Crane Club is a boho-industrial beauty in Robertson Quay
The coworking concept is hotter than the weather in Singapore right now, with innovative spaces for freelancers and startups popping up in every pocket of the city. But when you want something that makes you feel at home (a particularly good-looking home), a hot desk, no matter how cool, just isn’t going to cut it. Newcomer Crane Club in River Valley has arrived to fill that emotional hole with a community and coworking concept that’s small but beautiful. Founders Federico Folcia and Jia En Teo are all about creating an unpretentious club with character – and are starting with a cultural program that swings from lindy hop to Bhutanese cooking, sketching sessions and comedy nights. Count us in.
The decor is just as eclectic as the in-house events; brightly coloured Berber rugs, touchable velvet sofas and the accordion-like divider and chairs by Canadian design firm Molo make this space texture city. The colonial-cool rattan furniture by Layard Interiors injects tropical feels. An epic terrazzo slab table (which took 20 people to carry in), a large-scale, cut artwork by Jarek Piotrowski and the lush crane-patterned wallpaper that dominates the library bring on different moods as you occupy pockets of the club. Even the bathroom, with its coloured grout, presses our buttons. We love a bit of tile style around here.
The couple decorated the space themselves: you’ll find artworks from their own collection, and vintage gems that hint at a serious pastime as treasure hunters. Case in point: a row of gloriously worn cinema chairs you’ll spot in the cafe was rescued from the Capitol Theatre (read on to find out how those beauties were snapped up).
The space itself comes with one interesting origin story: once the Nan Chiau Teacher’s College and later Nan Chiau Girls’ School; the building dates from 1941 and still has original features that send shivers down vintage lovers’ spines – oh, those grilles and that weathered floor! One of the Club’s visitors who attended the College in the ’60s recognised the old teachers’ staff room (now the office) and library space.
Federico let us in on the full story behind the space…
Boulevard: Crane Club has a unique former life – what lured you to this space, and which features are you most fond of?
Federico Folcia: When we first saw the space, we fell in love with it immediately. Not only because of its history, but also its location. Crane is nestled in the heart of River Valley and Robertson Quay, only minutes from the CBD. However, because it is ensconced in the old school grounds, which have now been converted into an office park of sorts, it provides a peaceful respite from the city.
Many of the vintage aspects of the space have been preserved. The window grilles are original, as are the weathered floors. We also love the shophouses along Kim Yam and Tong Watt Roads. In fact, we love them so much that at Crane, we run an art class for sketching these iconic heritage buildings of Singapore.
Members and guests enjoy the space very much from the moment they step in – they love the relaxed vibe and comfortable atmosphere. That’s what we like most!
Blvd: Tell us about the community at Crane Club – who is this space for? How do you want people to feel when they spend time in the club?
FF: Crane is a social space and community club for grown ups. At Crane, members can participate in workshops, attend activities, organise events, co-work, and more, all under one roof.
We created a multi-use and multi-purpose space that encourages personal development, lifelong learning, and interaction among members.
We like to say that Crane is a members-for-members club, because our members provide content for each other by sharing their skills, knowledge and life experience, through workshops, panels, and dinners.
Blvd: The look here is deliciously eclectic – is there a particular aesthetic you have an affinity for, or do you love it all?
FF: Everything you see in Crane has been lovingly curated from all over the world! The decor was not designed to deliberately adhere to any interior design trend, but developed organically into a casual boho-industrial look we’re very proud of. We like natural textures and materials such as wood, wool and rattan, and you can see this reflected in the space.
Blvd: The space needs to transform to accommodate a spectrum of events; how did you decorate with this in mind?
FF: Our space is infinitely convertible, from a cosy private dinner nook, to a musical performance venue, to a business presentation auditorium. This is achieved with the use of ingenious accordion-style partitions and seating by Molo that can be extended to partition off several small rooms, or a large private space, or anything in-between. These partitions and seats can also be collapsed flat for storage, until the next event!
Our rattan furniture by Anna Layard was also purchased with this flexibility in mind; rattan is both strong and light, and can be easily moved to reconfigure the space.
Blvd: The Club has been populated with a few of your own treasures and pieces of art: can you let us in on how you personalised the space?
FF: We collect things we like or which interest us, from paintings to furniture, carpets to lamps, recycled railway sleepers to old theatre seating! All these treasures have been lovingly used around the Club and each piece has a story. This is what we love about Crane: that it is a journey in discovery – in not only the content, but even in the physical space.
Blvd: Tell us more about the library – where did you source that amazing wallpaper?
FF: It’s by Woodchip & Magnolia, from Lancashire, UK, which is famous for interesting and eye-catching wallpaper designs. When we saw this brilliant crane design, we knew we had to have it.
Blvd: We particularly love the rescued pieces and materials: namely those cinema chairs, the giant birdcage and the wooden planks in the garden – how do you come across these gems and what’s the story behind them?
FF: We might be here a long time! The cinema seats are from the old Capitol Theatre. I have various connections with designers and decorators, many of whom know my love of repurposing beautiful vintage items.
One day while I was driving somewhere, a friend who was involved in the refurbishment of the old Capitol Theatre called me and said, “We’re ripping out the theatre seats for destruction. Do you want to keep some?”
I said “Yes! Wait for me!” And I turned the car around then and there and raced towards town! I only just made it before the seats were all removed for destruction. I crammed a row of four seats into my car and drove home with them. They moved with me from our old home in Toh Tuck to our new place in Bukit Timah, and finally found a home in Crane. Our in-house art teacher Xavier often teaches art classes to children using these seats; the kids love them!
Likewise, the railway sleepers used as our deck in the backyard were salvaged from the Singapore-Malaya railway. Some folks we know gave us a call as they were taking them out, and we have kept them for years, until we found the perfect use for them now!
address: 46 Kim Yam Rd #01-06, Singapore 239351