Bok Tjuv. Photo by Lyn Ong.
The founders of Bok Tjuv. Photo by Lyn Ong.

“Don’t miss the turning at the Shell petrol station off the highway. If you do, you won’t be able to turn back,” he said. With those words in mind, I drove towards Seri Kembangan in search of a location that seemed dangerously obscure. The place in question? Bok Tjuv (pronounced as “Book Schoove”), a pop up design library and shop.

Bok Tjuv was founded by three friends, Yu Kiat, Kean Yek and Chee Wei. With Yu Kiat and his friend Audrey patiently guiding us for the most part of the journey over the phone, we managed to find our way to One South Street Mall where Bok Tjuv is located. We emerged thankfully from the bustling mid afternoon traffic into a place that was a far cry from chaos.

Designed with an open plan in mind, the mood of the library cum shop is calming with its simple interior.  Clean lines and organic shapes dominate the design of the space while natural lighting streams in from the large windows.

Bok Tjuv. Photo by Lyn Ong.

“I always like simple designs, something with functionality and relates back to Nature. The ways in which we live our lives are simple”, says Yu Kiat, who works by day as a Graphic Designer. He and his co-founders were former course mates at Universiti Malaysia Sabah and majored in Multimedia programming. Chee Wei now works in a bookstore while while Kean Yek is the only one that remains in the programming line. However, their day jobs do not dissuade them from delving into all things related to design.


The name Bok Tjuv translates as “book thief” in Swedish.


The three of them were initially unaware that their many interests were of a particular genre. However, as they discovered later on, these minimalistic elements that they were so fond of were coincidentally derived from Scandinavian designs. Hence the name Bok Tjuv, which translates as “book thief” in Swedish.

Bok Tjuv became a reality in mid 2011: a space in which to share with others their vast collection of design magazines and books. The outlet in Seri Kembangan is currently on loan from a friend. Their first space was originally in Kota Damansara but they decided to close down towards the end of 2012 and instead focus on just participating in bazaars, which they continue to do now (Urbanscapes being the latest in their list).

Besides their library of books and magazines, Bok Tjuv has their own range of products for sale. Bestsellers include the tote bags which are all individually sewn and designed by Chee Wei himself. Noticing a wider female customer base, the founders recently decided to include accessories into their range with Kean Yek helming the production.

There is no fixed price for any of their products and it all boils down to the materials they use and the eventual designs they decide upon. But a good indicator would be that accessories are usually priced along the RM20 – RM30 range. They also collaborate with other designers. One regular contributor is Audrey Liew, founder of The Cheezy Kids.

Bok Tjuv is intended to be an avenue for designers and design lovers alike to gather, share and present their ideas in the hope that it will foster the progress of our burgeoning design industry. For example, during weekends, Bok Tjuv also plays host to the Typokaki group, who use the available space for lessons in Jawi writing. In Kean Yek’s words, this is a place where “we can collaborate with other designers and work here.”

Bok Tjuv. Photo by Lyn Ong.

With the influx of digital based designs, people are starting once more to seek out what was once good and old, an alternative to all the new media we see these days. The emergence of businesses like The Royal Press in Malacca and The Alphabet Press in Petaling Jaya, which focus on letterpress printing, help to boost the recognition and acknowledgement for traditional design forms. Bok Tjuv are part of this community driving renewed interested in artisan design.

Discussions regarding future plans for Bok Tjuv are still ongoing and expansion details are sketchy at this point.  “We want to inspire the local designers” remains one of their main goals. Come what may, they intend to maintain the intimate structure of the space as a creative hub for all. As the founders themselves say, Bok Tjuv is all about sharing.

Words and photos by Lyn Ong.

Bok Tjuv, B-4-8, One South Street Mall, Jalan OS, Taman Serdang Perdana, Seksyen 6, 43300 Seri Kembangan. Open by appointment only, Saturdays and Sundays, 1pm – 6pm. (0128763464 Yu Kiat).