Wilma Wu Design Studio creates an elegant yet welcoming restaurant where the owner’s private collection of Hermès wallpaper and tableware takes centrestage.
22 May, 2023
Located in Scotts Square, an upscale shopping mall in Singapore, La Savoir serves contemporary French cuisine with an Asian twist. “The brief was to create a ‘fine café’ concept, bridging the gap between a café and fine dining. The owner Olivier Buntha wanted us to create a space that exudes a sense of ‘casual luxury’,” shares designer Wilma Wu, a protégé of the late Indonesian designer Jaya Ibrahim who runs her eponymous firm.
“The concept was a modernised interpretation of a good old classic French brassiere, using a restrained material palette to keep the atmosphere light and airy even though the restaurant is located within a shopping mall,” she elaborates. The 2,000-square-foot restaurant is anchored with a circular bar counter where a back-lit shelf showcases tea caddies containing tea created from a collaboration between La Savoir and tea company TWG.
All tables, except those in the private dining rooms, enjoy views of Orchard Road through four-metre-high windows. “Even the section furthest from the mall’s window was raised to have a far view,” highlights Wu. Two-seater tables were placed at the linear space that is traditionally reserved for window displays. “The space is tight but it works perfectly to create an intimate dining space,” Wu says, on the area appropriately christened ‘Amour a deux’.
She dressed the interiors in light-stained timber, open-weaved rattan, pops of Tiffany blue and travertine flooring characteristic of French brasseries. Wu shares that it was challenging recreating the specific look of aged travertine she had in mind. “We did not have years to create the antique look and did not want to use chemicals to recreate that patina, as it will damage the quality of the marble. So we used multiple tones to bring out some depth.”
She managed to acquire about 20 different variations of marble from four different suppliers in China that were left over from projects. They were gathered into one factory, where they were mixed and matched before being shipped to Singapore. Wu requested for the travertine to be unfilled when they were delivered to site so that she could control how they were filled by hand, “to ensure the beautiful indentations on the surfaces are visible.”
Hermès wallpaper featuring flora, fauna and nature line the walls. These came from Buntha’s personal collection. “The wallpaper had prints by famous illustrators. They had been discontinued but instead of storing them away, Buntha decided to share his passion and prized collection with diners. They are presented in different ways throughout the restaurant as we wanted customers to discover them like in a museum each time they come,” says Wu. Buntha also took out his collection of Hermès tableware for diners to use.
Along the café’s façade facing the mall’s common corridor, Wu lined large windows with timber panelling. “Although the restaurant is located in a mall, we wanted to create a unique brand identity for La Savoir to stand out from the other shops and look like a standalone shop, thus the frontage was designed as a reinterpretation of a classic French brasserie,” Wu says.
The openings frame the V&A Rotunda Chandelier designed by American artist Dale Chihuly that hangs over the mall’s main entrance, whose blue and green colours perfectly match the interior scheme. Outside the restaurant, boutique landscape design studio This Humid House positioned banana trees to screen diners from the public walkway. This gives the effect of dining in a garden, flanked between real landscaping on one side, and Chihuly’s abstract version of nature on the other.
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