Over the last two years, most of us have had a gradual change in the definition of ‘home’. What once was a place to unwind, relax, disconnect, is now an all-around space for everything that goes on in life – work, play and so much more.
The pandemic taught us to be mindful of our homes – our spaces. Forcing us to find ways to ensure this space works positively for us in varying aspects of our lives.
Consequently, this art of conscious, mindful living is what LivingDNA embraces. As the world slowly realizes and starts to appreciate this fact, LivingDNA steps in to guide them on how to create a mindful home through beautiful designs and lasting pieces.
Started in 2015, LivingDNA is a home decor and specialty rug store based in Singapore. Stemming from travel inspirations and designing her own home, Denise Taojo, the brand’s founder, fell in love with raw, artisanal products.
“When I was tagging along my husband’s business trips, I discovered piece after piece of beautiful artisan products – a different world of decor that’s intricately crafted. Seeing them excited me and that’s when I thought to do some research and start something,” Denise shared.
Thus, began, LivingDNA. From its name, ‘DNA’ stands for ‘departures and arrivals’ which intelligently links back to the starting point of the brand’s idea and journey.
As artisanal products are known for their rawness and purity in design, you’ll see these unique touches in the products that LivingDNA has on display. Carefully crafted, handmade products are sustainable – durable, long-lasting and made of true materials – showing beauty in its imperfections.
Comparing design styles and trends from seven years ago to when COVID started ravaging the world, ideals were very different. Initially, it was an uphill process of attempting to educate the market on how sustainable and mindful design works.
“Back in 2015, ‘sustainability’ wasn’t an ‘in’ word [in design]. Biggest chunk of the time was spent educating customers on what it means and on the reasons why the products were not perfect,’ Denise mentioned. “But it was all worth it. Because seven years in, we’ve had customers drop random compliments about the sustaining beauty and handiwork of our products.”
How did you become a specialty rug store?
Becoming a go-to rug store in Singapore was not a straightforward journey for the LivingDNA team. Along with the excitement was a series of trial and error as they tested market acceptance, education and business viability.
Realization of specializing in rugs was unplanned – like all wonderful things in successful businesses. While selling their first few rugs, they spotted a huge gap in the market – there was no modern rug retail store in Singapore. With that, they stumbled on a serendipitous discovery – that artisanal rugs perfected the equation and vision of LivingDNA. It’s a balance between providing traditional craftsmanship and having a sustainable business option.
Inspired by this, Denise and her team went on to educate the market on sustainably made rugs. By the by, customers are beginning to see that handmade, artisanal rugs are a league apart from machine-made ones, in spite of their imperfections.
According to Denise, there are special techniques and materials that can only be beautifully woven by hand. For flat woven, braided, tufted or knotted designs and usage of precious materials like wool, silk, or bamboo, your only option is a handmade rug. These fine touches are a definite no-no for machines. As such, from 10 rugs, LivingDNA now rolls out an impressive array of over 150 rugs and offers bespoke services too.
I love LivingDNA’s service. It is clear that they want you to only get the rug you love! And I definitely love the 2 rugs I got! In terms of the shop, I found it an altogether pleasant experience to be able to look at and experience the rugs in a beautiful light-filled space, without the musty smells that often accompany carpet shops…The rugs that they stock are beautiful, tasteful and of great quality.[customer testimonial]
How did you pivot when the pandemic happened?
The brand doesn’t stop at just providing the market some artisanal rugs. In addition to defining their brand’s product strength, LivingDNA is also known for stellar customer service. You’ll feel this through the store’s warm ambience and service.
“Singapore isn’t exactly known for their service culture. You walk into a store and you don’t expect good customer service. That is why, breaking this mold, we aim to deliver excellent customer service. We listen to your stories, requests and preferences. Trying to read between the lines by getting to know what you really want.”
As such, instead of panicking when the pandemic happened, Denise and her team came up with a creative pivot that upped the ante of their service level. With their deep understanding of a rug’s role in a space and a home, LivingDNA started a home trial program.
