Interior designer Cherin Tan’s home a masterclass in marrying different personalities

The first thing you notice when you step into the apartment is how bright and cosy the space is. PHOTO: Phyllicia Wang
The home perfectly encapsulates both Ms Cherin Tan and Mr Jason Tong's personalities. PHOTO: Phyllicia Wang

This article first appeared in Harper’s Bazaar Singapore, the leading fashion glossy on the best of style, beauty, design, travel and the arts. Go to and follow @harpersbazaarsg on Instagram; harpersbazaarsingapore on Facebook. The October 2022 issue is out on newsstands now.

SINGAPORE – Back in 2018, interior designer Cherin Tan and her husband, Mr Jason Tong, were almost ready to put in an offer for a Housing Board point block flat in the Jalan Besar neighbourhood. Then a text message from a friend came to inform them of the availability of a walk-up apartment just a few streets away. 

“I was very keen on walk-ups because we wanted a bigger space,” says the founder and creative director of interior design and architecture design company Laank. “So I think it took us less than 10 minutes after viewing the unit to make an offer.”

At that time, the 2½-storey penthouse apartment, which measures 2,000 sq ft and sits on the top floor of a low-rise 1960s building, was configured as two separate rental units in a split-level setting. 

“As I am an interior designer, I quickly saw its potential and what could be done with this space. Because there were no structural columns in the middle, I could also see how to rework the existing area into many pockets of space to suit my and Jason’s very different personalities and interests,” she adds. 

Ms Tan, 38, says she loves pottery, gardening and cooking, while her 43-year-old husband, a freelance creative consultant, enjoys music, reading and skating.

What they both had in common, however, is their love of hosting and entertaining friends. This, Ms Tan says, made the design process more interesting, adding that they both wanted to “acknowledge the differences while still ensuring the design and design process were harmonious”.

As she was busy with other projects for various clients, she did not have much time to dwell on the design of her own home.

“We knew when we had to start the renovation process to fulfil a moving date. So what I did was take two days of leave from work and just sat down to plan everything,” she says. 

This design process proved to be most efficient because both of them had to be decisive about what they wanted for the home, which they share with their three cats, Socks, Judo and Sage.

For instance, Ms Tan had the final say for the kitchen, dining room, balcony and rooftop garden, while her husband took care of the music lounge.

“Jason is very chill about most things and what he wanted most was for things to be easy to clean,” she says. “Practicality and functionality were not difficult for me to plan.”

While many designers tend to adhere to a specific style, such as Japandi or mid-century modern, Ms Tan says her modus operandi was completely antithetical to this. She calls hers a “no design” approach. “Basically, we designed our space around how we live and how we envisioned our new chapter of life to be.”

Ms Cherin Tan is the founder and creative director of interior design and architecture design company Laank. 

The result is a cohesively designed home that perfectly encapsulates both their personalities. 

The first thing you notice when you step into the apartment is how bright and cosy the space is. It is a stark contrast to the dimly lit stairwell you have to climb to reach it. And while most people would locate their private spaces on the upper floor, away from the main door, Ms Tan positioned theirs on the lower level. It was intentional, she says, especially since one has to walk five floors up to the apartment. 

Also, placing the master bedroom here made sense because of the original layout of the space. Previously separated into two smaller rooms, the wall in between has been replaced with a collapsible door, which can be closed if they need an extra room. 

Connecting the two rooms is a his-and-hers walk-in wardrobe. Because there is no utility room in the apartment, Ms Tan raised the floor of their closet area, which then doubled as hidden storage space. 

Connecting the two rooms is a his-and-hers walk-in wardrobe. PHOTO: PHYLLICIA WANG

An interesting design feature in the master bedroom is the travertine walls separating the room from the walk-in wardrobe. Ms Tan says she was inspired by a campfire experience they had during their honeymoon in South Africa.

“The stone was reversed to reveal the underside as it has more texture. We put lights behind it so that when it’s backlit, the effect looks like the glow of fire embers at night,” she adds. 

But the home’s piece de resistance is, arguably, the staircase leading up to the upper floors, which Ms Tan says was the last to be designed. Made out of multi-coloured stone tiles meticulously cut and arranged in a diagonal pattern, it is a nod to two of her favourite interior designers, Jaime Hayon and Kelly Wearstler, who are known for their use of colour and whimsical design elements.

“We wanted the place to have even more quirkiness and personality, so we decided to have this random burst of colour here. It makes everything more interesting,” she says.


On the second floor is where the magic happens. Despite the narrow layout of the apartment, one cannot help but be in awe of how spacious the area feels. This is where the open-plan kitchen and dining area are located, taking up almost the entire length.

Past the 3m-long dining table, which also doubles as the couple’s work space, is Mr Tong’s music lounge, complete with wall shelves filled with records, interspersed with decorative pieces.

The 3m-long dining table, which also doubles as the couple’s work space. PHOTO: PHYLLICIA WANG

Beyond the lounge is a generous balcony space overlooking the Jalan Besar Stadium, and which has a spiral staircase that leads up to the rooftop garden. “Jason and I love hosting our friends and families, so I designed this space to be where we can hang out while I cook,” she says. 

Lining the expansive walls is an eclectic display featuring photographs of their favourite memories together and artworks from local artists, many of whom are the couple’s friends.

One of Ms Cherin Tan’s favourite pieces on the wall is a skateboard in the shape of a Kikkoman bottle.  PHOTO: PHYLLICIA WANG

One of Ms Tan’s favourite pieces on the wall is a skateboard in the shape of a Kikkoman bottle. “Jason bought this for me as a gift, and it is a perfect representation of us – the skateboard is very Jason, and Kikkoman is very me,” she says. 

When asked which is her favourite space in the apartment, she does not hesitate to point out the walk-in storage for her collection of tableware.

“I have a thing for crockery,” she says with a laugh. “Whenever we travel, I always visit flea markets and pottery studios where I pick up interesting plates or dining ware. I did not have space to display them previously, so when designing the place, I made sure to have walk-in wardrobes for my clothes as well as my babies – my plates and crockery.” 


Despite dedicating only two intensive days to conceptualise the design of the home, the final result is a cohesive narrative and a stylish showcase of meticulous planning.

“It is still evolving and I don’t know how long we will stay in this apartment,” Ms Tan says. “But, for as long as we are here, it is important that the space perfectly reflects both our personalities. And that’s the most important thing when it comes to designing one’s home.”

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