A walk through Michael Fiebrich’s black-and-white apartment off Nassim Road feels like embarking on a journey that intertwines his passion for exploration and his penchant for collecting artefacts. He gestures towards the carpet and recalls his trip to Agra, India, nearly two decades ago. Later, he reveals stumbling upon an Aboriginal artwork during a visit to Melbourne. “I adore how the rich hues of the rug complement the artwork, creating a cohesive ensemble,” he says. “And the warmth of the reds and oranges against the lush orange cushions, adorned with ikat fabric from Indonesia, adds another layer of vibrancy to the space.”

Acknowledging that his apartment may predominantly feature various shades of green, he reveals his knack for infusing pops of reds and oranges, situated opposite on the colour wheel, to create striking contrasts. He says that while green saturates every corner, from room to room, the overarching theme resembles a vast expanse of blue sky punctuated by myriad shades of green. “I found it to be a delightful contrast,” he adds.

Not only does Fiebrich’s home showcase an array of artefacts, it also displays sculptures gifted by friends like Stefanie Hauger’s hot pink OMG sculpture. Known for her artistic prowess, Hauger clinched the UOB Southeast Asian Painting of the Year award in 2013, along with UOB Singapore Painting of the Year. Her accolades continued with another win in the 2019 UOB Painting of the Year. 

With 30 years of experience in the design industry, Fiebrich is well-versed in selecting colours that complement rather than clash. He brings this knowledge to every corner of his home. At every turn, guests can witness how the colours seamlessly complement each other. Whether it’s a painting, vase, sculpture or antique, each item has been carefully placed, contributing to the warmth that permeates the living space.

As an entrepreneurial interior architect specialising in hotel and resort design, Fiebrich is driven by a passion for innovation and a relentless pursuit of crafting immersive experiences through architectural design. With a track record adorned with numerous design awards and widespread publications, he has established a global reputation for creating dynamic spaces that captivate the senses, whether they aim to excite, entertain, or induce relaxation.

He runs his own company, Michael Fiebrich Design, which is a full-service architectural interior design firm with strongly developed specialties in guestroom design, specialty suites, spas, as well as innovative dining, bar and entertainment venues. With 20 years of experience in hotel/resort and residential design, the firm has worked with numerous groups and professionals worldwide.

Fiebrich, who has resided in Singapore for the past three decades, has moved residences four times, with each abode earning recognition in international design publications. He shares that the sole memento from his home, Texas, is a chandelier, now proudly suspended above his dining table.

Options chats with Fiebrich on his philosophy of design and the art of integrating colour into a neutral home.

Is it harder to design your own home as you are so used to designing for other people?
Actually, I find it easier to design my own personal space because it reflects [my partner’s and my] personal style. With a residential client, we have to extract that information — how they live, if they entertain a lot, what’s important to them —  [before] we can create a design that suits their lifestyle. When I’m designing for myself, I already know the answers to those questions.

When you saw this empty space, what went through your mind?
The first thing we noticed were the large volumes, natural light and the incredible green views. That can be rare in Singapore so that really drove everything for us — layouts, colour selections, materials. We get a multitude of colour changes in the sky throughout the day but there’s always the beautiful greens. I knew that was going to be the driver to create a peaceful retreat. My partner and I both have demanding careers, so it’s important for our home to feel like an escape where we can relax.

As you have done a lot of hotels and residences, how much of the hotel feel did you want to bring into this space?
Hospitality design is our speciality, but I think hospitality also applies to your home. We entertain a lot, so the design, particularly in the common areas, allows the flexibility for different occasions. For smaller gatherings, we can have an intimate dinner and feel very comfortable, but we can also open up the whole house and spread out onto the terraces for large parties as well. For me, that hospitality element just means that you always want your guests to feel absolutely comfortable.

It is obvious looking around that you’ve brought in things from all over the world — can you tell us more about that?
We are hopeless shoppers! I think probably one of the biggest blessings of my career as a designer is travelling internationally and being inspired by all the different cultures we get to visit and work in all over the world. It’s also really important for me to bring in a sense of place to what I’m designing. I believe a hotel in Jakarta shouldn’t look like a hotel in Chicago, and vice versa. There should be a connection to the city and the culture of that particular place and I feel the same applies to our homes. 

