Winning furniture designs with the soul of wood

Each design was creatively fresh and showed much potential. But in the end, only three could take home the top prizes in the 2016 Furniture Design Competition (FDC), and they did so because of their high level of aesthetics, functionality and marketability.

From the modular Muk Sofa and the junk boat-inspired Cheng Ho Chair to the bamboo shoot-based Rebung Shelves, each design was the result of careful thought by their designers.

This year’s Malaysian International Furniture Fair FDC, in its seventh edition, was themed “Living Furniture, Global Perspective” and required participants to use wood as the main material.

An important judging criterion was how “the design breathes the soul of wood”. The extra challenge this year was for participants to expand their designs into a collection or series to accommodate the global buying trend.

Here is the complete list of the 2016 Malaysian International Furniture Fair FDC winners and finalists.

Ecstatic: Lim celebrating his win on his Muk Sofa. Photo: The Star/Azhar Mahfof
Ecstatic: Lim celebrating his win on his Muk Sofa. Photo: The Star/Azhar Mahfof

Muk Sofa

First prize (RM10,000, trophy and certificate)

The multi-functional Muk Sofa by interior designer Lim Bo Qiang is a modular unit made from rubberwood, with fabric cushions.

The contemporary design comes with attachable drawer storage below the seat, a side table and 2+1 seating (which can be separated) suitable for the home and public areas.

“Muk is derived from the Chinese word mu, which means wood. It is inspired by the traditional human lifestyle where people use straw mats for most of their daily activities,” said the 27-year-old Lim from Batu Pahat, Johor.

“So I am taking that traditional lifestyle and adding a modern twist to it. Besides that, I am also bringing the modular concept of seating to homes and providing more mobility with it.

“With living spaces getting smaller these days, people need to be more organised. Muk will allow people to move around easily yet serve its full functions,” said Lim after the award ceremony held last week at the Matrade Exhibition and Convention Centre, Kuala Lumpur.

Rebung Shelves

Second prize (RM5,000, trophy and certificate)

Inspired by bamboo shoots, or pucuk rebung, is Izyan Syamimi Zainol’s freestanding Rebung Shelves, also made of rubberwood. The 26-year-old industrial design student from Universiti Putra Malaysia slanted the shelves, adding metal joints to enhance sturdiness. The beauty of the design is reflected in the technology used in bending the wood.

“I found the rebung motif unique and felt it represented the Malaysian identity well. It has a strong presence in Malaysian culture in the form of traditional motifs and patterns, and is also featured on the Malaysian ringgit,” said Izyan, who hails from Malacca, in explaining her design.

Izyan was inspired by nature in designing her shelves.
It was history that inspired Low's Cheng Ho Chair. Photos: The Star/Azhar Mahfof

Cheng Ho Chair

Third prize (RM2,500, trophy and certificate)

Architect Kaylynn Low Kah Ling’s fully merpauh wood Cheng Ho Chair is an interpretation of the olden day junks that ferried China’s Admiral Zheng He in his voyages.

Inspired by his success story, Low’s high back piece has strong hints of these boats and “eludes a sense of nostalgia through its form”.

“I was reading up on Malaysian history and how Admiral Cheng Ho first arrived in Malacca. What caught my attention was the junk boats which they used to travel in,” said Low, 24, from Klang.

With a segmented backrest that resembles masts, the chair’s seat curves upwards to form the armrests while rear tapered legs meet to create a single spine.

“The seat and armrests integrate two elements into one, like the crew of a ship working as a single unit to ensure a smooth journey,” explained Low.


Ling: The Ling Stool was inspired by the diabolo, a traditional Chinese yo-yo made up of two bowl-like parts connected by an axle.

The merbau and rubber wood stool, designed by architecture student Lee Wen Horng, takes its name from the Chinese pull bell, cheling.

“Asia’s rich culture and diversity have important values in influencing modernisation. For instance, the design of the diabolo has changed throughout history. As society evolves, the demand on the design of a functional object also becomes much more important. Furniture these days is not only expected to be user-friendly, but aesthetically pleasing as well,” said Lee, 20, from Sepang, Selangor.

