The way people decorate their homes reflects their personal styles. Designer-merchandiser Melvin Yeo, who works for a company exporting home decorative goods, hopes to offer Singaporeans more options when it comes to embellishing their homes.

The company’s first retail store Oddjects, located at Orchard Central, features Mr Yeo’s cache of eclectic knick-knacks and unique home decorative accessories. These include one-of-a-kind rocking horses, colourful decorative birdcages, sequinned storage boxes and funky tableware, all of which were designed or sourced by him.

His first encounter with design was when he was nine years old and his mother took him to the tailor’s.

“When I saw the tailor sketch out a dress for my mother, it seemed like something awoke in me,” he says.

From that moment, his dream was to become a designer. He would sketch whenever he had the opportunity to.

Later, he pursued a diploma in apparel design and merchandising fashion at Temasek Polytechnic despite family objections.

While studying, he did a 10-week internship at Italian clothing company Kappa in Turin, Italy. This opened many doors for him. Upon graduating, he joined Crocodile where he developed a brand called Lizard. He later moved on to designing sportswear for New Balance before joining his current firm nine years ago. Then, he was responsible for the fashion apparel and sportswear the company exported.

Post 9/11 and during the Sars outbreak, the company’s fashion export business eased tremendously, and he noticed a trend — more people were staying at home.

“My acumen told me to consider venturing into home decorative goods instead of just focusing on fashion,” says the 33-year-old.

But it was only in 2004 when Zara Home approached the company to source for their home decorative items that he got his first big break in the home décor industry. He now oversees the home and décor export arm that produces window props for brands such as Zara, Massimo Dutti, Pull & Bear and Stradivarius.

Decorating homes

Mr Yeo adopts a different approach when designing decorative items.

“I translate my fashion ideas into home decorations and try to incorporate accents that are interesting and uncommon in the local market,” he says.

He has designed an array of glassware and tableware but his forte is in designing storage boxes and cushions.

When asked what special qualities are needed for what he does, he says: “A passion for decorating and an eye for beautiful things.”

He also designs and produces seasonal and home décor items for overseas markets in the United States, Canada and Spain.

For inspiration, he looks out for fashion trends and travels to Europe and the US for ideas and to gain product knowledge. He then sources for materials and manufactures the products in Asia.

“Meeting people from different cultures inspires me in my designs. My designs are particularly influenced by the Italian style of sophistication and the Spanish bold use of colours,” he adds.

Other than managing the retail shop and several counters for Oddjects, he is responsible for its branding and product display.

Every day is different. He could be approaching new buyers to sell products, sourcing for merchandise, dealing with production issues or managing the stock at the warehouse.

A bad day would be dealing with major production problems while handling demanding buyers who call persistently at odd hours.

Despite feeling “stretched in all directions”, he says: “The ability to design, merchandise, produce and market the final product is extremely satisfying.”

His best experience however was making the first million in sales for his company.

His motto is “choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a single day of your life”.