House Tour: Townhouse apartment in Serangoon decorated with 10,000 Barbie dolls!
This townhouse apartment is home to a media-industry creative, as well as 10,000 Barbie dolls!
From the unassuming facade of the townhouse homeowner Jian Yang lives in, you wouldn’t expect to find a home with such unconventional interiors. It is only after ascending the staircase to get to his second-floor apartment that you are immersed in a world of dolls.
Jian is a director at a global media agency, but also a professional doll restorer. “I can paint doll faces and fix their hair, but the one thing I can’t do is sew outfits, so I just buy them,” he says.
In the backyard, action figures stand guard over a water feature.
There are several floor-to-ceiling displays, with customised shelving specially designed to be doll-height, and a 12m run of wardrobes that are “six dolls-deep”. But stripped of the dolls – all 10,000 of them – the space is actually a blank canvas with a contemporary look, little ornamentation and a pared-down structure. It was what architect and designer Vincent Lim of Visual Text Architects (VTxT) knew was required, to allow the huge collection of dolls to be showcased in the best way possible.
“But it’s not just dolls, actually – I love toys!” says Jian, whose background is in advertising. The dolls, however, are his pride and joy. We find out more about his doll devotion, and how it fits into his home.
There’s even a feature wall created entirely out of dolls.
In fact, this feature wall (refers to the wall of boxed dolls behind the sofa in the living room) has no shelf, it’s just boxes stacked – this is an engineering feat in itself! But this is my Lego training in practice – yes, there is skill involved, not just random stacking. See how everything is anchored like in a Lego structure, arranged like bricks with alternate locking. The boxes have been arranged such that from one angle you can see more of the dolls, and from another angle you can see more of the boxes. So depending on where you sit in the house, you can see different things. Here, there are some Barbies from the cultural series, (fashion designer) Tim Gunn ones, and also Star Trek, James Bond girls, Lord Of The Rings, and more.
Tell me about your passion for dolls.
I’ve been buying dolls since 1984, and it started with Barbie, as it was only thing in the market at the time. Later on, I began collecting Jem Dolls, Equestria Girls, Blythe, Pullip, Monster High, Disney Princess and more… I’m one of those guys who just likes to buy toys – it just happens that the focus is on dolls, possibly because of the fashion and pop-culture references related to them. I also have toys from Star Wars, Transformers, Sky Commanders, Littlest Pet Shop, Baby Alive – all the Hasbro brands, here and in my office.
Stripped of all the toys, the apartment has a clean, contemporary look –as seen in the open kitchen and dining area that opens out to the backyard.
How much do you think you’ve spent on the dolls?
My rough estimate is 10,000 dolls times an average of $20 each. But as some cost a lot more… it could work out to be about $500,000. The collection, however, is worth millions.
Within the walk-in wardrobe that links the bedroom and study, shelving that’s “six dolls-deep” and runs 12m contain more dolls, with Jian’s favourites in the front rows.
How do you keep everything organised?
I have no choice but to be neat. If I’m messy, everything will fall and one day, I will die because I will get buried under the dolls. When it comes to organisation, I like to see only what I need to see, and have enough storage for the rest. Display-wise, the favourites for the season are at the front – it’s nice because you don’t see everything at once, but you know that the rest are there, and once you push the seasonal favourites behind, new dolls are then displayed for a change. I know that I will never be able to see all of them at once, otherwise, I would need a 10-storey building with a single-layer glass display. 10,000 dolls is a lot.