Calling her work just pretty or Instagram worthy is a disservice because Lim Siew Hui’s approach to beautifying spaces is more of an experience architect, one that crafts a vibe and “how a person feels in there”.

Treating each space with an eye “about the [human] flow and how it moves”, is one of the many reasons every restaurants and bar she’s worked on has a distinct style and character to it. Here’s how she does it.

The importance of anchoring a space

“In life you can’t float. Similarly, when you walking in a space, say a living room, a beautiful sofa acts as the anchor and everything else is auxillary with accent pieces to compliment it. For Merci Marcel, the round table in the middle of the café is there for a specific reason. I wanted to anchor the room with it, and together with a pendant lamp directly above this broke the monotony of the space and pulled it all together.”

Working an odd angle in your favour

“For Prive Orchard, we had these awkward angles to work with. Instead of fighting it, I challenged myself to make it interesting. That’s how we came up with this angled wall and turned it into a feature. Also by dressing it up with some greenery, it gave customers something to look at. The row of seats looking out was added for balance and symmetry but it also catered for people’s desire to see and be seen. After all, that’s why we go out, it’s all about feeling good.”

A stylish way to evoke nostalgia

“For Prive at the Asian Civilisations Museum, I wanted to communicate the feel of an Asian kitchen but not to overdo the nostalgia element. The idea was to introduce it in subtle ways: using these tall larders, cane furniture, customising the tiles in celadon. I also added small touches like these vintage cups as table decoration and painting banana trees on the side screens to re-create the feeling from yesteryear, as if there were actual banana trees “hanging” overhead.”

Bringing an outdoors feel indoors

“I always ask myself, what is it that people want out of a space. For Merci Marcel, it made sense to create an outdoor area with air conditioning. A covered courtyard which was similar in feel to a conservatory. We also wanted to create a warm, cozy feeling so we kept the bricks exposed on purpose (which also gave the space texture) and included lots of greenery for more relaxed, inviting vibe.”

Using lighting effectively

Neon lights may be great for Instagram photos but it casts a different light over food (making it less appetising to the eye), so I choose to use them sparingly and as a feature. To create a more festive, celebratory feel (at Lucha Loco, The Black Swan Garden Bar, Prive Chijmes) I used string lights and candles to add to the ambience, also lighting up the surrounding trees to create a magical feel.”

Photos: Hui Designs