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House Tour: A cheerful condo apartment designed for fun family time

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holland condo
A 10-seater dining table that doubles as a play table for the children of Ms Shi Xiao Wei and her husband Dickson Seow. 

With iPad privileges allocated as a “reward” – and time spent on other electronic devices also restricted – preteens Ashley Seow and her brother Brandon might otherwise find time spent at home a bore if not for their stay-at-home mum, Shi Xiao Wei, who ensures their youthful energy finds more creative channels. This, she has managed by making their home party central.

When Ms Shi and her husband Dickson Seow went looking for a new home over a year ago, they wanted one that was big enough for their growing kids and was close to their school. With size and location in mind, they were able to narrow their search. “We looked at older developments because of the space and the bigger compounds,” adds Ms Shi. After viewing a few units they settled on one that was on a lower floor at Ridgewood Condominium off Holland Road that has views of tree tops and quickly set about to move in. Truth be told, there was not much to do because the unit they bought was renovated two years earlier and everything still looked new. “We lucked out,” says Mr Seow.

holland condo living room
The interior of the living room in the home of Ms Shi Xiao Wei and her husband Dickson Seow.

Having ostensibly moved for the children, Ms Shi did not stop there. “In my mind, I wanted a home for the kids to interact,” she says. To do this, she made play an essential part of her decorating scheme. This includes the huge 10-seater dining table that doubles as a play table for the children’s many hobbies such as painting, board games and various handicrafts. The dining table is specially treated for outdoor use and to withstand the rigours of play. “It’s my favourite piece of furniture,” she adds.

family playing board game
(From left) Brandon Seow, Shi Xiao Wei, Ashley Seow, and Dickson Seow bonding over a game of Monopoly.

Because there is the luxury of space that comes with buying into an older condominium development, it was also possible to convert one of the bedrooms in the approximately 1,900 sq ft apartment (including the carpark lot) into a playroom. Here, Ms Shi has also gotten her children to express their artistic side by creating a mural together on the wall using washi tape, a decorative adhesive tape used in handicrafts projects. The mural is of a giraffe in a forest and the spontaneous quality of the colourful washi tape sets a playful tone for the rest of the home.

washi tape wall mural
A mural of a giraffe in a forest pasted on the wall using washi tape, a decorative adhesive tape used in handicrafts projects. The spontaneous quality of the colourful washi tape sets a playful tone for the rest of the home of Ms Shi Xiao Wei and her husband Dickson Seow. 

The previous owners of the apartment had already done a pretty good job of renovating the apartment and giving it an urban loft look with white brick feature walls and black chalkboard cabinet doors in the dining area that one usually finds in trendier restaurants these days. The dining, living and master bedroom were also extended out partially into the generous balcony area but the existing balcony roof of corrugated metal was retained, adding a touch of shabby chic.

But despite the convenience of having her new home pre-renovated, Ms Shi was determined to inject her own family’s personality into the spaces. “It’s important to display things that have meaning in our lives.” Therefore, her collection of vinyl records and antique shop finds are all proudly displayed throughout the home. “I like old-fashioned things,” she adds. There is also the children’s handiwork such as the papier-mache creature that sits prominently in the living room. The kids’ drawings and photographs are also liberally used as decoration throughout the home, usually held up by washi tape (“I am going through a washi tape phase,” confesses Ms Shi). And there is an endless supply of handiwork. “If the kids want things, I tell them they can make it themselves.”

vintage accessories typewriter
A typewriter and photographs are among the decorations in Ms Shi Xiao Wei and her husband Dickson Seow's home. 

As unpretentious as the decoration strategy seems, someone with a strong sense of style has obviously put everything together because this home could easily be mistaken for a hipster cafe. “The style is definitely mine,” says Ms Shi. Formerly a marketing and PR executive handling luxury brands, Ms Shi keeps up to date on what is in by surfing the Internet and reading magazines. She also has an eye for detail – “I have to find nice towels for the kids so that it’s nice enough to display,” she adds. There is also a deft handling of colours as seen in the set of dining chairs in mixed creamy pastels.

Other little touches are all that is needed to complete the home, including the coloured lights that hang in the balcony along with Ms Shi’s flowering plants such as the morning glory that makes it look like there is always a party going on. And there often is. “We try to have sleepovers for the kids every Friday,” says Ms Shi, adding, “I always wanted a home that is welcoming.”

balcony
Coloured lights that hang in the balcony along with Ms Shi Xiao Wei’s flowering plants, such as the morning glory. 

While the kids’ activities take priority – there are often play dates with the neighbourhood children coming over and Ms Shi conducting craft sessions – adults do have a place in this home too. Mr Seow’s collection of limited edition bubblehead toys have pride of place in the living room as does his impressive DVD movies library. “It’s my one little part of the house,” he jokes.

cat bobble head
Collection of limited edition bubblehead toys and DVDs belonging to Mr Dickson Seow. 

Even the family dog, a dwarf Yorkshire terrier, has free run of the home to play. “She likes to pee on the rug,” reveals Ms Shi with a look that actually says: “Go ahead, have fun.”
 

Written by Arthur Sim for The Business Times.