The living room is filled with design icons and pieces for local furniture brands and artists. PHOTO:YEN MENG JIIN

As founders of design firm Foreign Policy Design Group, married couple Arthur Chin and Yu Yah-Leng tell their clients' stories through branding and design. They founded the firm in 2007 and some of their clients include Stellar M, a Singapore-based specialist and purveyor of coffee equipment; Italian restaurant Bottura and Gallery & Co, for whom they designed the space and curated the merchandise. The couple also co-own the retail and cafe space at National Gallery Singapore with hotelier and restaurateur Loh Lik Peng of the Unlisted Collection group and Alwyn Chong, managing director of cosmetics and fragrance distributor Luxasia.

Arthur Chin and Yu Yah-Leng are the founders of Foreign Policy Design Group. PHOTO:YEN MENG JIIN

When it comes to the design of their apartment in Balestier, Ms Yu says: "we want to tell our own story. The space is about what we like, what we are comfortable with and having the things that we want around us."

The apartment is a mix of Scandinavian and Japanese elements with touches of eclecticism, but somehow all falling in nicely together.

The couple had the entire apartment gutted but reinstated original spaces, such as the balcony, which had previously been converted into a bedroom. They did away with a third bedroom so they could have a bigger living room.

They like white interiors, which explains the dominant colour. "Even though we knew having it would be high maintenance, we went through with it," says Ms Yu. The plan was to paint the living room white, but in the end, it was left in its raw concrete brick form to give some contrast.

Since the apartment isn't big, they had to find clever ways to fit in storage. A series of wooden doors in the dining area hide storage spaces, while a third door opens to reveal the kitchen. When closed, the doors have a seamless and clean look.

A dead space gets turned into a display corner for the couple's knick-knacks. PHOTO:YEN MENG JIIN

A small corner at the entrance was dead space until the couple put in a desk and some knick-knacks. Ms Yu explains that she wanted this corner to look good since it is the first thing that she sees when she opens the front door. "It has also become a practical space, since we keep essential going-out items such as keys and sunglasses here," she says. They even bought two kids' chairs for this space, so that they can put on their shoes in comfort.

The couple took their time fitting out the apartment. "We wanted to get a feel of living in the space first, so that we could have a better idea of the furniture we needed," says Ms Yu. She cites the example of the floor to ceiling bookshelf, which they put up a year after moving in. The shelves are filled with a mix of design, business and cookbooks. "We've always wanted a big library for our home."

Wooden panels in the dining room hide storage and the entrance to the kitchen. PHOTO:YEN MENG JIIN

For furniture, they kept to simple lines and colours, and included design icons such as the Hans Wegner Shell Chair in the living room. For the dining room, they picked the Hans Wegner Elbow Chair, Kristalia Elephant Chair, MDF Italia Flow Chair by Jean Marie Massaud and the Lisboa Armchair by Joan Gaspar. In true designer fashion, their dining chairs are mismatched. "This wasn't done on purpose, it's just that we bought them at different times," says Ms Yu. She recommends that for homeowners who want to do the same, to keep it simple – such as having the chairs in solid colours. Their collection is in white and natural wood, while a red and a black chair give some pops of colour.

Being owners of a local company, they also show their support for other Singaporean designers in their choice of furniture by buying from homegrown brands such as Commune and Grafunkt.

They also have a lot of smaller items from local artists and designers, such as portraits of themselves on a wall next to the TV which were done by illustrator Hafizah Jainal, who used to work at Foreign Policy; as well as accessories such as miniature kopitiam plastic chairs and a doorstop in the form of the iconic dragon playground.

A pair of kids' chairs brought back from Osaka's D&Department store, great when used for putting on shoes. PHOTO:YEN MENG JIIN

The couple have a fascination with lights, and the home is filled with pieces that they hand-carried back from overseas. "For us, lamps are not just for lighting up the apartment, they can be a focal point for a space," says Ms Yu. She gives the example of the pendant lights in the dining room, which bring focus to the dining table and what's on it. "The light will be reflected in the faces of those at the table and also the food and dinner ware. We like to use mood lighting during dinner or gatherings with friends. It brings intimacy as well," says Ms Yu.

Since the home is meant to tell their story, the couple naturally have filled it with their favourite personal items. For Mr Chin, this means his collection of old cameras which are displayed on the bookshelf. The globes spotted around the home belong to Ms Yu, who buys them from eBay and flea markets. "I love globes and maps, as they give me an idea of where places are," she explains.

The couple are in the process of turning one bedroom into a nursery, and even after living here for more than five years, Ms Yu says the home is still not done. "I like to move things around, change things, edit, curate and adjust as we go," she says.


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