While fans and viewers know the dreamboat for his chiselled looks and acting talent, Desmond Tan unveils a lesser-known passion for interior design.
The 28 year-old home grown actor first came to prominence as one of the top male finalists in Star Search 2007. Choosing to further his education while juggling a part-time role in acting, he went on to enrol in the National University of Singapore’s School of Design and Environment soon after the competition ended and graduated with a second upper class honours degree in Bachelor of Science (Real Estate) four years later in 2011.
Armed with his background in design, little wonder that he displays great pride and pleasure in renovating his crib at a condominium in Pasir Panjang. A self-confessed perfectionist, he regales the Home + Living team with the stories behind each piece of furniture, revelling in the details like how he repainted the chairs and tables in the kitchen area, or how the first marbletop counter “needed a second overlay to make it sturdier and more practical for use”.
Our quick chat with the actor reveals smarts, determination and talent beyond the brawn. We say, the stars are surely on the ascent for this dynamic actor with his plans for acting, music and interior design on the cards.
When did you first move in?
In November 2013.
Why did you choose this location?
The main factor that drew me to this location is the general quiet and peacefulness of this neighbourhood. Also, my current place is in closer proximity to the future MediaCorp offices, as they are shifting to Buona Vista in another one or two year’s time. Overall, I believe that there will be great capital gain in this area due to the development of the Media Hub (Mediapolis where MediaCorp will be located).
What do you love about your home?
It’s very homey, and yet with a hotel resort feel to it. Coming back home to this place always feels like a haven for me to relax and rest.
Which areas do you most like?
I particularly like the living room and walk-in wardrobe areas. The living room is where I do most of my work so I spend a lot of time here. I love my shoes and clothes! So the other are is my walk-in wardrobe where I have almost 40 to 50 pairs of shoes on display.
The sofa set is a gift from celebrity hair stylist, David Gan.
How would you describe your decorating style?
Colonial period and vintage inspired with clean lines. There are some areas with colour accents. I always have a thing for shophouses so the blinds I chose are similar to what you can find in post-war shophouse designs.
When I was viewing my current place, I already had the design that I wanted in mind. The challenge was planning the layout. So I came up with a 3-D model of the home with the free software, Google Sketch Up.
What kind of renovation work did you carry out?
The renovation work was extensive. I replaced the walls and floor tiles in the entire house, and also hacked away two major walls. When I was viewing houses, I knew I wanted a two-bedroom home where the bedrooms were side by side so I could break down the wall and have a walk-in wardrobe next to my bedroom. I sealed off the original door to the second bedroom, where my favourite In The Mood For Love poster is being hung.
I also hacked the wall separating the kitchen and living room areas to create the feeling of space.
How much did you spend on your house in all?
Based on renovation work alone, I probably spent about $90,000. Plus furnishings it should be upwards of $100,000. I definitely bust my budget!
The walk-in warbrobe is one of his favourite corners in the house.
Is there anything in your home that you’d like to change?
I’d like to add on a painting in the dining area. I have already designed the spotlight for the painting, and am just waiting for the right material to showcase of to get a suitable artist to do a painting of my English Cocker Spaniel, Hoshi.
Could you give us some tips on design?
Before you start renovating, plan to engage the senses in each part of the home to create a flow and connection throughout the entire house. For example, I used tiles to accent and elongate the walkway that leads from the entrance into the living room and kitchen. You could also use speaker systems for the sound aspect or candles for scent.
You have ukuleles and guitars on display. Are you an aspiring musician?
I tried playing the ukulele but didn’t like it that much because of the instrument size and how it sounded. I am more inclined to the guitar. I also used to learn basic keyboard but now I’m just using it for voice training.
There are two singles I’ve released so far. They are a remix of “Loving Touch” also known as “Guan Huai Fang Shi” in Mandarin and “We’re Still Friends”. I didn’t compose these two songs, it was just basically singing.
On weekends, I practise on the guitar a lot because I would like to compose my own songs by this year.
What dishes would you prepare to impress a girl?
I prefer simple, clean and healthy flavours like those in Japanese cuisine. I’m also quite a perfectionist. So, I would really like to master the perfect shape of a sushi roll.
Are you an obsessive cleaner who needs to have every part of the house tidy and organised?
Yes! I love washing the dishes and I like to keep my house clean.
Patterned Spanish titles add a decorative touch to the open kitchen. Ascaso Dream Espresso Machine, from Boncafe.
Do your neighbours know they have a celebrity living next door? What’s their reaction like?
Yes, they do. While we were doing up the house, they popped by, and when they realised it was me, they got quite a surprise. The people here are generally quite friendly. One of them offered to loan me foldable chairs when I was throwing a party and my immediate neighbour next door even passed me a hongbao during Chinese New Year.
Your latest screen role was Tan Kai Lan in Ch 5’s Spouse for House. What’s the real Desmond Tan like away from the spotlight?
Off-camera, I’m quite goofy and funny, at least in my opinion! I like to crack jokes and I think I’m a happier person off-screen than in the roles I’ve played in recent Chinese dramas.
What project are you currently working on, aside from Spouse for House?
I’m working on a new Chinese drama Against the Tide, which will be out in the later half of this year.
In terms of my home, I really want to be able to buy a landed property and design it from scratch. I also have plans to set up an interior design business in future. It’s quite addictive to design houses!
Photography Edwin Tan/Lumina Photography
Styling Daniel Goh
Makeup Lolent Lee, using MAC Cosmetics
Hair Junz Loke/Passion Hair Salon
Outfit Issey Miyake
WATCH Philip Stein