Why you should care

Being raised in a small town in Tawau, Sabah, with minimal access to many resources, gave Tennyson Chia a drive to pursue big dreams and a dedication to ensure his bright future.

Being raised in a small town in Tawau, Sabah, with minimal access to many resources, gave Tennyson Chia a drive to pursue big dreams and a dedication to ensure his bright future. The cityscapes and travels depicted in movies made him want to explore what the world had to offer. Lucky for him, his father made it a priority to travel yearly, which only fueled his desire to explore and travel.  His exposure to the world beyond his home motivated his passion for architecture and design. Furthermore, it gave him a purpose to achieve his dreams of creating.

With time and effort, his dream of exploring the world took him to Melbourne, Australia, where he graduated with a Masters Degree in Interior Design. There he was exposed to more diverse art, culture, and design practices. Upon his return to Malaysia, he wanted to implement everything he learned overseas but faced a hurdle whereby it became evident that local design practices were different from what he knew. It took years of blending methods and practices ideations to help him understand his stance on design and how he can reshape the local interior design scene,

Now, he’s the founder of SACHI, a well-established and award-winning interior design firm in Asia. But before starting his own firm, Tennyson studied hard and worked his way up at other interior design companies. He gained experience and knowledge through the years that helped him hone his talents and eye for designs. We spoke to him about his journey and experiences thus far.

Can you tell us about your first design project? Was it all that you thought interior design out to be? What did you learn from that experience?

My very first design project was a Four Season’s hotel resort in Vietnam. It was during my internship in 2005. Fortunately, I was privileged enough to be involved in the development of material selection; it helped me develop a sensitivity to the order of colour and the sense of proportion.

You have come a long way since then; how do you view your growth in the industry? As times have changed, do you think it has been easy keeping up with the evolution of the interior design scene?

The industry is growing rapidly as years go by, more so with the development of technology. It plays a significant role in accelerating business growth globally. Accepting changes and keeping up with the industry’s evolution is a challenge. Still, I have developed a habit of always keeping myself exposed to trending architecture and design updates while exploring new destinations, keeping close tabs with global news and most importantly, spending quality time with loved ones. I try to make it a motto to do what you love and love what you do.

What drove you to want to start your own interior design firm at 26 years old? Aside from making your mark in the industry, what were your motivations?

It was definitely my love and passion for architecture and design. There has always been a voice within that constantly urged me to create things that will benefit others. Not just in architecture design but to help create a solution to everyday problems that can help elevate us through a better living community.

SACHI has made a mark in the industry for specialising in developing responses to meet the diversified market demand. Can you tell us more about how your firm achieves this time and time again?

The passion for your career, the effort put into work, and dedication to the profession has always been the practice that helps us strive towards objectives in all the projects. In SACHI, I’ve created a culture where everyone practices responsibility and urgency when taking on tasks in the company. Having excellent design skills is an important aspect, but it has to come with a sense of duty and care as a professional.

What are the philosophies that help you and your team attain the same outlook with design?

I encourage everyone to be bold enough to take on the extra mile and explore new things while being wise enough to understand their limitations. This will help you discover things beyond your comfort and expectations.

That is very admirable! Talk to us about some of your most memorable projects with SACHI. 

If I need to pick through the exciting lists of projects that SACHI has accomplished, the most memorable project I will choose is Menara Hap Seng 3 (MHS3). Our involvement in this project gave us a design breakthrough. It garnered attention from multiple media outlets and platforms globally. One of the most memorable experiences was exposing the team to the working methods from renowned global architects and working with a very experienced client with an architectural background.  This helped us set the bar for design standards to an international level. The project has now become a landmark, replacing an old landmark in the city centre of Kuala Lumpur.

Wow, what a great accomplishment! Aside from that, what has been your proudest moment in all the years you have dedicated to the interior design scene, locally and internationally?

My proudest moment does not come from awards or materials gained. It comes from how I was able to see great heights of improvement in personal growth in my team and myself throughout the hectic working years. It’s not just personal growth in terms of sharpening skill sets but also becoming a better person with a healthy vision. Having a healthy vision and clearer thoughts helps generate positivity in the working environment, which helps produce great ideas that contribute to the community.

The ongoing pandemic has halted many industries. Do you think the interior design industry locally will be able to bounce back once things settle down?

The pandemic has reshaped most business modules. Businesses like interior design is an industry that requires physical movement and meetings. Sadly, it was deemed as a non-essential service throughout the lockdown. However, this break encouraged many new ideas in implementing useful systems to existing business and the potential of emerging new business modules designed to shape based on the pandemic needs. This will affect the time frame required to bounce back for the local interior design industry. But I believe that the local interior design industry will come back much more substantial and sharper when things are better. 

On a more personal note, how has the pandemic affected you and your perspective on life and design?

It would be a lie if I would say it did not affect the business. Unfortunately, we can only wait until it is safe to begin working again. Meanwhile, most local projects are being kept in view (KIV); the company is working on some foreign projects, which kept us moving and cruising through the lockdown period. Life is hard sometimes, but keeping a healthy lifestyle and not stopping practising what you are good at is equally important.

Tennyson has high hopes that the local interior design industry will make its mark internationally with time and effort. Together with his team at SACHI, they believe change comes with taking wise actions and with that hope to improve the living society.

Want to see more of Tennyson’s work with SACHI? Check out their portfolio here.

Why you should care

Being raised in a small town in Tawau, Sabah, with minimal access to many resources, gave Tennyson Chia a drive to pursue big dreams and a dedication to ensure his bright future.

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