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House Tour: A decade's collection of designer furniture in this luxurious industrial-inspired apartment

U Shaun Lim wanted an industrial, yet luxurious look for his home. PHOTO: LEE JIA WEN

Lawyer U Shaun Lim spent over a decade not just studying and working in London, but also growing his designer furniture collection. The latter has partly to do with his buddy in crime - his architect friend Timothy Tan, whom he met when he had  just started work at a law firm, and Mr Tan was a newly graduated architect.

 “As a university student, I had the interest but not the means to buy them,” recalls Mr Lim. So the two of them would keep an eye out for manufacturers’ clearance sales. “You do need a bit of luck, time and patience at these events, but the effort is worth it. I managed to get pieces that were 80 to 90 per cent off.”

Their first real collaboration was a desk that Mr Lim asked his friend to design for him. The result was The Walnut Writing Desk, which is currently available from notable Brighton-based designers and makers, Millimetre.

The two pals went their separate ways when Mr Lim returned to Singapore for family reasons in 2011, while Mr Tan remains based in London.

Having lived on his own for so long, Mr Lim set out to look for his own place, but it took much longer than he expected.

For four years, he checked out countless apartments. “I thank my property agent for being very patient with me,” says Mr Lim. It was only in 2016, that they went to see an apartment off Orchard Road. “It was the one,” he says. “My parents and I walked in and we all liked it immediately.”

Never mind that it was still tenanted at the time, and the lease would only end a year later. “I had one year to plan and renovate,” says Mr Lim. And - to call upon his old architect friend.

The doors in the apartment are flushed for a seamless look. PHOTO: LEE JIA WEN

When he heard that Mr Lim had secured the apartment, Mr Tan felt it was high time for them to collaborate again. “U Shaun has always been a dream client who respects the vision of the designer he works with,” says Mr Tan. “Taking on this design commission was a celebration of my friendship with him.”

For his design brief, Mr Lim says, “I wanted an industrial look for the apartment, but at the same time, for the space to look more opulent than a cafe.”

On his part, Mr Tan designed the apartment as a stage set of sorts for Mr Lim’s collection of iconic furniture and lighting pieces that he accumulated in London, as well as in Singapore when he returned.

A cosy corner in the bedroom filled with designer furniture. PHOTO: LEE JIA WEN

Mr Tan says, “Creating a ‘set’ is a balancing act. You need discretion and control so that the setting doesn't overpower the subject, but you still want to keep the richness and depth of the backdrop.”

The duo played with timber, stone and steel to create a timeless setting. There appears to be an invisible line that runs through the length of the apartment. On one side, the walls are clad in walnut panelling, and on the other, steel is used. “The warmth of the walnut differentiates itself against the coldness of the steel here,” says Mr Tan.

The walnut floor panels are aligned with those on the wall to give the bedroom a box-like feel. PHOTO: LEE JIA WEN

The doors to the bedrooms and bathrooms in this apartment are designed as panels with concealed hinges and flush door handles for a clean look. Behind the walnut panelling is the guest bathroom and a bedroom. On the other side, a steel panel opens into Mr Lim’s bedroom and study. The walnut panelling continues into Mr Lim’s bedroom. Inside, the walnut floor panels are aligned with those on the wall, creating a seamless box.

In the living room, a granite wall takes centrestage. It’s made up of individual blocks of stone with variations in the relief that cast myriad shadows when the wall is lit from above, creating a feature wall. “I like how the granite adds texture to the wall,” says Mr Lim.

Simple materials create a minimalist backdrop to showcase his furniture collection. Some of his prized items include Pretzel Chairs by George Nelson, a Lily Chair by Arne Jacobsen as well as a trio of PH 3/2 pendant lights in the dining area. The Walnut Writing Table - his original commission - takes pride of place.

Some pieces are new, such as the Flexform Majister sofa by Antonio Citterio, which Mr Lim selected because the design was in line with his desired industrial-yet-luxurious look.

With the apartment finally complete, Mr Lim is now throwing weekly parties for friends and family. He reckons that the four-month renovation was worth the wait even though, with Mr Tan based in London, he had to supervise the renovations himself. He heard the usual horror contractor stories from friends, but says he was largely spared those nightmares. “The quality of the contractors’ work impressed me. In fact, I had an enjoyable time working with them on the renovation.”

He admits he doesn’t spend as much time at home as he would like but says, “It is a lovely space to come home to, and the apartment grows on you.”

This story first appeared in The Business Times. Click here to read the original story. 

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