Cherin Tan is redefining the way people live and experience space through her innovative architecture and interior design firm, Laank.

What’s your story?
During the early days of my career as a student and young professional, I’ve always felt that interior design was commonly steered towards surface aesthetics, a particular style or a particular trend. It always felt somewhat superficial. Design should not be something that is generated purely out of the intent of aesthetics and function. It is that and so much more. A good design is a strong driving factor that can forge forward many possibilities such as redefining user experiences for example the way we live, the way we perceive impressions as well as the ability to tell a story through form and space.

Laank is built upon my own personal drive to make a difference in the interior design industry. It’s not just about aesthetics, it is about creating an experience, a functionality, workmanship, and value. At Laank we aim to redefine the way people live and experience space by creating diverse, innovative and exciting environments.

What excites you most about your industry?
Interior design and architecture is tangible. It’s not just about achieving good looking designs. It’s the union of several factors; identity, management, usability, functionality, aesthetics and longevity. This excites me!

Laank is known for creating architectural interiors that give a holistic experience with beautiful, stylish interiors that also employ maximum functionality of the space. The design philosophy is based on developing meticulously considered designs according to each project’s unique characteristics.

What’s your connection to Asia?
We’re in the starting months of expanding our operations for our Bangkok office and start up our Bali branch. We are currently taking on-board young local talent. We will give them a platform and chance to grow with Laank and achieve their design career aspirations. We are working on fostering a work environment in which we can easily cross fertilise creative ideas and collaborate fluidly between our offices throughout Asia. It sounds clichéd but the successful implementation of this is absolutely critical to Laank’s continued success as we expand. Each office comes with their own cultural context and predispositions. We always challenge our teams to work beyond their cultural mind set and undertake the challenge of designing in the context for a regional audience. In one example, we are in the early stages of supporting one of our clients in conceptualizing an upcoming project in Yangon. Both are co-working offices and both have differing ideas and approaches which yields for an interesting design dialogue. The challenge of this project is in translating it to a local context and building something that resonates with both the client and the local context that we are building in.

In the pipeline we also have projects where we support our clients entering different markets, in particular Thailand and China. Regional will be the keyword for us this upcoming year. We want to stay fairly small in terms of size but establish our name in doing great design work regionally and operating cross-culturally effectively and effortlessly.       

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Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
It’s hard to pick your favourite child when they are all your children, but I guess because Singapore is where we started out, it holds a strong anchor.  

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Only the gentle are ever strong.

Who inspires you?
My brother Clarence who’s also my business partner a Laank. Being the elder brother Clarence has been a mentor and he has influenced me a great deal. But what is most inspiring is his drive. This is something that I feed on. We did not envisage working together, but it was serendipitous.  I was progressing ahead in my design career whilst Clarence was making a career out of supporting big regional real estate firms in advising on project development and construction. Between us and the decade of experience in our separate fields, has allowed us to come together to see projects through at a simpler, more straightforward and integrated way.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Food is a huge thing in my life. I recently realised that the best sushi is eaten when the fish is aged. Like everyone, I thought  fish is best eaten straight out of the water. The fresher it is, the tastier it is! Turns out that is not true. Let’s take Hirame for example, one of the lightest and most delicate tasting fish. A typical routine for chefs in Japan is to go to the fish market every morning and choose the fish according to the quality and price. Once the Hirame is brought back to the kitchen, they are cleaned before aging.  Once cleaned, they are normally kept in fridge for 3 days before showing up in the terashi (sushi display case) for customers. In 3 days Hirame will be much sweeter and have more umami.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have paced myself more during my youthful days, hiking through my career instead of always attempting a marathon sprint. I have few regrets, but I guess one of the things I would change is to turn back the clock and spend more time with the people and moments that I let slip by.
 
How do you unwind?
I cook and host food sessions with family and friends. A meal is one of the most personal and intimate things you can do for someone. You are literally providing plated nourishment made with your own hands using your own sense of creativity. There’s also something about the primal nature of it that encourages you to relax and let your hair down.  The special thing about a home cooked meal is the feeling of abundance it provides, everything you have and need is right in front of you and within arms reach. That feeling of freedom is real, and you see it in the smiles of your guests after the meal begins. Sometimes it narrows down to perfecting that perfectly grilled cheese sandwich.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Intercontinental at Danang Vietnam. Google it and you will see why. It’s so damn beautiful.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Tim Ferris – The 4-Hour Workweek. Within the first few pages of The 4-Hour Workweek I knew I was reading something different. Tim’s experiences as an entrepreneur sounded like mine; feelings of being overwhelmed and overworked were exactly what I was feeling. This is a book that I can relate to. It provides a lot of advice that has made a difference for me.
 
Shameless plug for your business:
At Laank we don’t see the separate disciplines of the different consultancies in every construction project to be the way forward for the future. Successful projects tend to be those that have a high level of integration starting from the conceptualization stage. Project deliverables like design, time, cost and quality, we try to address with an integrated approach right from the outset.

Laank is pragmatic. We don’t focus on dreaming up, out-of-this-world designs with little real world application. We deliver real projects for real world businesses. We always balance real world needs of looking good and being able to build the project for a reasonable price tag.

Laank started as a one man show and very quickly grew into a three person team by the end of its first year. We are turning three this year and we’ve been fortunate enough to have groomed passionate and talented young individuals to become a part of the Laank family. We are currently a team of  twelve people including interior designers and architects.

Our design philosophy sets us apart from other companies. We ensure that each project is unique as we conceptualise the space based on the characteristics of the brand and its products.
 
How can people connect with you?
Over a glass of brandy!

You’ll be able to find us at our webstie www.laank.com.sg or via our instagram handle @thelaank, and of course via Facebook https://www.facebook.com/laankSG

This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:

CallumConnects

Callum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia.  He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries.  He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence.  A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.

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