KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 1 — Lisette Scheers may not be a household name yet but her work is already familiar to quite a few Malaysians. She’s the designer behind many of The BIG Group’s restaurant interiors as well as the creator of Nala Designs, which started out as a stationery brand named after her daughter.
Recently, the creative director of L.Inc, a multidisciplinary design agency, opened a cosy cafe/store named DR.Inc (pronounced drink) together with Jeremy Chin who has a decade of culinary experience under his belt.
DR.Inc is totally charming; the entire place was designed and decorated by Scheers and her team and you can find Nala Designs merchandise all over the place. Even the wallpaper was designed by her.
Both Scheers and Chin share the same passion for coffee, good taste and authentic vintage memorabilia.
“Jeremy and I are business partners at DR.Inc while Kedai Bikin is a consignee,” explained Scheers. The Kedai Bikin office is at the back of the cafe but you can sit on all the chairs and tables made by them at DR.Inc. And yes, they are for sale.
In fact, most of the things you see in the cafe/store are for sale. These include the books and vintage goods Scheers brought back from her travels abroad. It’s like you can shop and catch up with your friends over coffee at the same time.
The story of how DR.Inc came about is pretty cool. Scheers was supposed to take a two-month sabbatical in Sri Lanka. By chance, she met a mutual friend of Chin’s and they clicked automatically.
“It takes about one minute to see if you can work with someone. I had a good impression of Chin and after careful planning, we decided to open DR.Inc,” said Scheers.
Chin is pretty reserved and was definitely the quieter of the two during the interview but when he talks about something he is passionate about, you can see his eyes light up.
Initially, it was only going to be a pop-up cafe/shop. “It is really different from what we first thought up. At first you think that opening a cafe is a no-brainer but then when it actually happens, you have to serve coffee, take orders while explaining about Nala Designs when people come in,” said Scheers.
It was and is a lot of work. Scheers works long hours at L.Inc, does silkscreen printing by hand for Nala Designs and also takes care of Nala, her daughter.
She named her daughter Nala which translates to success in Swahili. Her little girl loves blue and purple and helped her mother choose the design for placemats for the upcoming Chinese New Year.
The Nala Creative Prosperity Baaaaandle is a unique take on the Chinese New Year hamper. It comes in a red biscuit tin and contains sparklers, Nala placemats, mandarin oranges, Nala Hong Dynastea, Berry Yummy Bing Gan, Drunken Dan Gao Master and other awesome Nala goodies.
Although some of the foodstuff sound Malaysian Chinese, the Drunken Dan Gao Master is actually an Irish alcohol-infused fruitcake that is “handmade with true kung fu to a traditional Lawless family recipe.”
Born in Singapore in 1970, Scheers is of Dutch ethnicity but she grew up in Malaysia. She speaks fluent Bahasa Malaysia to her Indonesian employees and loves incorporating Peranakan motifs in Nala Designs.
“I don’t like the cliche of the Petronas Twin Towers design in some of our souvenirs. There are some nice ones but most of them are really unpleasant. What we like are aesthetically correct designs,” said Scheers.
Nala Designs are neither gaudy or tacky. Subtle cultural and culinary icons are used in tasteful colours and patterns. Classic and contemporary elements that remind us of Malaysia are what makes Nala Designs so popular.
“I actually didn’t know that Nala had a fan base. When customers visit DR.Inc they go, ‘Wow, I didn’t know there is a Nala shop!’ and they get really excited,” said Scheers.
If you are already a fan of Nala Designs, here’s some good news: Scheers is starting a furniture line for Nala Designs so you can buy Nala curtains, Nala wallpaper, Nala placemats and a lot more (shhh... it’s a secret!).
To keep things fresh, Scheers will redecorate DR.Inc every month. At the time of writing, she showed me prototypes of the Chinese New Year goodies. By end of January, everything will be up for sale and I’ve got a good feeling about it.
“We don’t like things to be stagnant. Also, I’m surprised that the books I brought back from abroad sold very well. I guess some Malaysians do read,” commented Scheers when she showed me some of the Nala Design goods as well as the beautiful collectibles from her travels. That entire shelf would be changed and I can’t wait to see what is going up next.
“The response to DR.Inc and Nala Designs has been overwhelming. We are now looking at offering some light bites. We’ve got a stove and an oven so there are possibilities. Right now I’m working on the menu. On top of the mixology drinks by our barista Neil, we are also adding four new drinks,” said Chin.
One of the light bites Chin will introduce is French toast made to his grandmother’s recipe. This is not the Hong Kong-styled version nor the American-styled one but the type you ate in the 80s and 90s as a child in Malaysia.
Scheers and Chin believe that when people see Nala Designs and DR.Inc, they fall in love with the idea first before realising that it is buatan Malaysia. Which will be a lovely surprise.
They will also be expanding their space to upstairs. There are also plans underway for a rooftop garden and a space for people to rent for meetings and parties. Scheers will also conduct workshops under the Nala Designs brand. She is also working on making fabric on roll for sale.
DR.Inc has been so well-received within the Bangsar community that there was this uncle who donated a vintage stool to the cafe. He said he had a warehouse full of them!
And after chatting with him, they found out that he is actually a contractor. Now, he is working on the upstairs of DR.Inc!
All I can say is... cheers to Scheers, Chin and the team!
8, Jalan Kemuja, Bangsar 59000,
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Tel: +603 2283 4698
Nala Designs: https://www.facebook.com/naladesigns