26/02/2024 3:37 AM

Themonet-ART

Adorn your Feelings

This renowned interior designer’s style is fashionably aspirational

9 min read

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Tyler Wisler dons an all-black ensemble, complete with a black face mask, in the deliciously-scented Point 21 showroom in Kuala Lumpur, as he enthusiastically chats about the lifestyle brand’s latest flatware line, brought in from Paris.

The chief designer and creative lead for Point 21, founded in 2016 by Tunku Tun Aminah Maimunah Sultan Ibrahim, Aishah Mohd Suhaimi and Datuk Dennis Muhammad Verbaas, has always had a keen eye for design.

Dually based in the United States and South-East Asia, the influential and sought-after American designer who boasts an international clientele styles spaces that are fashionably aspirational with hints of the unexpected.

Tyler Wisler stars as a judge in Asia’s biggest design competition show, The Apartment. — Photos: Point 21Tyler Wisler stars as a judge in Asia’s biggest design competition show, The Apartment. — Photos: Point 21

After graduating from design school, he worked 15 years with a design firm in New York, working with a well-heeled clientele with cash to blow.

“I was very spoiled,” chuckles Wisler. “I came in at a time when money was flowing, this was the late 90s, before the crash hit, everybody was riding really high, there was lots of money. I got very spoiled in the fact that a lot of the time, budgets weren’t an issue.”

Designing for people who appreciated design, many of his clients would spend any amount to make sure their homes were unique to them, that their products were bespoke.

“Customisation was an everyday occurrence,” quips Wisler, who has been featured on hit shows including HGTV’s Design Star, ABC’s Good Morning America, NBC’s Emmy Award-winning George To The Rescue, and Lifetime’s The Way Home.

He currently stars as a judge and mentor on Asia’s biggest design competition show, The Apartment, on which he is known for his sound, practical advice and “tough love” approach.

Tell us about your introduction into the world of design, and your earliest memories of design? How did these lead to you choosing a career in design?

Design and art have always been there since I was very young. I credit a lot of it to my Korean grandmother on my dad’s side, I call her the “Korean Martha Stewart”.

She was born and raised in Hawaii and she would sew my great grandfather’s clothes and my clothes when I was younger. She would make pies and jams from whatever fruits were in the yard, she would paint, and at a young age she was teaching me all these things.

Tableware from Vista Alegre.Tableware from Vista Alegre.

My mum enrolled me in any art class she could at the time, whether it was painting or drawing, basic art classes where you deal with clay, paper, different mediums. I was very lucky because she worked for an airline so I was able to see other places in the US like the Smithsonian, the National Art Gallery, and the Guggenheim. Getting that experience at a young age gave me more of an appreciation for all of it.

But getting into interior design was actually by accident. I went to an American University in Washington, DC, because it had a really nice generic major called Art Design. It sounded good because I could just explore what art aspect I wanted to be in.

Everybody used to come into my dorm room and say, “Oh, my God, you should be an interior designer”. It honestly it did not even cross my mind that that was an option. I think most kids go to their dorms, bringing whatever they have from home whereas I was buying a rug – granted, they were cheap – to coordinate with the new art print that I bought. I mean, there’s no reason that a freshman kid should have like a coffee maker, espresso maker and a set of four place settings for everything. I literally had all these things – coffee cups, drinking glasses…I don’t know what my 17-year-old self was thinking.

What would you say is your signature design style? And what is it about your style that appeals to clients?

My personal style is definitely more gritty, edgy. I always like to say the person whom I design for wants to feel like a rock star in their home. Despite who you are, what your job is, how old you are, who doesn’t want to feel like a rock star? I tend to gravitate towards deeper, more saturated tones.

Elegant flatware from Sabre.Elegant flatware from Sabre.

I love black, I think black is one of the most powerful colours that you can use in an interior, and I think it’s so widely underused because people are scared of it. They think it’s going to be too dark. And what’s funny is, the places that are often the most Instagram-worthy, where people go to that are like “wow”, those beautiful boutique hotels have a cosiness and a depth behind it, and they love it.

At the end of the day, design is about you. It’s about the way it makes you feel, it’s about evoking an emotion. The best spaces are ones that encompass all your senses – you smell something as you walk in, there’s a scent, there’s the acoustics to the place. It should be a visual delight of textures.

You know, people love velvet here, there’s this notion that “I am successful”, so therefore I need velvet, or, I need a Chesterfield type sofa. They think that these are the equivalent of “I’ve made it” symbols like a Rolex or a Birkin, so they start to equate certain things with success.

In reality, if you’ve attained success, it should be you want that item because you love it, not what everybody else is saying. It should be the biggest reflection of you. It’s your home.

Design is an exploration of everything – new experiences, new textures, new textiles, new AI.

Where do you get design inspiration from?

