In the past year or so, many have made their homes the new place to see and be seen. For the nine individuals in this story, their abodes have always been an expression of self and style. Here, a glimpse into their art of living.
Thanks to Rezza, his family’s mee soto business Yunos N Family isn’t just legendary for its food, but also its style (just look at its eponymous Instagram account and hype-worthy staff uniform). Meanwhile, Amaliah’s wardrobe of Comme des Garcons, Hermes and Cos reflects her equally cool indie rock past that saw her running gigs at the now-defunct independent stomping ground Home Club.
Rezza says: “Our home is a projection of the way we dress: monochromatic, functional and comfortable. We broke layout conventions so that our place would feel extra spacious and allow us to re-create the experience of living in our childhood homes, where the living rooms could always fit many friends and family members, and conversations could take place across common areas.
I’m a big believer in having conversations, which is why we’ve no television at home. As with our personal style, we also appreciate the odd novelty item. Our coffee table, for example, is a repurposed (Comme des Garcons) trunk because, why not? We couldn’t find a suitable table for years and it doubles as storage for Amal’s bags.”
Amaliah says: “The most important thing (during the process of designing the house) was for it to feel cosy. We are both very family-oriented people and would have relatives and friends over very often – planning the living space was very crucial for us.
We’ve designed it so that even if you’re over by the dining area, you can still participate in conversations; there are no borders to ensure interactions are not cut off. That’s also why we have no television – Rezza is a big believer in having conversations. We do movie nights (using a projector) and after that it’s mostly just chatting.”
She’s behind the idiosyncratically chic cafe Sugarfin, and is also the host of her own podcast channel Arch (tune in via @arch.army on Instagram), where she interviews people whom she admires for being independent, creative and having come out stronger after facing adversity – her way of creating a safe space for honest conversation.
“Home is an idea, a feeling, a safe space. For the luckier ones among us, we get to give it character through decor. To me, a home needs to be cosy first and foremost. It needs to feel lived in and each space needs to have its own character – like a person,” she says.
“My living space is a child, buzzing with vibrancy for life. The toilet, on the other hand, is a vacuum space – as one is usually solitary in there, I installed infinity mirrors to create the illusion of multiple selves. And the bedroom is an octogenarian, quiet in his thoughts, wise, a thinker.”
Er wears Noir Kei Ninomiya from Dover Street Market Singapore
“My home has always been the frat house since I was a young adult. Not much has changed, house parties were always a thing. Now that I’m older and with the pandemic, we have more frequent get-togethers in my home (as opposed to going out). My house was designed with people in mind – the living space where people gather is colourful and eclectic, while the bedroom is muted and neutral, meant for allowing the mind to rest.”
“Good design should transcend time. It shouldn’t be temporary. Everyone has their personal design preferences. For me, I’m drawn towards shapes and symmetry… my decorating style is organised chaos. It may seem unkempt to the naked eye, but everything has its place, be it colour clashing or neutrals – they are there for a purpose.”
“(On starting her video podcast series Arch) Last July, I almost had to close my cafe, Sugarfin, and I was talking to a few close friends on what I should next. One of them told me he enjoyed talking with me, and he felt that I was good at holding conversations. The idea of a podcast sounds easy, but I wanted my podcasts to all have a positive message to share.
Interviewing people is also not as easy as it seems. When people talk, they often digress (myself included). So a good interviewer needs to know when to steer the conversation back to the original topic. After some encouragement from my friends, I decided to deep dive into it as I have some video editing skills and a plethora of people I personally respect and feel that they have good stories to tell.”
Pictured: One of Er’s felines
The couple uprooted themselves to Sydney in 2004 so that Tay (who had previously worked in advertising film production for 14 years) could attend culinary college. Moving back in 2018, both profess to be massive homebodies who enjoy “perving on old buildings and interiors”, and strive to maintain the slow beauty of the lives they had in Australia.
Tay says: “We (liken our house) to a secondhand goods shop. We love old things for their good looks, durability, timelessness and the patina that they develop over time. There are a lot of them in our flat.
Sydney was a gold mine for cool old wares. Our dining table, the sofa and all the chairs were made in Australia in the ’50s and ’60s. We’ve amassed quite a few old lamps too… Some folks here find it strange that we packed all our old ‘junk’ into a shipping container and brought them over when the norm is to buy new furniture for a new home.
That’s not for us. We’d rather hang on to what we already have because these decades-old beauties were made to last and hold very special memories of our life in Sydney.”
Tay says: “I designed our flat. I am not a trained designer but I’ve always loved perving on buildings and interiors, particularly the materials used and how they work, hoping to use them myself one day.
Buying our first home at such a late stage in our life is also an advantage – we’ve lived in enough places, some good and some not too ideal, to know what we want and need to put into this flat in order for it to work for us, to suit the way we live.
We had to hire a local interior architect to convert my scrappy not-to-scale drawings and materials wish list into architectural drafts for our builder; to be my ‘eyes’ as the renovation had to start while we were still in Sydney; and to get the flat ready when we and our shipping container arrive in Singapore.”
Tay says: “We feel that how we have built our flat and how we dress in recent years are closely related to growing older and the need to make things in our life as easy and fuss-free as possible.
