Boutique 18 Update: Alan Barr

From NY’s zeffdesign to founding his own firm

Alan Barr | greymatters

Alan Barr. Photo: Courtesy of greymatters

THEN: zeffdesign, principal and managing director, New York
NOW: greymatters, founder and global managing director, Singapore

WHAT JOB CHANGES HAVE YOU MADE SINCE BEING NAMED TO THE B18, AND WHY?
In early 2010, I was recruited to come to Singapore by a design firm that wanted to enter the hospitality sector. After two-and-a-half years, I received my permanent residency—and resigned the next day. A few days later, I opened my own shop, greymatters, and now have almost 40 employees in five locations.

WHAT MAJOR CHANGES HAVE YOU SEEN IN THE DESIGN FIELD SINCE JOINING THE B18?
Speed, speed, speed—project schedules are shorter than ever. In addition, in most of our work throughout Asia, we are seeing more and more instances where clients are demanding that sourcing and specifications must be 100 percent domestic to the project’s location.

Freebird | Alan Barr | greymatters

Freebird. Photo: Owen Ragget Photography

HOW DID BECOMING PART OF THE B18 IMPACT YOUR CAREER?
It was certainly great exposure for me, as well as other young and rising talent in the industry. Things in my career have certainly been rocketing along since then, with no looking back. Loving life, loving the career and most of all loving the amazing projects that we get to develop all over the world.

WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON NOW?
Three JW Marriotts, a Four Seasons, two W Hotels & Resorts, and a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, along with several boutique hotels, resorts and celebrity-chef restaurants. Our work profile is very eclectic, which keeps things interesting. Especially near and dear to my heart is Freebird, a former house in Bangkok that we converted into a restaurant on its first floor and one of our design studios on the second. The two functions co-exist and interact in a variety of ways. Some examples: The studio’s design materials library doubles as a private dining room, and we often use the chef’s table (shown) to do presentations with clients.

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