Straits Clan by Takenouchi Webb:
Inside the textures, tones and temperaments that define this private members' club

Be our guest

Straits Clan. You've heard the name of this private members' club floating around the creative circles, together with the cries of submission from one too many guilty gourmands about the otah and comté sandwich by its public eatery, Clan Café. You already know the social trappings such a club promises to offer, but what exactly makes up the spaces that incubate this community of change-makers?

The first step: Look for designers who get what the hospitality group Lo & Behold (main man Wee Teng Wen is a co-founder of Straits Clan, together with The Ate Group's Aun Koh) is setting out to do. Enter design company Takenouchi Webb, who were responsible for trendy and see-and-be-seen establishments such as Lo & Behold's Tanjong Beach Club, Loof and The White Rabbit, as well as co-working space The Working Capitol and rooftop bar Potato Head Folk. A partnership between British architect Marc Webb and Japanese interior designer Naoko Takenouchi, the 12-year-old design duo knows what makes movers and shakers tick, bringing together a mood board of what resonates with the aforementioned audience: Stylish trendsetters with good taste, who in turn bring in their mates who aspire to such a psychographic. While interior design 101 directs designers to create a space that fuses form and function, Takenouchi Webb's flair for evoking a strong emotional response is what makes a lifestyle establishment really stand out.

The Singapore-based designers do this by leveraging on a site's historical connections. Heritage sites are something the duo continuously find themselves working with: The Black Swan on Cecil Street is housed in an iconic 1920's building, while Whitegrass is situated on the site of the neoclassical Caldwell House. In a similar vein, Straits Clan resides in a four-storey Art Deco pre-war shophouse that dates back to 1928. Situated along Bukit Pasoh Road, its address is an interesting one — not only is the private members' club situated in an area where three historic enclaves meet (Tanjong Pagar, Chinatown and Outram Park), it also shares a street with The Ee Hoe Hean Club, a millionaires' club founded in 1895 by Gan Eng Seng and Lee Cheng Yan, two prominent Chinese merchants.
Takenouchi Webb's need for a specific jungle-themed mural in Clan Café led them to local artists Liquan Liew and Estella Ng, also known as Ripple Root
From the square patterns in the customised Jogjakarta-sourced tiles to the square forms within the breezeblocks that break up the areas, everything is subtly interconnected.
"If you walk through the Singapore shophouse area, you always familiarise yourself with these tiles, and the breezeblocks from the old bungalows," said Takenouchi when we met at the entrance. "But we didn't want to take these influences in a gimmicky way. Instead, we distilled these into the primary context." Taking references from traditional shophouses and Southeast Asian motifs and materials, Takenouchi Webb transformed the 22,000 sq ft. space that was left by New Majestic Hotel (the building's most recent occupant) into a dining area, a bar, a gym, a spa, meeting rooms and co-working and event spaces.
Rizibë spotted at the dining area on level two. Artwork within Straits Clan are curated by The Artling, who also select works for Zouk and The Great Room
Rattan — a material loved by Singapore households in the '60s and '70s — is used throughout Straits Clan, giving the spaces a tropical resort vibe that hints at nostalgia
Chinoiserie-inspired details from French fabric maker Maison Pierre Frey introduce imperial China to the cushions that keep guests comfy at the bar on level two
Cool tones define this meditative space on the third floor, where a masseuse and manicurist provide R&R
'Amidst the Colours' series by Sebastian Mary Tay sets the tone of the co-working space and library at level three, where members can utilise breakout spaces for brainstorm sessions and collaborations
The duo customised furniture that didn't clash with the traditional textiles used. "I didn't want the furniture to shout," commented Takenouchi
"When you think about a private members' club, you think it's going to be dim and the public can't go in," began Webb as he took me through Clan Café, situated on the first floor of Straits Clan. "But we've decided to open up as much as possible to make it more welcoming." From the square patterns in the customised Jogjakarta-sourced tiles to the square forms within the breezeblocks that break up the areas, everything is subtly interconnected. Basic materials follow through as you move from floor to floor, but a change in colour or pattern cleverly shifts the mood from casual to formal and private to public. A keen eye would also pick out several arches within the space — a design element that Takenouchi herself favours.
"We didn't want to take these influences in a gimmicky way. Instead, we distilled these into the primary context," says Takenouchi.
Raffles Hotel's old-world charm meets cheeky chinoiserie on the second floor of Straits Clan, which presents the private entertainment areas: A bar, a bistro, a courtyard, a game room and a private back room perfect for whiskey tastings or a session with a mentalist, if you're into that sort of thing. Then there's the Tropicana-themed club that elevates the somewhat dodgy and dingy vibes of a karaoke lounge into a '70s tropical disco. If a song could define its spirit, it would be Barry Manilow's 'Copacabana'. "Their only requirement was that they wanted a pole," laughed Webb, "'Give us a pole!'"

Check out Straits Clan at 31 Bukit Pasoh Road and find out how you can be a member.
For more design stories, click here.
Photography: Hazirah Rahim
Text: Adibah Isa