We have designed the flat to be as future-proof as we can – using materials that are easy to maintain, levelling out the floor where possible, putting in doors that swing 180 degrees and so on – in preparation for old age.
The same goes for what we wear. We started building an ‘efficient’ wardrobe years back when we were still in Sydney. It comprises good quality utilitarian basics in natural fibres, in mostly whites and blues to streamline laundry days, and in gender-neutral shapes and cuts that we can both wear, now and in the years to come.
We still love nice things but those that do come home with us have to be useful and sensible. We try not to ‘collect’ as much as we used to and have recently started the slow and painful process of culling our belongings.”
Tay says: “(A home has to have) things that we truly love and value. Mementos to remember good times by. Fun things like books, music and toys. Delicious food. And happy occupants.”
Yang’s had a long and colourful career spanning fashion design (which included stints at Jean-Charles de Castelbajac and Esprit, where he was global image director), and theatre and costume design (he was art and costume director for four editions of the National Day Parade). What his next project involves – the large-scale deconstruction and re-creation of hundreds of porcelain pieces.
“I don’t really have a particular aesthetic. To me, my home is more about the things that I’ve accumulated over my lifetime. I think that our tastes, motivations and aspirations all change as one moves through different stages of life so these are things one grows with…
The things in my home represent a bit of all my experiences from having lived in different parts of the world. There are also gifts from dear friends; surprise finds at flea markets. They’re a hybrid of everything and I think that’s what homes should be: kind of like a journal of your life.”
They recently formed the indie band Kekko (a portmanteau of their last names) that will drop an EP of “dreamy, fuzzy, psychedelic feel-good tunes” soon. The husband-and-wife duo is also behind Slimy Oddity, the illustration outfit that’s garnered a 226K-strong Instagram following (which includes one Arianna Grande) for its tender cartoon drawings meant to spread positive messages of hope.
Kek wears Issey Miyake
Ko says: “The aesthetic of the house is a mish-mash of different styles that I naturally gravitate towards. I’d say it’s a spin-off of ’70s bohemia meets new-age, with the addition of Tim’s collection of art pieces, and a dash of my penchant for tchotchkes. I also love to personify inanimate objects – examples include putting a mini sombrero on my cactus, and naming him Hernando.”
Cherie says: “I wanted everything to tie in with the natural architecture of the place. My favourite feature of the apartment is the arched window that frames the trees outside. So I picked out a soothing pastel colour palette, along with more muted tones to reflect our desires to live in gentle accordance with nature.”
Ko says: “I think a particular unifying link between my art and home decor are the little toys and random tchotchkes that I have laying around. They represent the inner child in me, that will always remain no matter how old I am!”
Ko says: “Our band was formed during the circuit breaker period at the start of the pandemic. Tim was locked up alone in the music room on his analog synthesisers and kept on nudging me out of my music dormancy (I had not made any new music in four years)…
The band name Kekko is a portmanteau of both our last names. So naturally our music is inspired by our union and the deep bond that we share with each other. We hope to express the inexpressible, and encapsulate the expansiveness and magic of all realms of existence in our music.”
The self-professed Europhile aims to highlight the history of colonisation in Singapore and Southeast Asia, and to inspire discussion around colonial influences on our culture, via his work.
“The aesthetic I was going for is classical – between the late 18th and 19th century – which doesn’t go out of fashion unlike many current trends, and my inspiration comes from France and England.
For France, I looked into the reign of Louis the XIV, XV and XVI as well as the reign of Napoleon. As for England, I turned to the Georgian period, which has been described as one of refined elegance. Its style incorporates simple, symmetrical proportions and elements of Greek and Roman architecture.
designed the interiors myself – one needs to have in-depth knowledge of this kind of style to execute it. I also go for quality when choosing my furniture and drapery. To quote Aldo Gucci: ‘Quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten.’”
“The main factor (in deciding the house’s design) was for it to complement my art collection. (Through this lens), I decided the English Georgian and the Regency period suits my art collection best.”
Pictured: An oil painting by Johann
“(I’m most fond) of the the plaster works for the crown molding, the dado rail and the wainscoting, especially on the ceilings and the walls. There are not many craftsman that can execute this kind of work here. It took the contractors I hired three months to complete the work.”
“I collect quite a bit of stuff. For example I have a couple of Aubusson tapestries from the 17th century as well as a Renaissance tapestry from the 15th century. I have an extensive collection of European porcelain from the 18th to the 19th century from Meissen, Dresden, Chelsea, Derby, and Severes.
I also collect Oriental porcelain from the 13th century to 19th century. Most of the porcelain pieces are displayed in my main house (he uses this apartment mainly for his art practice). Other than porcelain, I also collect Old Masters paintings from the 17th to the 19th century, antique furniture, Persian rugs and chandeliers.”
Photography Vee Chin Art Direction Jonathan Chia All hair & makeup unless stated otherwise Sha Shamsi & Fadli Rahman Styling for Cherie Ko and Tim Kek Jasmine Ashvinkumar Hair & makeup for Stephanie Er Marc Teng, using Dior and Keune Hair & Makeup for Kevin Chan and Ping Tay Benedict Choo
This article was first published in Female.