations have caught the eyes of corporate clients and homeowners, who have hired him to draw their walls. Mr Foo's first commissioned wall mural was in 2010 for the Kids 21 store at Forum The Shopping Mall. Two years ago, he began drawing walls for homeowners and has not looked back since.
In homes, both landed and condominiums, most of the illustrations are for the living and bedrooms, and the occasional yoga room. Mr Foo says his most unusual illustration was of a big tree on a 4m by 3m high wall, and five horses on a 10m long wall. Each took about two full days to complete.
He adds that there is no minimum size to his illustrations, but the smallest he has painted is a 50cm by 50cm artwork.
Clients can request the illustrations they want. Mr Foo usually draws his pictures on paper before presenting them to the client. "Once they are sure they like a drawing, then I start drawing it on the wall," he says. Mr Foo uses acrylic paints for his illustrations. When doing large murals, he relies on a ladder to get to those hard to reach areas.
"For wall murals, I mostly do them in brush and ink, either in monochrome or colours depending on the clients' preference," he says.
His costs varies according to how complex and large the illustrations are. For example, the tree on the 4x3m wall costs $2,800.
Despite running two bookstores, Mr Foo manages to find time to do his illustrations. "The bookstores are still at the hand to mouth stage. I just have work round the clock when there are projects on hand, to prepare for the rainy days."
Living tapestry of plants
OUTDOOR lover Josh Theoh can make walls come alive, literally. The founder of landscape architecture firm Passionscape specialises in creating vertical gardens, where different varieties of greens are planted on walls.
"Vertical gardens are getting popular, and they are suitable for spaces like balconies, patios, courtyards even indoors, such as in the living rooms," says Mr Theoh, who studied engineering at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, but later decided to further his studies in landscape architecture in New Zealand's Lincoln University.
"I love the outdoors, nature, and designing," he says.
A year after he founded Passionscape in 2007, Mr Theoh started his research and development into his own vertical garden system after he saw what French botanist Patrick Blanc did. Mr Blanc is said to be the creator of vertical gardens - a living tapestry of plants that are grown on walls or columns.
Mr Theoh says that vertical gardens can be created both indoors and outdoors, so long as the "conditions are right". This means that there has to be natural light, which is the most ideal. In situations where it is not possible for natural light to filter indoors, "artificial lights will be installed so that plants are still able to grow", says Mr Theoh, who has designed vertical gardens in both landed homes and apartments.
To create a green wall that would have impact, Mr Theoh recommends a vertical garden that is at least 1.5m by 2m in size. The biggest he has done is a 5m by 2m vertical garden with about 400 plants.
He says that there are several vertical garden systems available. "I recommend the 'green jacket' system, as it is a modular system, and it is easy to maintain," says Mr Theoh. The grid-like planting system is mounted onto the wall. It can take from half a day to a full day for installation.
Pots of plants are then slotted into the "green jacket". Depending on whether the vertical garden is outdoors or indoors, Mr Theoh will pick a selection of plants accordingly. For indoor vertical gardens, he uses plants from the Begonia, Episcia, Ficus and Selaginella species. "The combinations of these plants with their different textures and character will give a beautiful 3D dynamic effect on walls," says Mr Theoh.
With his years of experience, Mr Theoh knows best how to mix the varieties of plants to be placed on the wall. And if you want to have your face on the green wall, Mr Theoh can do that too, even though he has not had such requests. "It is about choosing the right shades of greens to create a picture," he says.
It costs from $400 per sq m and above to install a vertical garden, depending on the type of planting system used, plant varieties, installation methodology, lighting required and availability of electrical and water sources. All these factors will affect the price of the vertical garden.
For homeowners who love plants but do not have green fingers, the vertical garden is an easy to maintain alternative to having potted plants. An automatic irrigation system is installed into the vertical garden so that there is no worry about the plants drying out or drowning in too much water. What homeowners have to do is merely prune the plants, and spray the occasional insecticide or fungicide, says Mr Theoh. "The vertical garden can last at least two or more years, depending on the types of plants. By then, the homeowner may tire of the plants, but I can always change and put in new varieties," he says.
Loud and vibrant
AZLAN Ramlan wants to raise the reputation of graffiti. "I want to make graffiti a fine art form, rather than it being seen as vandalism," says the graffiti artist, better known by his nickname Ceno2. He tags a '2' at the end of the nickname, because "I don't see myself as No 1."
Mr Azlan, 27, says that he has been doing graffiti since he was eight. At the tender age of 10, he was paid $50 for his first job, but he cannot recall who it was for, nor the picture he drew.
The Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts graduate, who majored in Western painting, is drawn to graffiti because, "it is very loud and vibrant".
Some of his recent works can be seen at Club Kyo in Cecil Street, where manga-esque characters dominate backdrops of waterfalls and phoenixes, and also at Bar-Roque Grill restaurant at Amara Hotel, where there is a portrait of a loutish cherub in a Babylonian afro guzzling wine.
Since starting his company Artkhalytis four years ago, he has also taken on residential jobs, from painting walls in flats, to apartments and even for landed homes, apart from commercial jobs. "I've done more than 100 projects, so many that I have lost count," he says. Most people know him by word of mouth.
One residential project was to paint a scene of Holland in the living room, complete with windmills and colourful tulips. Not only did he paint the walls, but even the ceiling too. That job took nearly two weeks to complete, with Mr Azlan putting in 16-hour work days. "The family gave me the keys to the home, and I would work during the day," he says. He adds that there is nothing that he cannot paint.
Elsewhere, he has turned a client's bathroom into an underwater world, with whales swimming all around.
He uses only two brands of spray paint - Nippon and MontanaCans. "The quality of the paint is better, and the coverage is more even, so it means not having to spray over the same area too many times," he says. He specially orders the paint, as most local hardware stores do not carry the colours that he wants.
While other graffiti artists may focus on doing bold scrawls or more street art styles, Mr Azlan says that his style is to do art that people would understand. "The pictures are close to everyone's hearts and can be easily accepted," he says.
For first time clients who may not be familiar with his work, Mr Azlan will do a sketch on paper before spray painting on the wall. But those who have seen his work, usually give him a general brief and let him come up with something creative.
For example, at Crust Bistro at Bayshore Road, he has painted a beach scene on the wall. "I came on site to feel the vibe of the place," he says. "Since it is near the beach, a beach scene is most appropriate."
A large coconut tree runs across the cafe's wall, and some tiny islands dot the background. "I found several beach pictures, and Photoshopped them together in my head, before coming up with this final picture," he says.
Mr Azlan does freestyle spray painting onto walls. "Sketching on the wall is a waste of time," he says. If he makes a mistake, he covers it up with a darker paint colour or paints something over it. Depending on the complexity of the project, he can use up more than 100 cans of spray paint at a time.
And once he starts painting, it is best to leave him alone, even though he does draw an audience. "I have my angsty face on," he says. Spray painting can be a lonely job, so classical and jazz music keep him company.
No job is too small for Mr Azlan, and what he charges depends on size and complexity, but be prepared to pay from $1,000 for his service.
What keeps him going aren't just the satisfied faces from clients, but rather, how his art can be talking points. Once he saw two strangers coming together and sharing their thoughts about his graffiti. "It is wonderful that my work can be an ice-breaker," he says.