Chinese sculptor Wu Liang Yan’s The Pressure Of Studying, a bronze depiction of a chubby-cheeked student, sits on a television console of adman Jeff Cheong's three-storey house in Telok Kurau Road. Jeff Cheong is the vice-president of Tribal Worldwide Asia, an advertising agency in Singapore
Works by well-known Asian artists adorn adman Jeff Cheong’s home in Telok Kurau Road.
Five Iskandar Jalil pottery pieces sit in a lit display alcove, near the three-storey terrace house’s front door. The ceramist, a Cultural Medallion recipient, had taught Cheong basic design at Temasek Polytechnic in 1993 and he started collecting his teacher’s works last year. There are also two other pieces by the artist’s students.
In the dining room, a sculpture of a sack-carrying coolie by local artist Lim Leong Seng has pride of place between two paintings.
Mr Cheong says he bought the sculpture to remind his three children – Seth, nine, Beth, seven, and Janneth, four – of their family history. Their great-grandfather had worked as a coolie when he came to Singapore from China after World War II.
Iskandar Jalil pottery in a display alcove greet guests at the front door of adman Jeff Cheong's three-storey house in Telok Kurau Road.
On decorating his home with art, the vice president of Tribal Worldwide Asia, an advertising agency here, 37, says: “I buy these pieces because they each tell a story, not because I plan to sell them for money. I believe it’s necessary to pass down a bit of history to my kids, especially with visual works of old Singapore places that are no longer around.”
Chinese sculptor Wu Liang Yan’s The Pressure Of Studying, a bronze depiction of a chubby- cheeked student, is perched on the living room television console. All the better “to poke fun at” his children’s “plight in school”, says Mr Cheong. He bought it from Ode to Art Raffles City.
Head up the stairs and you will find more works: a painting by Malaysian artist Janiz Chan, titled World War II, of a boy mesmerised by paper planes whizzing past his head as bombs go off in the background and – Mr Cheong’s favourite piece – a calligraphy piece by Cultural Medallion recipient Lim Tze Peng bearing the Chinese characters for not giving up in life.
A painting by Malaysian artist Janiz Chan, titled World War II, of a boy fascinated by paper planes, hangs in the stairwell of adman Jeff Cheong's three-storey house in Telok Kurau Road.
His collection of around 20 artworks was amassed over a few months. He bought from galleries such as artcommune in New Bridge Road and Ode To Art, where general manager Jane Low helped him look out for the right pieces, as well as fairs such as the Affordable Art Fair. He declined to say how much he has spent on the art.
While the house may look like an art museum, it is also a space for entertaining friends and church mates. And it is designed to accommodate the family’s love of eating and cooking.
Mr Cheong, his wife Faith, 37, who works in finance, and their children moved into the house six months ago – after three months of renovation, which cost about $300,000. Previously, they had lived in a condominium in St Patrick’s Road and before that, in a four-room flat in Bedok Reservoir.
These days, his 64-year-old mother stays over during the week to help take care of the children, and his sister comes over frequently for dinner. He has another sister in Hong Kong.
A calligraphy piece by Lim Tze Peng hangs on a wall of adman Jeff Cheong's three-storey house in Telok Kurau Road.
Their residence’s ground floor has an open concept: The living, dining and kitchen areas flow seamlessly into one another.
In the kitchen, there is a 3.5m-long island and three types of ovens. It is the missus’ domain where she throws the occasional baking party for friends. Mr Cheong also cooks up a storm there.
The open layout is perfect for their dinner parties and church gatherings as guests can mingle easily. The family entertains about once a month and hold several parties closer to holidays such as Christmas.
Mr Jeff Cheong, the vice-president of Tribal Worldwide Asia, with (from left) his wife Faith and their children Janneth, four, Beth, seven, and Seth, nine, in their terrace house in Telok Kurau.
Mr Cheong says: “It’s been our ethos since we got married 12 years ago to share our space with others, rather than keeping a house to ourselves. It’s called a living room for a reason… it can’t be for show where no one else uses it.”
This inclusive ethos spills over into his work too. He started the Singaporean Of The Day social documentary project last year. The ongoing project, uploaded on video-sharing platform Vimeo, chronicles the film-makers’ conversations with people from all walks of life here – from an astronomer to an urban farmer – on their hopes and dreams.
To create their dream home, the Cheongs worked with interior designer Alan Choo from Project File.
The children had a hand in decorating their own rooms and even picking the artwork. At times, they had to work out a compromise. For example, Seth wanted an all-black room, but Mr Cheong felt that it would be too dark to study in.
“We compromised with a black-and-white colour scheme instead,” says Mr Cheong.
On stretching their dollar with furniture that would suit their children as they grow, he says: “All the built-in furniture is timeless, so that at least it will last them through their adolescence. The beds are solid and made of hardy wood, so they should have a shelf life till the children are 12 and older.”
The couple also took their kids with them to source for furniture, “as they have to like the furniture in their rooms”, he adds.
An S-shaped Panton chair in a bedroom of adman Jeff Cheong's three-storey house in Telok Kurau Road.
Each child also has a Herman Miller Sayl Chair, which cost him about $400 each, to study in. An S-shaped Panton chair also sits in Seth’s room (above). Mr Cheong bought the Panton Chair 12 years ago – the first designer chair he ever bought. Then, he had paid $200 for it, at a sale, from Space Furniture.
In fact, his home is also a homage to classic furniture pieces. His living room is dotted with the instantly recognisable Arco lamp, two Patrick Norguet Scratch armchairs, which he got from Dream Interiors, and an Isamu Noguchi coffee table from Space Furniture.
The self-confessed fan of designer chairs says he will not buy designer ware off the racks. Instead, he waits for sales, when prices can drop by half.
“A lot of people put designer furniture in their homes, but dare not use it. It comes at a premium price. But I think, even with scratches, the chairs last a long time,” he says.
Written by Natasha Ann Zachariah for The Straits Times. Photos: The Straits Times. This article was first published in 2014.