AT HOME WITH Goh Ling Ling

Charmed by classics

Bag designer Goh Ling Ling says furniture is meant to be used and not just for display

Two big leather chairs, faded and cracked, take centre stage in Ms Goh Ling Ling's apartment.

Most home owners would have thrown them out a long time ago but Ms Goh, who owns artisanal bag designer label Ling Wu, likes them just the way they are.

She bought the mid-20th century, German-made chairs from a friend who used to deal in vintage furniture here.

She candidly admits: "I love old, dirty things and furniture which has that 'lived-in' look. The beauty of these chairs is that they look beaten up, and that's why I picked them. Three families probably used them before me... that's what gives them character."

The mantra, old is gold, has been her philosophy in doing up her home, and also influenced her decision to move into a 1,600 sq ft condominium in Toh Tuck Road that was built in the 1980s.

She is married to Australian Robert John Upton, 43, who is a creative director at an advertising agency. He also has a hobbyist candle business, A Dose of Something Good. They have three children - two girls and a boy - aged between three and 10 years old.

They were living with her family after the birth of their first child, but decided to look for a place of their own seven years ago.

Ms Goh, 39, avoided new condominiums. "They are too manicured and cosmetic-looking. I wanted something that was more green and spacious."

After viewing 30 houses, the couple settled on their current digs.

The apartment, on the top floor of the four-storey block, has an expansive, unblocked view of the estate, which has a lot of green nooks, and overlooks a huge pool.

There is no lift and they have to climb up the stairs to get to their home. But Ms Goh says: "It was love at first sight when we saw how the apartment opened up to such a view. But the thing that sold us was the garden outside and how we could have one in our home too."

Renovation work included replacing the tiled flooring in the common area with glossy cement flooring and tearing down the old, built-in wood furniture, including a bar counter and cupboards. They also removed the walls to the kitchen. The result: an open- concept area where the kitchen, dining and living areas meld into one big space.

Ms Goh's husband works out of the kitchen, handmaking his limited-edition scented candles there.

She used to work at home on her bag label, which she started in 2011. But she recently moved to a 400 sq ft studio at the new National Design Centre in Middle Road. She will show her latest fall/winter bag collection at fashion trade show Blueprint 2014, which runs from May 15 to 18.

Despite having just a modest $30,000 budget to renovate and furnish their pad, Ms Goh did not hold back when it came to investing in classic pieces of furniture.

Instantly recognisable chairs includemoulded plastic Eames chairs around the dining table, while a George Nelson Modernica Saucer Bubble Pendant Light hangs overhead. These originals were bought from Space Furniture when it was previously at its Park Mall outlet.

Ms Goh, a graduate of the prestigious Central St Martin School of Design in London, says: "I'm a huge fan of Charles and Ray Eames' furniture, while American industrial designer Nelson was the godfather of functional yet stylish furniture.

"It's like the bags I make. What's the point of making something that looks good but people never get to use them? If you buy something for your home, it's to live in it, not just to showcase."

The look goes from Western decor in the living area to a subtle, chinoiserie look in the master bedroom. The highlight there are four rosewood panels which decorate a wall that separates the bed from the wardrobe area.

Ms Goh says: "My mother bought the panels in China many years ago and I asked her for them. It's a little bit chipped at the corners because they have travelled everywhere with us. I wanted them because I like to have things with my Chinese culture on them."

She took them to London when she studied there from 1995 to 1998. She returned to Singapore for a year after that, but moved back to London for three years to do public relations for a fashion company.

She is constantly on the hunt for new accessories to add to her home, and a favourite haunt is vintage flea markets in places such as Smith Street in Melbourne, Camden Market in London and the famed Porte de Clignancourt in Paris.

She says: "The first thing I do when I travel is to check out vintage shops and markets. You never know what you're going to find. If you're on a budget, it's also a good place to get beautiful items at a good price."

Another work in progress is a large wall in the dining room that has more than 30 framed snapshots of the couple, their children and extended family.

Ms Goh says: "The wall of pictures has just grown organically... It's not curated at all. We just keep adding on as the children grow.

"It helps us keep track of the happy times in our lives. We're going to keep adding till we don't have any more space."