Here, LivingDNA’s hands-on, dedicated service is with you all the way. After initial consultations, they would bring your top three choices and have them fitted into your homes. Rugs are big pieces that can make or break a space. Thus, this service alleviates any worry that you are spending a good amount of money on something that might not look and feel right.
Being the first in Singapore, the program proved to be a resounding success. Satisfaction was guaranteed, customers easily decided on the spot and LivingDNA continuously delivered on their promise of excellent service.
Seven years in, what can you say is the essence of the LivingDNA brand?
Coming a long way from its first ideas and trials, LivingDNA has stayed true to its initial vision of sustainability and authentic interiors. The brand’s core essence continues to circle around mindful living. It’s motto being:
Stemming from that initial feeling of discovering artisanal products during her travels, Denise wanted to bring that across in all her interactions and relationships with her customers.
MINDFUL: surrounding yourself with what makes you feel good as yourself and as a person. As the world continues to spin and accelerate at dizzying speeds, you look for moments that allow you to slow down and truly see and feel the environment. LivingDNA cares deeply about the impact they have on the environment and in their customers’ homes. Rugs are large items that define a space; while also having the power to impact its overall mood and feel.
MEANINGFUL: looking and understanding from their customers’ perspectives. What do you want your home to be like? How can our rugs bring you closer to your ideal home? While all sustainably sourced, different rugs have different meanings and purposes based on their designs and materials.
BEAUTIFUL: a firm belief that beautiful homes make people happy. As they continue their sustainable practices and meaningful interactions, LivingDNA’s main objective is still to beautify a home.
This service and dedication puts LivingDNA a league apart from other similar brands in the market.
Bought this elephant (resin) tusks console table. It’s now one of my favorite pieces of furniture. Great customer service… I like that her carefully curated selections aren’t found in mass furniture stores. Worth a trip to the store as there is always something new and beautiful to buy.[customer testimonial]
How did you bring these ideals and practices when you designed your own home?
Fully embracing this essence, Denise also brings these ideals when designing her home. Not only is she a successful businesswoman, Denise is also a mom of three wonderful babies. A true superwoman! When designing her home, she made a point of creating a functioning home environment that encourages open-ended play, keeps the children safe, and aesthetically excites the whole family.
For furniture, soft, curvy shapes are default choices, like the Thonet-style bent rattan armchairs and dining chairs, for their beautiful craftsmanship and child-safe edges. With babies and preschoolers, their needs constantly change so it’s important for the space to keep evolving.
Bonus discovery: food crumbs fall through the solihiya rattan weave seat, and all that’s needed after mealtime is one quick sweep of the floor.
Adjacent to the living room is a round dining table with a pink marble top supported by a Saarinen-style tulip base. A fitting design with its characteristic smooth slope where the kids love to slide and swing around the moment they learned to crawl.
“Sometimes I’d imagine Mr. Thonet or Mr. Saarinen chuckle at our kids’ interpretations of their classics. Or perhaps, their design brilliance foresaw it…,” Denise laughingly shared.
It’s not hard to imagine that Denise loves fabrics. You’ll see clear evidence of this at her home. Through artisan-made cushions, rugs and tablecloths, she plays around with new textures and natural materials to the ever-exploring little eyes and hands.
“Our living room rug, a safety net for rough and tumble play, is one I designed myself. Beautifully patterned from the translucent layers of green agate stone, and created with traditional dyeing and weaving methods in India.”
Designing her indestructible home is like an ongoing home styling assignment. Despite the challenge in creating a beautiful yet child-friendly home, her design process still shows a natural tendency towards sustainability.
Denise mindfully considers the purpose and beauty of an item before purchasing it, allowing her family to cherish it longer. Similarly, prioritizing beautiful natural materials and unique artisan work, she champions a slower and more sustainable pace of production and recreation.