How Indonesia Inspires 1stDibs Interior Designer Tom Stringer

To mark Indagare’s new partnership with 1stDibs, we’re highlighting travel and design intel from three leading voices affiliated with the luxury website.

“Simply put, travel is everything to me,” says interior designer, Tom Stringer. “Whether it’s great art and architecture, or the beauty of an underwater reef and the pattern of scales on a fish’s back—I find inspiration in all of it.” Founder of Tom Stringer Design Partners and a longstanding member of the Trade 1st program at 1stDibs—one of the world’s best online marketplaces for design fiends—Tom is both a designer and a storyteller who has used his world travels to inspire his work.

One of Tom’s favorite places to travel to and draw inspiration from is Indonesia. Read on for his Indonesian download, including his favorite art- and culture-focused activities in Jakarta and Singapore, his experiences on the water in Raja Ampat and Bawah Reserve and a lightning round with his top tips and must-tries. Plus, he shares insight into his design process (including his favorite 1stDibs dealers), his many trips to Africa and his picks for South Pacific-inspired pieces on 1stDibs.

Indagare members receive 20 percent off their first purchase on 1stDibs (up to $375 in savings) when they sign up for a 1stDibs account below. In addition, they’re welcome to an exclusive consultation with a 1stDibs Private Client specialist. These in-house experts serve as a private concierge, providing assistance with all manner of bespoke requests. Learn more at

Related: On Scandinavian Design & Top Finds in Copenhagen & Stockholm: 1stDibs Editorial Director Anthony Barzilay Freund

Setting the Stage

What has been one of your favorite recent design projects and why?

Yacht projects are my favorites. They are machines masquerading as homes but with the infrastructure of a hotel. They are complicated and difficult, and I like a challenge. My favorite yacht project thus far was the motor yacht Slojo, which I designed for dear friends.

While traveling, where do you find design inspiration? How does that inspiration translate to your process for sourcing designs when you return home?  Everywhere. It could be the architecture and art of a place as easily as it could be the vast openness of an empty plain. While traveling, I am typically buying for myself and will buy from local sources or local dealers. When I return home and am sourcing for clients, I often turn to 1stDibs to find the kind of things that inspired me. Their search engine is amazing, and I can typically find exactly what I’m looking for—sometimes from the same dealers that I’ve met from afar.

Tom’s Guide to His Favorite 1stDibs Dealers For Accessories: Golden Triangle, Pagoda Red, Bottega Intreccio and Casa Quieta For European Antiques: Robuck For New & Vintage Rugs: Nazmiyal, FJ Hakimian and Doris Leslie Blau For Refined Furniture: Epoca, Maison Gerard and Wyeth For Rustic Furniture: Andrianna Shamaris and Brendan Bass For The Rare, Unique and Funky: JF Chen

Detour to Africa

You were in Africa again recently—what draws you back?

I love safari and being outdoors. I love the dichotomy—I can get lost in the misty dew on a field of grass at sunrise and an hour later be entranced watching a lion track its prey. Anybody who has done a safari will tell you that it fundamentally changes your relationship with the animal world. I love that the camps have evolved to be so lovely and that the best have managed to benefit their local communities.

What has your favorite experience in Africa been? I don’t know how to pick a favorite African experience, but I do love Botswana. We just made our second trip there. The variety of landscapes, the quality of the lodges and the vitality of the conservation community are all inspiring.

Read about Tom’s African adventures with Indagare: Out of Africa: Namibia Up Close

Diving into Indonesia & Singapore

Top Tips for Indonesia and Singapore, According to Tom Stringer Favorite Jakarta hotel:

Four Seasons Hotel Jakarta, designed by Cesar Pelli Favorite Singapore hotel: The classic and iconic Raffles Don’t leave home without: Your dive mask and fins and an empty bag for bringing home treasures from the markets Favorite memory: Diving with a huge school of Giant Manta Rays in the crystal clear waters of Raja Ampat Must-try drink: A Singapore Sling at the Raffles—the national drink, created at the Raffles in 1915 Must-try dish: Gado Gado, which is a bit similar to a Nicoise Salad but with peanut sauce (it’s delicious on a hot day); and sambal, a condiment made with red Chile paste Don’t Miss: Diving and snorkeling in the gin-clear waters of Misool, where hundreds of Manta Rays gather in a captivating underwater ballet Surprising discovery: La Patisserie—just inside the Four Seasons Hotel Jakarta, the gorgeous Tiffany blue jewel box of a pastry shop serves patisserie works of art

What was the breakdown of your two trips to Indonesia? On my first trip, we visited Jakarta and then sailed and dove in Raja Ampat aboard a yacht charter. For my second trip, we started in Singapore before flying off to the private island resort, Bawah Reserve.

What struck you most about Indonesia’s design ethos while you were there—any surprises? This is the land of a More is More philosophy. There is such a melting pot of cultures in Indonesia. More pattern, more color, more layers—a great place to embrace your inner Maximalist!

As both a designer and a tourist, what did you love about Jakarta?