I think fashion is a huge influence. Fashion is always moving, fashion changes very quickly and interiors sort of lag behind fashion. But we can always take inspiration from what’s happening at the time. In the 1990s it was Calvin Klein, it was clean, it was sleek, there was no adornment or anything. And then as other designers came up that started to get more avant garde, then you could see in furniture we started to add more bling and other things to it.

Architecture as well. What’s amazing is I knew very little about Malaysia to be completely honest, and very little about KL specifically. It’s got some of the most interesting architecture because the architects will take chances. When you look at the skyline it’s an impressive skyline, there are a lot of really interesting buildings and very historic old buildings, a rich source of inspiration. I love buildings where the history is preserved and it’s still modernised.

What is your favourite way to maximise spaces like nooks, under the stairs and hallways?

Anytime you want to save space, you do a custom built-in. Everybody is looking for more storage, so if you build out a unit under the staircase, even if you turn it into a little nook, a reading area, then under it are drawers for more storage. The smaller your space, the more built-in units you should have because when you build something in wall-to-wall, it doesn’t look like another piece of furniture, you’re not clutterin
g it up, it becomes part of the architecture, it becomes part of the room.

So as soon as you build in a piece of furniture, whether it’s a bench, a banquette, a wardrobe, it becomes part of the architecture, and your room feels bigger. And it becomes useful. If you need a space for storage, then just close it up, put a door on, put drawers in and you’re utilising it for the same purpose.

As soon as you start adding lots of things into a small space, your eye doesn’t know where to land, it just sees a lot of things, whereas if it becomes a part of the room, it just seamlessly becomes part of the room.

Items for interiors from Christopher Guy.Items for interiors from Christopher Guy.

So, like that beautiful sofa that you’ve spent so long getting becomes the star. You have to choose what parts of the rooms you want to be the focal point. It’s like when a woman goes out with her little black dress, she determines whether it’s going to be a bracelet night, a necklace night or whether it’s all about the earrings. You choose where you want the focus to be because then this is just the foundation.

Do you have a favourite type of space to style, and why?

I think that one of the most difficult and challenging, but most rewarding (spaces) are kitchens, because they have so many moving parts and so many things that are unique to the homeowner; how much they cook, maybe they bake, do they need a hot water tap because they love to make pasta?

And then hardware, decorative hardware. Again, it’s the same sort of scenario with a little black dress and how you can dress it up. You can have a very basic white kitchen and depending on what hardware you put on those doors, that’s the “jewellery”, besides hardware and lighting.

Practicality should never be a deterrent to make something beautiful, that’s like saying, “I’m never going to put fresh flowers in the kitchen because there’s a lot of grease.” Nowadays, a lot of us live in open concept homes, where the living room looks on to the dining room which looks on to the kitchen, everything should be just as beautiful.

Could you tell me a bit about Point 21’s brand DNA, and what it brings to the industry here in Malaysia?

Point 21 has built up a name for itself over the past five years, they have become synonymous with quality, luxury, fine furnishings. Over the past year, we have greatly broadened our brand representation, bringing in new furniture lines, decorative hardware lines, lighting lines.

It’s not just a furniture, accessories and lighting store, we’re really a lifestyle brand. Our client base appreciates quality and customer service. Hence, we want to make sure that we encompass all of that, which is why we brought in flatware brand Sabre from Paris, in addition to a new dishware line and table setting accessory line.

This is just the beginning, it’s what we are considering everyday luxury. For a lot of people, we have been off limits in their mind, because they’ve just thought, it’s too expensive. Yes, we do have things that are up there in price, but we do have things to cater to every day, like our main candle line Bao Bao from Belgium. These are perfect gifting ideas, all of these are handblown and they’re super unique, which is one of the selling points of this candle line.

What we’re trying to impress upon people is it’s not about the dollar amount that equates to luxury – the simple act of lighting a candle, for some people, that’s a luxury in and of itself. That’s because you’re taking the time to fill your room with a scent that you adore, so that you can sit down and watch Netflix and have a Milo.

For Point 21, how do you feel your expertise gels with the brand’s vision?

I really wanted to grow Point 21 with the lifestyle aspect in mind. Everything from social media, to marketing to PR flows through me as well all the brands that we want to bring on board, and the buying so that we are really telling a cohesive story across the board.

We try and bring in brands that have enough of a breadth of options, like the dishware brand, we only have four, they’re vastly different, but they’re all from the same manufacturer. We bring in options, we know that the quality, craftsmanship and artisanal side is there.

Finally, who are the Point 21 customers and what do they look for when it comes to interior design?When we do our buying and choosing, we always have our customer in mind, but we also know that she has a daughter, and her daughter is going to be coming up and looking at the next thing. Generationally, things are changing, we want to excite both of them, with things they maybe didn’t expect to see here in Malaysia, maybe they’ve seen it overseas.

We want to always bring what’s new and exciting to Malaysia, because the Malaysian market, they’re educated, they’re well-travelled, and they deserve more.



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