Living Artfully

Peek into the colourful homes of four creatives who have decked out their digs with art, printed wallpaper, retro stylings and more

They are professionals in the creative industries and known for their artistic flair.

Their sense of style is also evident in their homes.

Step into the living spaces of artist and art collector Johann M. Fauzi, film director Royston Tan, architect Anjali Mangalgiri and entrepreneur Tjin Lee, and find out how they marry comfort with creativity.

Classical European art and antiques in a flat 

JOHANN M. FAUZI

Artist and art collector

In art, the Italian term chiaroscuro refers to a contrasted play on light and shadow for perspective. Artist and art collector Johann M. Fauzi's home is a chiaroscuro artwork of sorts.

The floor-to-ceiling antique paintings stand out, but equally eye-catching is his rich collection of porcelain, tapestries and ceramics.

Every corner of his 1,300 sq ft five-room Housing Board flat in Bedok exudes old-world charm - from the handcrafted baroque crown moulding on the ceiling to the decorative dado rail and wainscoting on the walls.

The flat's colour scheme is red and gold, with aureate vintage French and Italian clocks, ruby-toned tasselled silk curtains, and gilded mirrors and doorknobs.

"I was going for a Classical-era look, which I feel does not go out of fashion very fast, unlike many current trends," says the artist, who composes ornate Mannerist and Renaissance-style oil paintings.

Taking inspiration from French architect Jacques Garcia and British interior designer David Mlinaric, he did in-depth research to create his ideal interior.

Two of the bedrooms have been converted to accommodate his needs. One is a library and the other is an art studio.

Much of his best work happens in the library, where shelves packed with books flank a carved bed frame inspired by a boudoir in Chateau du Champ de Bataille, a baroque castle in Upper Normandy, France.

"Here, I am surrounded by books and research material. It forces me to think hard and not idle away my time. Most of my conceptual ideas and writings were born in this library," says Johann, who lives with his partner.

A bronze ormolu chandelier from the First French Empire in the 18th century hangs in the dining room - his favourite area of the house, where he entertains guests who sit surrounded by art.

"I like beautiful things and I appreciate good craftsmanship," he says, and offers a quote he enjoys by Aldo Gucci, the former chairman of luxury fashion house Gucci. "Quality is remembered long after price is forgotten."

Rustic aesthetic inspired by nature

ANJALI MANGALGIRI

Architect

The term "black and white houses" is often used to refer to a specific type of building built by the British in the colonial era to house civil servants.

Today, these buildings - recognisable by their monochromatic colour scheme - are preserved by the state for their colonial and architectural legacy, and are available for rent in limited numbers.

Ms Anjali Mangalgiri, 41, principal architect and founder of architecture outfit Grounded, has been living in one such black and white residence in Monk's Hill Road since 2015, and has brought the tenets of her practice to her apartment's design.

She says: "At Grounded, we strive for a design aesthetic that is minimal, deeply personal, comfortable and gentle on the environment."

"My home is an extension of the same design values. I look for ways to marry the rustic, the traditional, and the historic meaning of a place with modern comforts and contemporary forms," says the architect, whose husband is a partner at a hedge fund management company. They have two daughters, who are 18 months and five years old respectively.

Her 2,500 sq ft apartment, like others in the building, was built with Singapore's climate in mind.

The unit has cool, steady ventilation, thanks to the many windows, the 3.6m-high ceilings and wrap-around verandas that provide shade from harsh sunlight.

And, to create an open floor plan with more airflow and natural light, Ms Mangalgiri had the wall separating the kitchen and the living space hacked away.

Items from her travels dot the home - a glass bottle from a flea market in Copenhagen, Denmark; a Longpi teapot from north-eastern India; and a chunk of wood from a walk in the park in Singapore. But the rice-paper pendant light above her dining table is a work she particularly treasures. The light is from Sotohaus in Goa, India, where she had founded her practice.

Nature is her best source of design inspiration, she says. The corridor leading to her living room is lined with greenery. An intricately carved wooden door from India, repurposed into a mirror, stands near the entryway. Wooden furniture and plants dot her living room, where an antique opium daybed doubles as a jungle gym for her five-year-old daughter, Zoe.

"I feel incredibly special to have generous indoor-outdoor spaces in a city that is known for its towering condominiums," she says. "These lovely spaces and balconies allow us to stay connected to history and bring us eye level with nature."

