Founder of cardboard carpentry company Paper Carpenter Adrian Chua gets candid about his personal style, childhood musings and a perilous situation that shaped his view on life.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

What’s your design style?

Minimal, clean and organic, and which retains much of Mother Nature’s gifts with the scent of wood, natural stone and lots of foliage - think tropical styles. It not only relaxes the mind and body but also evokes freshness.

Describe your fondest memory as a child

When I was about seven years old, I picked up a cardboard box and sled down a grass slope in it. I had so much fun that I asked my friends to find their own cardboard boxes and join me. Eventually, it became a weekly downhill race against the kids in my neighbourhood.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?

It will be to “believe in my belief”. When I experience any self-doubt, procrastination, or even anxiety, this helps me overcome any obstacles and has contributed in helping me achieve significant things. If I don’t believe in myself, who else will?

The sky, ocean, mountains and animals – which inspires you the most?

The mountains. They are like life’s line graphs, full of ups and downs. Even at my lowest points, I know that I will bounce back up again. I experienced a life and death situation five years ago when I was trapped in Nepal during an earthquake. I had no food and only drank dirty pool water from a guest house I was seeking refuge in. I did not know if I would survive, and nothing else mattered more than seeing my family again. It is a constant reminder that life can be unpredictable and fragile. I want to make full use of my precious time with loved ones and to create products that improve lives. My inspiration comes from the adventures and challenges that I have faced in life.

Name one cause you will fight for and why?

Global warming, which is a major aspect of climate change, and will be detrimental for our future generations. I advocate awareness about reducing carbon footprints and using sustainable materials as much as possible. I have partnered multiple organisations to use my cardboard products for their events.

Which room in the house do you spend the most time in and why?

My master bedroom. It has an adjoining balcony with trees and lots of plants. I’ve installed a bird feeder there and I watch wild birds up close from behind a glass door. They even built a nest there and my daughters learnt about a bird’s life cycle. They’re almost like pets, but with the freedom of being uncaged.

What would you like to have as your last meal on earth?

A piece of A5 grade wagyu steak and chocolate lava cake prepared by my wife, Irene (who is the marketing director of Paper Carpenter).

What is one thing you’ve always wanted to try but have never summoned the courage to?

Scuba diving. It is a different world down there and I feel like a trespasser intruding on marine life. The open sea makes me feel helpless. If I’m in danger, there is no way of communicating with the sea creatures. Being on land with people makes more sense to me.

text MiChelle Lee