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Retro Chic

Open-Plan Living Room and Balcony

A homeowner with a passion for all things vintage has transformed his home to exude warmth, character and a touch of whimsy at every corner.

Walking up the steps of this pre-war Black and White flat built in the 1930s sends a sense of nostalgia running down one’s spine. Everything around it is so old school and charming: there are no lifts, the road leading to the home is winding and there are trees and lush fields surrounding the property. Located in leafy Woodleigh district, the enigmatic chirp of birds and cicadas also reminds one that life here is about being ensconced in Mother Nature’s thick of action.

Acute Envisioning

Home to Rick Tay, the former VJ who used to host MTV programmes, Tay is every bit effusive and welcoming like he sounded on the phone. He greets our crew with a big smile and proceeds to show us around the house. The open-plan living room and balcony is commodious and airy and provides an alluring sylvan view of tall trees and lush lawns. Tay proceeds to add, “This 1,600sqf property was in a derelict state — spider webs everywhere, debris on the floor and certain fixtures were left to disrepair. My mum was strongly against renting the property but I told her that I had the gift of envisioning how it would become, and I saw the potential to transform it.”

So with a headstrong mind, Tay proceeded to re-imagine the space. There was very minimal renovation work done to the home other than reinstating some fixtures and keeping the walls and surfaces clean and simple so that the furniture and accessories become the stars of the show. The property accommodates two bedrooms and one annex en-suite bedroom that connects to a back entrance with access to stairs. The thought of plenty of hard work didn’t deter Tay from making this home warm and welcoming for him and his mother to live in. “I always believe in serendipity. I found this home when I visited Singapore before moving to New York from Taipei. It was one of several homes that I came to view but this one caught my eye because of its retro feel and it is surrounded by greenery everywhere.”

Ode to Wong Kar Wai

With a passion for interior design and home decorating, Tay took to the project like fish to water. The gregarious bachelor opines: “I think I wanted a ‘50s style imbued with an Asian slant but complemented by a modern aesthetic. Imagine a set-up for a Wong Kar Wai movie!” The living room is embellished with curios sourced from Tay’s frequent travels and his love for visiting flea markets around the world. There are old teak furniture pieces made new simply with a lick of wood restorer lotion.

The homeowner even let us in on a deal he could not pass up. A friend living in the US was moving back home and wanted to give away several Eames aluminium leather chairs designed by the famous husband-and-wife duo Charles and Ray Eames. Tay gladly took up the offer and only paid for the shipping freight to Singapore. “It was a golden opportunity,”beams Tay. Today, these Mid-Century chairs sit alongside vintage furniture help to add a dose of character. Meals are enjoyed on the Art-deco style teak dining table which offers a window looking out to frangipani trees. A vintage hi-fi hooked up to a modern DVD player plays music and movies when the homeowner invites friends over. Pockets of greenery such as potted plants and a water feature dot the spacious and breezy balcony where the homeowner enjoys his breakfast in the morning. Black-and-white bamboo chicks add a colonial feel and provide a shady respite when the mercury rises.

To read the full story, check out pages 46 to 49 of Issue 21.

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