Leslie Tan
An almost floor-to-ceiling bookshelf lines a wall in the dining room of the open-concept Holland Avenue flat belonging to T’ang Quartet cellist Leslie Tan.

T’ang Quartet cellist Leslie Tan is a practical man when it comes to decorating.

Much of the furniture in his open-concept Holland Avenue flat was bought cheaply at warehouse sales or sold to him by friends who were moving or throwing them out.

It might seem like a very random selection of things that would not match. For example, the dining room features a clear, acrylic table with coloured acrylic stools next to a cabinet with glass doors and pale pink and blue drawers.

But somehow, it all comes together in Tan’s three-room flat. “I didn’t really plan what to do with the space. I’m not quite the designer-type person,” says the 47-year-old, who shares the apartment with his girlfriend and four cats.

Tan, who is currently part of the quartet-in-residence at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music at the National University of Singapore, adds: “For furniture, if I like it and I need it, I’ll get it. I don’t really think about whether it matches.”

Leslie Tan
An old-school cabinet in the open-concept Holland Avenue flat belonging to T’ang Quartet cellist Leslie Tan.

Take his retro-style cabinet, which he bought a few years ago because he liked how “old-school” it looked and it was at half-price. “I didn’t think that it would go with the rest but it reminded me of the furniture that I grew up with in my parents’ house. It looked nice, so I bought it.”

He decided on an open concept for the flat because he wanted more of a studio- apartment look for his home.

He removed all the walls so that the bedroom opens up to the living room. As an afterthought, he installed curtains to keep in the air-conditioning when he sleeps.

Leslie Tan
T’ang Quartet cellist Leslie Tan with one of his four cats in his open-concept Holland Avenue flat.

His bedroom does not have any closets. The mattress sits on a wooden platform, which is about knee-high and has built-in storage cupboards for clothes and luggage. A camera tripod doubles as a clothes rack.

A tall bookcase in his dining room showcases his big collection of travel books and literature such as J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy novel The Lord Of The Rings and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. “Looking at the bookshelf just makes me want to read the books all over again,” says Tan, who adds that more of his book collection are still stored at his parents’ home in Ang Mo Kio.

The audiophile also has about 50 vinyl records of mostly classical music stacked against the wall.

His other interest is wine, especially Burgundy ones such as Gevrey-Chambertin, and he has a wine fridge next to his regular one that can hold up to 100 bottles.

Leslie Tan
A wine fridge, big enough for about 100 bottles, in the open-concept Holland Avenue flat belonging to T’ang Quartet cellist Leslie Tan.

There is only one art piece in his home: a 1m by 2m portrait of himself in his bedroom. It was given to him by his friend, artist Milenko Prvacki, a senior fellow at Lasalle College of the Arts, who had painted it in a series of portraits of his friends. He gave it to Tan after no one bought it from the art gallery where it was displayed.

Tan jokes: “It’s a little big and strange to look at my face but I took it because I didn’t want my portrait languishing in some art gallery.”

Although he owns five cellos, he keeps just one at home. The rest are stored at the conservatory in air-conditioned rooms. The cello at home is the one he brings out or travels with. He bought it for $5,000 when he was 19 years old.

“Cellos don’t depreciate, so this one would have appreciated a lot over the years. I’ve never even thought of valuing it, let alone sell it, because of the sentimental value.”

Leslie Tan
Drawings by his niece and nephew are displayed on the door of the fridge in the open-concept Holland Avenue flat belonging to T’ang Quartet cellist Leslie Tan.

Written by Natasha Ann Zachariah for The Straits Times. Photos: The Straits Times.