Hotelier and restaurateur Yenn Wong at her River Valley apartment.
For hotelier and restaurateur Yenn Wong, coming home to her River Valley apartment is a reminder of her wedding in September last year.
Much of her 2,000 sq ft apartment is furnished with wedding gifts from friends. It helps, of course, that many of her buddies are designers and artists.
One close friend, celebrated British designer Thomas Heatherwick, gave her his Spun Chair – a playful take on the traditional rocking chair.
Another, Singapore-based pop artist Philip Hemnell, did seven paintings for her. The works, showing the same old man in various gongfu poses, now hang in her hallway and have been dubbed her “happy art” for their comical nature.
“They are pieces that make me smile. Although they are all different, they fit quite well together,” says Ms Wong, 33, who used to own JIA Hong Kong, a boutique hotel designed by France’s Philippe Starck. She has since sold it but still owns its sister hotel in Shanghai.
She shuttles between her base in Hong Kong and her home in Singapore, and owns three restaurants here: modern Thai restaurant Kha at Martin No. 38, its neighbour, Australian- style eatery Graze and the original Graze outlet in Rochester Park.
Her apartment in Yong An Park condominium is next door to her parents’, where she has lived since she was 10 years old. It has been with the family for the last 15 years and she renovated it last year.
As she is often home alone here, she jokes that her husband, restaurateur and boutique property developer Alan Lo, 32, gave her a huge, framed photograph of a crowd to keep her company.
The iconic 1993 Linda McCartney photograph, titled Chile Crowd, features a hyped-up crowd at the Paul McCartney World Tour then. Mr Lo had bought it at a London auction last year for £15,000 (S$29,560).
Getting the huge 3m by 1.5m painting into the apartment was a nightmare, she says. “It came framed as we didn’t want to roll it up and crease it. But it wouldn’t fit in the lift or stairs. So we had to bring it in through the window.”
A Buddha statue sits behind a pink, neon-lit Lee Broom vintage seat that hotelier and restaurateur Yenn Wong bought for HK$45,000 (S$7,280) at a charity auction.
Unlike her hotels, where everything usually matches, her home was put together more randomly. “I don’t like to overthink when I’m choosing furniture for home. It should be a natural, relaxed thing.”
But she says she has learnt a lot from the interior designers she has worked with, “about how they see and design things”. She adds: “I didn’t follow any particular design rules but I’m sure I picked up some design tips from them along the way.”
So, it was an exercise in freestyling, which resulted in the mish-mash of opposites in her apartment. And it works.
Brick walls in her living room and hallway give a cosy rustic ambience. Tin tiles bought from a New York supplier adorn the kitchen ceiling, adding a warm touch to the cool, grey-toned kitchen.
Meanwhile, both the living and dining rooms feature unusual chairs. “I find it boring when all the chairs are the same, which is why I never buy furniture in sets. I just pick up and put in the things I like.”
A mix of bum-rests including a bench dot the dining room of hotelier and restaurateur Yenn Wong's River Valley apartment.
One of the quirky items at home is a giant candy jar filled with hundreds of pale M&Ms. It was a keepsake from her wedding, held in a movie studio in Hong Kong.
For the after-party, she had filled jars with candy from around the world.
“It’s something that I kept from that day,” she says of the M&Ms, which are probably now inedible. “I like that the colours match the vintage feel of the place and wedding.”
For her, the rules of hotel decor do not apply at home. “Everything is so well- planned in a hotel. But at home, I won’t obsess if something is out of place.”
Written by Natasha Ann Zachariah for The Straits Times. Photos: The Straits Times. This article was first published in The Straits Times.