Good wood - Issue 170 - Magazine | Monocle

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Take one look into the Roger&Sons workshop in Singapore and you’ll know that there is something special about the operation. In place of spit and sawdust is a high-ceilinged space that’s spick and span, with woodworking benches flanked by detailed drawings and handmade objects. To top it off, the workshop is in Jalan Besar, a central neighbourhood known for its cafés and boutiques. Most of the island’s carpenters, in contrast, have plonked themselves around Singapore’s fringe. “In our effort to make carpentry more accessible and less intimidating, we wanted to be closer to people,” says co-founder Morgan Yeo.

Morgan (on left) and Ryan Yeo of Roger & Sons

But it hasn’t always been this way. In 2014, Yeo’s father passed away, leaving behind jr&p Industries, a business that made run-of-the-mill furniture, such as kitchen cabinets and wardrobes. “For the past 50 years, the bulk of carpentry work in Singapore was basically nailing plywood with an air gun and applying laminates over it,” says Yeo. Bespoke woodworking in the city-state was a dying trade. 
So when Yeo and his two brothers, Lincoln and Ryan, chose to continue their father’s legacy in 2014, they knew that they needed to go against the grain. Rebranding the family firm as Roger&Sons, they buckled down to create custom furniture. “We wanted to take on projects that most local carpenters would reject without batting an eyelid,” says Yeo. 

It’s an outlook that is reflected in its portfolio: custom wooden ear cups for headphones and a levitating shaving brush are just two of Roger&Sons’ unconventional projects from the past few years. Such works often start from a personal place, as their clients are looking for the perfect solution to a specific problem. Over the course of a few weeks or even months, Yeo learns about their needs, makes prototypes, then pours himself into making the object. He sees Roger&Sons as a kind of guide who joins its client on a journey to create something that means the world to them, whether that’s an oak wine cellar for a homeowner or tables for Italian restaurant Fico.

Sustainability rests at the foundation of Roger&Sons. This is beautifully reflected in The Local Tree Project, Yeo’s ground-up initiative that salvages trees that have been felled for urban development and are considered waste. “We have stockpiles of abandoned logs in Singapore’s sawmills waiting to be turned into mulch or pallet wood, yet we’re still importing so much wood from overseas,” he says. His team extends the lifespan of this discarded timber by using it in Roger&Sons projects. Since founding the programme in 2019, it has refashioned local rain trees into benches for Singapore’s new aviary, Bird Paradise, and created a public playground in the city’s Tanjong Pagar neighbourhood using reclaimed African mahogany. In fact, 80 per cent of Roger&Sons’ work today involves felled wood from Singapore. Now other woodworking companies are open to exploring the use of these sources – all thanks to Yeo.

In the workshop
Works in progress
Tools of the trade
Finished products

What drives Roger&Sons is Yeo’s restless pursuit in levelling up his craft. Spend some time with him and you’ll quickly learn that he never stops thinking about new ways of woodworking. “How we make a box today and how we make it in 10 years’ time will be different for us,” he says. This spirit of openness and inquiry has led him to collaborate with like-minded vanguards, even those outside woodworking. For example, he partnered with Semula, a company that processes plastic bottles into reusable high-density polyethylene, to create bespoke stools for Creamier, a local ice-cream joint. Recycled milk bottles from the shop were used to form plastic chair tops, while the legs were made from restored African mahogany.

Recently, Paris-based product designer Christophe Machet and Yeo tinkered with sawdust and eco-friendly glue to create a new material for lampshades. With such blue-sky experimentations, Yeo hopes to open up possibilities for Singapore’s makers and designers. “We’ve often looked to America and Europe for cutting-edge design and materials,” he says. “But I believe that we’re able to develop innovative materials using the resources here too.”

Roger&Sons turns 10 in February, marking a fruitful decade of transformation in which Yeo and his brothers not only turned their father’s flagging business around but have forged a new way forward for Singapore’s woodworking industry. One thing stays the same, though: their palpable passion for carpentry. So what does Yeo think sets Roger&Sons apart? “A lot of heart goes into our woodworking and this will come through in our products,” he says. “When you touch it, you’ll instinctively know that it was made from love.”

Monocle comment: Consider bespoke furniture and fit-outs for your home. A skilled carpenter tailors to your needs. Plus, independent makers are better connected with local supply chains, limiting your carbon footprint.

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