Home tour: Ramesh Subramaniam, global design director, M Moser
25 September 2016
In the first edition of the Life Inspired home tour, we speak to Ramesh Subramaniam, global design director at M Moser Associates, where his projects include famed Google office spaces and agencies. Previously based in the US where he started out as an architect, Ramesh moved back to Kuala Lumpur about a decade ago and has switched to interior design since.
We trail him from his den to the kitchen, as he makes us a latte, served in a double-walled glass, of course, and talk transitional spaces, the ‘kitchen triangle’ and his all-time favourite homeware piece. Having worked on interior design for offices including Google Tokyo and Taiwan, he shows us just how he translates his knowledge of working with corporate interiors to create a space for himself at home.
I think a house shouldn’t be thematic, or an office shouldn’t reflect a theme. It should really be eclectic.
A home should be about who the people are . . . a collection of different things that you buy when you travel, or something that reflects who you are as a personality. And likewise for offices, it’s really important that an office has character and it’s not just a vanilla box that people work from. I’m not a big advocate of design by theme.
Every project is different . . . I enjoyed doing Google. I’ve done 15 different offices, I think, for Google alone. In Asia, I’ve done Google Tokyo, Jakarta, KL, Manila, Taiwan, and another one in Mountain View, California. I’m also currently doing a big project in India.
I take a lot of inspiration from fashion . . . I think travelling always help because you get to see new things and discover a whole array of design, whether it’s clothing, art, accessories, or homeware.
This piece here is a cloth from India. It’s actually different sarees sewn together.
When I bought this place . . . it was basically vacant for three years. It was previously owned by a Korean guy, who bought it because he wanted his kids to go to school in Malaysia, but then they ended up going to Singapore. I was already living in another block, in a smaller unit, 1,100 square feet and then I moved into this unit, which is 2,000 square feet.
I remember coming to see it at night and there was no electricity . . . I think I got a phone call while I was in Hanoi and my realtor goes, “This unit just opened up. I’m not putting it on the market yet but I really think you should come see it.”
When I arrived at the unit at night . . . it was pitch dark, a bare unit, white tiles, you know, the standard unit. And I just looked outside at the view and I thought, “Sold. Why do I need to even think about it?”
There were obviously a lot of things that didn’t work for me . . . such as the kitchen. I like to entertain. I like to cook and I like to see everybody in the space, so I broke the kitchen walls to make it very open. I created a hub where the refrigerator, oven and microwaves are. I just wanted a huge island because I like to bake and I like people to sit around the island and work around the table.
I like transitional spaces . . . I don’t want a space to say: okay, this is the living room, this is the kitchen, and so on. It should all feel like one space, so that’s how I designed the living room — to make it feel like it’s really part of the kitchen, so you can’t really say where you are in the space.
I call this my den . . . [Pictured below] This is where I spend most of my time — I check my email, watch TV, laze around — I ‘m a little bit of an anal-retentive person but I think it’s an occupational hazard.
I think a home should be a sensory experience . . . I think it’s all about smell and not just what you see and what you touch. I always light candles when I get home, whether it’s to just have that smell, or simply for the lighting. It just changes your mood. I think in a home office it’s really important to have that. I think it helps calm you down — to just see a candle burning, to have a bit of scent. I love Diptique. Favourite scent? Mimosas.
If my house was on fire — if I didn’t get a hold of my passport — I would probably take my jewellery and run.
I would also probably take the painting in my living room [pictured above] . . . by Australian artist, Margaret Turner. It’s a very serene piece of artwork. And because she has died, I would never be able to replace it.
I like to buy little, little things when I travel . . . The stainless steel tray on the dining table [pictured below] was by a local artist in Bangalore, India, who was having an exhibit that I happened to chance myself into. I don’t remember his name though.
This unit was a three plus one . . . I didn’t really need that many bedrooms. So I have a guest bedroom, the intermediate room between the mastered room and the guest bedroom. The nice thing that I really like about the apartment is that every room has its own attached bathroom. It’s a little bit excessive — I even have a powder room.
I work from home sometimes . . . For my workspace, I just need an iPad. I use the iPad pro, which I can sketch on, and I don’t really need my laptop at home. Most of my research is done online anyway -Pinterest, or whatever. It’s also nice to have hard copies to look at. I refer to a lot of design magazines.
Ramesh’s pro tip:
With kitchens, you always should look at the triangle. So, you do your layout and you draw a triangle between the sink to the fridge, fridge to the stove, stove back to the sink — and that triangle should be the smallest triangle, so that’s when you know you’ve planned your kitchen correctly.