Oasis of calm amid hectic urban life

TJIN LEE

Entrepreneur

When Ms Tjin Lee, 47, saw her black and white 2,400 sq ft low-rise rental apartment in Winstedt Road at the end of last year, she knew instantly that it had "good bones" to design the home she had in mind.

Though she would have preferred a bigger space, the allure of the colonial home's structure - connected balconies, an abundance of windows and high ceilings - drew her in.

Ms Lee, founder and managing director of local firm Mercury Marketing and Communications, says: "My idea for our new home was to create an oasis, a place to dream, exhale and retreat from hectic urban life. I wanted to instil a sense of escape, like being in your favourite boutique hotel or that stylish little cafe."

Having moved into the home only in January, she is slowly finding ways to make the space her own by adding little touches such as books, scents and plants.

But what makes her home extra special is how much her sons - Tyler, eight, and Jake, six - are already enjoying it. "I loved it when the boys saw our home for the first time and said delightedly, 'We're going to live in a hotel!' In a year without travel, we now escape at home," says Ms Lee, who is married to a commodities trader.

She took inspiration from the Winter Garden at Kimpton Clocktower Hotel in Manchester, England, and the home of Colombian fashion designer Johanna Ortiz - but, most of all, from her love of botany and travel.

A chequered vinyl floor stretches down her corridor. In the living room, a sprawling jungle-print wallpaper greets guests. The brass coffee tables, banana-leaf fans and tropical tree motifs on the walls, plus a well-stocked Nusantara bar cart, give off an air of old-world elegance reminiscent of the Raffles Hotel.

Keen on bringing the outdoors in, Ms Lee has vases of fresh flowers on each table and plants in different corners, which add life to the home and remind her of her travels.

Hanging in the dining area is her most treasured furnishing - a PH Artichoke lamp designed by Danish architect Poul Henningsen in 1958. Its 72 copper leaves are strategically positioned to conceal the bulb, offering glare-free light from every angle when she works at the dining table or entertains guests.

In contrast to her vibrant living and dining areas, her master bedroom is a "space of calm and peace", she says.

Designed with earthy neutral tones, stone-coloured wallpaper and wooden furniture, the bedroom is one of Ms Lee's favourite parts of the home.

The place is still coming together and often shifts to accommodate new structures, such as a cabinet for her husband's bike, but it does not bother her.

"I talk about starting where you are quite often. If you keep waiting for the perfect home or perfect space, then you may be waiting half your life," she says.

"So, when people ask me why I spruced up a rental apartment so much, my simple answer is, because we live here and you don't get that time back."

Nostalgic vintage knick-knacks

ROYSTON TAN

Film director

Film director Royston Tan is a self-proclaimed hoarder.

He keeps a New Chay Hong beauty parlour signboard from the 1960s, vintage seats from Capitol Theatre, retro clocks and even a first-generation Sony radio in his home.

In a quaint wooden cabinet, he stores bits and bobs from the past, like an unopened toy truck in mint condition - a birthday present from his childhood - and a tiffin carrier. Each piece tells a story.

The 44-year-old says: "I'm sentimental. I take joy in keeping these little things that trigger memories because in this time and age, people forget things very easily."

"And when things are forgotten and replaced so quickly, a part of you is lost," adds the director of well-known local movies such as teen gang drama 15 (2003) and getai musical 881 (2007).

"Retro, industrial, minimal" is the description he offers for the decor of his 1,337 sq ft double-storey two-plus-one penthouse condominium unit in Serangoon, where exposed brick and concrete meet old-school trinkets and clean lines.

On the ground floor, the walls of the first bedroom have been demolished to let more natural light into the extended living space.

Many of Tan's design ideas are inspired by his travels. A trip to the mountains in Chiang Mai, Thailand, influenced his decision to keep his textured walls a soothing grey.

And a stay in a hotel in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, where the interior decor changed periodically, prompted him to be flexible with his decorative pieces.

The clock above his dining table - where he hosts work meetings and brainstorming sessions - also changes every three months to signify the end of a quarter of a year.

He considers his upstairs bedroom a sanctuary where he can relax and think up some of his best creative works.

The furnishings there are also tasteful. A sewing machine from 1975, which belonged to his grandmother, serves as a bedside table. A pair of restored window shutters from an abandoned house in Taiwan hangs above the bed as a piece of art.

The home's greyscale palette creates a sense of calm and familiarity.

"People tell me when they come over that they don't want to leave. They just enjoy spending the afternoon relaxing here," Tan says. "I like that my space feels welcoming not just to me, but also others."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 31, 2021, with the headline 'Living Artfully'. Subscribe