In Jakarta, I loved visiting the Pasar Seni art market as well as the Jalan Surabaya Bazaar. There is also a lovely Museum of Textiles in central Jakarta that houses a beautiful array of batik fabrics for which Indonesia is well known—it’s well worth the visit for designers. I loaded up on a wide array of new and old Batik print fabrics, as well as some gorgeous Ikat textiles from neighboring Timor and Sumba Island; vintage Wayang painted leather shadow puppets and Repousse’ silver vessels. Authentic pieces like these are available on 1stDibs—some of my favorites are listed below.

Ikat textiles from Sumba Island on 1stDibs Ikat Textile from Sumba Island with Stunning Tribal Motifs, Indonesia Ikat Textile from Sumba Island, Indonesia Ikat Textile from Sumba Island, Indonesia

Indonesia Wayang Shadow Puppets on 1stDibs Indonesian 'Wayang Kulit" Shadow Puppet, Java, Indonesia, Early 20th Century Indonesian 'Wayang Golek" Shadow Puppet, Java, Indonesia, Early 20th Century Indonesian 'Wayang Kulit" Shadow Puppet, Java, Indonesia, Early 20th Century

Tell us about Singapore. What were your favorite activities? In Singapore, which is so very modern and dramatic, I enjoyed visiting The National Gallery and SAM (the Singapore Art Museum), which both house wonderful collections of Southeast Asian contemporary art. We loved shopping in the richly colored Kampong Glam, the old Muslim Quarter. Marina Bay is an architectural wonder of contemporary architecture that includes the not-to-be-missed Gardens by the Bay.

You’ve mentioned your love for yacht projects and diving. What were your water-based experiences in the South Pacific like?

Most of our time in the South Pacific has been spent sailing, diving and visiting small island villages. After visiting Jakarta on our first trip, we boarded the yacht Silolona for a 10-day sailing and scuba diving trip with friends to Raja Ampat. The trip included visits to the Masool and Wayag islands, and the diving and scenery throughout was extraordinary. It was the main reason that we visited Indonesia.

On our second trip, we flew to Bawah Reserve, an enclave of private islands with 36 over-water bungalows for a week of sun and fun after Singapore. There is lovely reef diving within the Anambas Archipelago.

Related: 20 Best Private Island Resorts to Escape to This Year

What keeps drawing you back to the art and design of Indonesia? Can you talk a little about specific furniture or art pieces that you’re loving since your trips? Indonesia is a crossroad for many cultures, and the art and design reflect that. I love the rich patterning of handprinted Batik fabrics and handwoven Ikat fabrics—they are a go-to for pattern and color inspiration and very easy to layer into almost all our interiors. But I’d be remiss not to mention the painted masks, shadow puppets and teak products like low stools, bowls and carved trays.

What's Next?

Where are you headed next?

2023 is a banner year for travel. My husband and I started the year in Botswana, Tanzania and Rwanda in January. The month of February, we had a good long soak in the sun in St. Barth’s, where we’ve gone every February for the last 10 years. We traveled to Israel (a bucket list destination) for business meetings in March, and then back to Japan in early April. In May, we will be sailing in the Greek islands. In late August, we’ll sail in Spain. It’s nauseating, I know. We’re addicted.

Top 10 Indonesia-Inspired Pieces on 1stDibs

  1. Indonesian Small Antique Wooden Table/Exhibition Stand/Candle Stand Table
  2. White Textured Nubby Cotton Chandelier Indonesia, Contemporary
  3. Antique Indonesian Carved Wooden Cabinet with Diamonds and Radiating Motifs
  4. Mid-20th Century Handmade Indonesian Textile Runner Rug
  5. Beaded Betel Bag, Sumatra, Early to Mid-20th Century
  6. Antique Ironware, Incense Plate, Indonesia 18th Century
  7. Bali Hindu Textile Framed 'Kamasan' Painting, Indonesia, circa 1900
  8. Sculptural Side Table Crafted from Solid Mango Wood Burnt Black Finish
  9. Two Palembang Peranakan Lacquerware Bridal Boxes and a Tray
  10. Sumatran Beaded Boxes

For more design and travel focused content, read the first in our three-part series with 1stDibs, where 1stDibs editorial director, Tony Freund shares a deep dive into Scandanavian design and his top travel tips for Copenhagen and Stockholm.

Indagare members receive 20 percent off their first purchase on 1stDibs (up to $375 in savings) when they sign up for a 1stDibs account below. In addition, they’re welcome to an exclusive consultation with a 1stDibs Private Client specialist. These in-house experts serve as a private concierge, providing assistance with all manner of bespoke requests. Learn more at

Published onMay 8, 2023

More Inspiration

Plan Your Trip With Us

We only feature hotels that we can vouch for first-hand. At many of them, Indagare members receive special amenities.

Get In Touch

Welcome back,
log in to Indagare

Not a member?

Forgot Password

Enter your email and we’ll send you a link to reset your password.

Type the first 3 letters to begin