Tangs chairman Tang Wee Sung.
At first glance, Tangs chairman Tang Wee Sung’s home in Bukit Timah looks like any other bungalow.
With its grey gable-roofed porch and long gravel driveway, it sports a look common among bungalows here.
But Mr Tang, 60, says: “The best part of the house is in the reveal. From the outside, it looks modest, but when you step through, everything opens up.”
Indeed, push open the hulking wooden doors and the sight of a koi pond in lush greenery greets you. Water cascades down tiers of rock, pooling at the base of a long slope.
Amid a flourishing garden of flowering shrubs, ferns and palm trees, there sits a bean-shaped swimming pool and a few deck chairs.
The swimming pool in the garden of Tangs chairman Tang Wee Sung's home in Bukit Timah.
While the garden is a jaw-dropper, the rest of the house is no less impressive. The first floor is what Mr Tang calls its “public area”, where he hosts parties and gatherings for friends and family.
A long living room is divided into two seating areas, so guests can break up into little groups if they want to. A patio outside, separated by doors, also has seats for those who want to catch the breeze.
Mr Tang says the 9,000 sq ft house is built for entertaining.
The main living room of Tangs chairman Tang Wee Sung's home in Bukit Timah.
While he had cut back on the parties in recent years due to various illnesses such as high blood pressure and heart problems, he has picked up his hosting duties again, since returning to the department store as chairman in September.
Mr Tang, who had a kidney transplant in 2009 and is doing much better health-wise now, is the second son of the department store’s late founder, Mr Tang Choon Keng, better known as C.K. Tang.
Aside from the big seating areas, he has two dining rooms. One has a long Western-styled banquet table for 12, with additional seats for eight at a separate round table at the end. The other is more intimate, with a round dining table for 10.
Mr Tang's house has separate living areas so guests can break up into small groups.
Mr Tang explains that his penchant for entertaining was honed by watching his parents host friends and business partners regularly for dinners and holidays.
The bachelor, who can have as many as 30 friends over for a Christmas party, says: “There’s nothing like entertaining at home because people remember how much effort you have put in to throw a good party.”
The events are never formal and guests who turn up in a jacket-and-tie combo have to take it off for dinner.
Mr Tang, who lives with his help, says with a laugh: “I’ve still got the silverware in the cupboard, but it seems too passe now to use it. Entertaining is usually a casual affair at my house.”
The houseproud Mr Tang has lived at the property for the last 21 years. While he declines to mention how much he paid for the house back then, he says he got it at a “reasonable price” in the 1990s.
He fell in love with the house when an old school friend, who was living there at that time, invited him for a visit.
By then, he had moved out of his parents’ St Thomas Walk bungalow and was living on his own at Wing On Life Gardens, a condominium in Bukit Timah. He lived there for seven years.
When he bought the house, he had plans to remodel it into a two-storey home with a basement. “The single- storey house needed work because it was dilapidated when I bought it. It was a really old house with a dark interior because there were not enough windows.”
But his plans were thwarted. “The final bill came and I had to slash the top floor because of budget constraints.”
Five years ago, he finally carried out his original plans of creating an extension. He added a second floor which has a sitting room, a study and a master suite where he sleeps. The smaller dining room was also part of the extension, and the kitchen was pushed farther to the back of the house to accommodate a spiral staircase.
Besides learning to entertain from his parents, Mr Tang seems to have inherited the Curio King moniker his father had, for bringing in quality Oriental pieces.
Tangs chairman Tang Wee Sung's collection of antiques, which include figurines of terracotta warriors, are on display at his home in Bukit Timah.
Scattered around the house are antiques – mostly Chinese. For example, there are figurines of terracotta warriors on horses, lacquered boxes with painted Chinese handmaidens and pottery.
Prized pieces are 12 wooden screens, each a century old, with carvings of Chinese figures. Mr Tang bought them from an antique dealer here years ago but declines to reveal how much he paid.
Six screens are placed in the bigger dining room, while the other six are used to hide a bar counter when it is not in use.
There are also art pieces from local artists such as painters Georgette Chen and Cheong Soo Pieng.
In theory, the combination of chinoiserie decor items, russet-and-rose coloured Italian marble flooring, and wooden beams, doors and cupboards, might seem like a mish-mash.
But it works. Mr Tang says he was inspired to decorate his house like this from the cities that he visited for work or on holiday.
He used to travel every six weeks to America and Europe, and would pick up knick-knacks such as bowls, which he thought would fit in the house.
The main dining room of Tangs chairman Tang Wee Sung's home in Bukit Timah.
One stunning piece is the chandelier in the main dining room. Mr Tang, who says he does not usually like such ornate lighting fixtures, was taken with the piece he found in a shop in Paris.
Three months after he first saw it, he was “still thinking about it”, so he bought it for an undisclosed amount when he went back to Paris in 1990.
To accommodate the big light, he redrew his building plans to raise the ceiling higher, so that it could hang nicely.
While there are ample spots in the house that could vie for being his favourite area, he picks a small, cosy room that sits between the living and dining rooms as the place he loves the most.
The room, decked out in dark wood and featuring a painted portrait of his parents, doubles as the entertainment room. It has a screen projector, and houses the music controls where he can be the DJ and choose the music to be played throughout the house.
In it, there are also very personal pieces: a medicine cabinet which belonged to his late mother and a cupboard where his baby clothes used to be kept. He brought them over from his parents’ house, which was sold in 2005.
Mr Tang says: “These are really precious things that have managed to last this long. I still have memories of my mother using this cabinet or my clothes here. I’ve to be careful with them because they are so old, but they still fit right in with everything.”
Written by Natasha Ann Zachariah for The Straits Times. Photos: The Straits Times. This article was first published in 2013.