When you’re creating a space that’s meant to be pleasing, surrounding yourself with things that are familiar to you plays a very big role in that experience. There’s a lot of psychology to that and everything here has a story. It’s that painting we found together in Australia or the furniture we found shopping in Marrakesh or the rug we found in India — everything has a memory. When you see those familiar pieces, it really gives you a sense of peace and comfort.

How much is too much? During Covid-19, perhaps everything leaned towards minimalism. Do you think the pendulum swings towards maximalism now?
I have to admit we have many things in storage, so, sadly, this isn’t even all of it. Having said that, I do try to avoid clutter. I mean, we’re big lovers of art, objects, furniture pieces — everything from modern to antique — but personally I prefer a space that feels curated, not crowded. Too many different elements, especially if they’re not in harmony, can be disconcerting to the eye.  

Editing is very important and we do change things out periodically. We have quite a few special pieces but I don’t need to have them all out all the time. I try to curate things so that they all work as a family. It can be an eclectic family for sure, but overall it should be pleasing to your eye. Even if you have pieces that are a bit unexpected, that contrast can be exciting. You’ll see quite a few unexpected accent pieces and colour pops here in the flat, but everything sits well together. 

I love collecting religious statuary — everything from Christian to Muslim to Buddhist — which a lot of people find surprising to see as decorative accents in a home interior. I just think they’re all such beautiful artistic expressions.

Have design trends changed since Covid-19?
That is a big question that [people have asked]: How do you design differently post-pandemic? What’s the emotional change you see in your clients? 
My answer is always that the principles of good design — like scale, proportion, harmony — never really changed. Things that are important for design, are always going to be important, pre or post-pandemic. 

Did the experience of feeling like you have more personal space, more room to breathe and not feeling overcrowded become more important to people post-pandemic? Probably. We were all a little more nervous about being in crowded spaces during and after that period. 

We were also probably a little stressed emotionally after what we all went through for so long, so the pleasing effect that comes from good design principles became even more important. That didn’t happen because of the pandemic, those things were always there. That’s always been good design. 

How a space makes you feel isn’t an accident, especially with hotel design. If we’re designing a spa, you want the guests to enter and immediately feel relaxed and peaceful and if we’re designing a food and beverage outlet, or maybe a bar, you may want them to walk in and feel energised and excited. So those are two very different moods that you’re creating through your design choices and that’s tied to everything; layout, scale, proportion, colours, style. That’s the wonderful psychology behind design.

How do you persuade individuals to stray from the tried-and-true neutrals? The whites, the beiges? People gravitate towards those hues because they fear colour. What advice would you offer to encourage someone to try using colours in their living space?
I’ve never been afraid of colour but honestly, if you look around my own personal space, the general scheme is actually fairly neutral. I do love a strong colour pop or accent, but starting with a nice, clean palette always makes the colour choices even more special. Your eye just appreciates them more. We use a lot of colour blocking in our work, where you might have a generally neutral palette, but then you work with one particular colour family to create a contrast. That could be a colour from the view or landscape, which is what we’ve done here, or a colour you choose to energise the space, but sticking with that family of colours throughout a space can be really powerful as opposed to a space that’s multi-hued.  

We bought this beautiful tomato-coloured Agra rug in India many, many years ago, and then later found a large Australian Aboriginal painting in similar tones. I love how they both really bring that colour accent together in the living room, and how the warm tones contrast with the cool green tones from outside. It’s a very old trick of museums actually; if you want the heroes in the room to be noticed, keep everything else simple.  

And what has kept you in Singapore?
I’ve been in Singapore for 30 years now, which is more than half my life! I’m originally from Texas and went to Architecture School at the University of Texas, Austin. One of the largest hotel design firms at the time was based in Dallas and I went to work with them straight out of college. At the time, they didn’t have a strong Asian presence but Asia was opening up and really starting to boom. I was travelling back and forth from Dallas to Asia and absolutely loving it, so the CEO asked if I would move to Singapore and help expand the office. I took the opportunity and moved here, stayed with them for many years, and then started my own firm in 2007. I guess I’m just one of those expats who came for the adventure, fell in love and never left.


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