45 Degrees table-cum-frame or shelf.
Ling stool.
Dim stool.

45 Degrees: Interior designer Jasper Lee Jian Kang’s 45 Degrees is a table-cum-frame or shelf made from a mix of materials. The 28-year-old KL-ite’s design is an experimental design on creating visual impact with materials.

A simple, cubical structure frames geometrical form materials inside it, creating an interesting contrast of colour, textures and finishing. It can be used as a table, or turned to its side to serve as a shelf.

“Design is a tool for designers to show their values. I design with a purpose, making use of quality materials and paying attention to details to make great things cheaper and cheap things greater,” said Lee.

Dim Stool: Lim Mei San’s rubber wood Dim Stool is ergonomically designed to offer a positive seating experience. It can also be used as a small side table with storage by removing the top cushion.

“The prototype is exactly what I have in mind. The design is inspired from small baskets used to steam Cantonese dim sum reminiscent of yum cha (tea drinking sessions) and traditional tea houses along the ancient Silk Road where travellers stop to rest,” said the 20-year-old furniture designer from Johor Baru.

Stop and Stay Reading Bench.
Stop and Stay Reading Bench.

Stop and Stay Reading Bench: Using panel board, college student Wong Mei Ying created the Stop and Stay Reading Bench, which doubles as a book shelf and retractable seat. In addition to being space-saving, the design is such that one can sit comfortably to read, with books at arms’ length on the shelf.

As a whole, the design is suitable for the living room, study room, office and even bookshops.

“Books tell the stories of people we don’t know, places we haven’t been and worlds we can only imagine. When you read more, your life will indeed be livelier,” said the 21-year-old Wong from Shah Alam, Selangor.

Dudoo easy chair.
Dudoo easy chair.

Dudoo: Another entry by first-prize winner Lim is the Dudoo easy chair made from rubber wood, cotton sash cord and high density foam fabric cushion.

Inspired by the ketupat and zongzi, rice dumplings wrapped in leaves made for special occasions by the Malay and Chinese communities, it features a simple wooden frame with arm support and extra comfort from a one-piece cushion that goes over the wooden frame.

“The idea is to transform the creative and unique way of using leaves in the design. Dudoo’s flexibility and interesting features makes it appealing for home and public areas,” he said.

Flip table.
Clasik 1 & Eleganz 1 bar stool.

Clasik 1 & Eleganz 1: College student Chee Fang Yan’s Clasik 1 & Eleganz 1 bar stool is designed with a leather seat that supports different seating positions for the body.

Timber is paired with metal to feature a sturdy, durable and ergonomic stool, which comes in two contrasting, yet harmonised colours.

“In my opinion, elegant lifestyle means uncluttered, simple yet attractive. With Clasik 1 & Eleganz 1, you can have an enjoyable and comfortable experience. It is suitable for the house, library, café and even classrooms,” said Chee, 21, from Seri Kembangan, Selangor.

Flip: In metal and solid wood, interior designer Vivian Lam Shi Wei’s Flip Table is designed with the “intention to streamline the aesthetics of a solid wood table”.

The table top is split in the middle and can be folded to make it easy for transportation and installation in small places.

“Design is about making the complicated simple. Flip is the celebration of simplicity and yet does not compromise on its structure and function,” said Lam, 26, from Ipoh, Perak.

Skog Table.

Skog Table: Sporting a Scandinavian name but inspired by Chinese traditional roof architecture is the Skog Table by university student Jun Lee Kai Chun. The interior, furniture and product designer came up with a work desk using a combination of wood and contrasting laminated white finishing.

It incorporates a white board panel for jotting notes, lift-up drawer for storage, arch shape edge to prevent things sliding off the table and a cable organiser system.

“Scandinavian aesthetics is the trend in modern living lifestyle. ‘Skog’ is the Swedish word for wood. I like to draw whenever I travel but it is often difficult to find a work space that fits my sketch book, laptop and art stuff. I was truly attracted by the traditional Chinese curved roof architecture that I saw in Penang, and that’s how SKOG was inspired and designed,” said Lee, 23, from Gurun, Kedah.

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