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Airwell linking living room to dining hall, where an old Chinese lantern from Malacca takes prominence. - PHOTOGRAPHY RT+Q ARCHITECTS & YEN MENG JIIN
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Ethel Fong shuttles between homes in Singapore, New York, Switzerland and the Bahamas (above). - PHOTOGRAPHY RT+Q ARCHITECTS & YEN MENG JIIN
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Front of the multi-level Art Deco conservation house, fitted with a new gate. - PHOTOGRAPHY RT+Q ARCHITECTS & YEN MENG JIIN
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- PHOTOGRAPHY RT+Q ARCHITECTS & YEN MENG JIIN
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- PHOTOGRAPHY RT+Q ARCHITECTS & YEN MENG JIIN
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Tucked away in the attic is this cosy lounge area. - PHOTOGRAPHY RT+Q ARCHITECTS & YEN MENG JIIN
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- PHOTOGRAPHY RT+Q ARCHITECTS & YEN MENG JIIN
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East meets West on this photo wall showcasing both Ms Fong and her husband’s families. - PHOTOGRAPHY RT+Q ARCHITECTS & YEN MENG JIIN
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Glass bridge leading to the master bedroom. PHOTOGRAPHY RT+Q ARCHITECTS & YEN MENG JIIN
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- PHOTOGRAPHY RT+Q ARCHITECTS & YEN MENG JIIN

Model Home (Amended)

Cutting-edge looks once defined her, but today, ex-model Ethel Fong finds comfort in history and culture, as Tay Suan Chiang discovers.
Oct 15, 2016 5:50 AM

Ethel Fong's eye for beauty goes way beyond the designer fashion she paraded on the catwalk in the 1980s. Since the former Singaporean top model got married to French writer and private investor Jean Chalopin in 1989, she's developed an appreciation for beautiful homes with history and character. Her first matrimonial home was the 200-room French castle Chateau de Farcheville, which the couple restored into a 15-suite home. They lived and raised their two children there before selling it some 10 years ago.

The family now splits its time between Singapore, a chalet in Verbier, Switzerland, a seaside resort in the Bahamas and a loft apartment in New York's SOHO. It's no surprise that in Singapore, Ms Fong picked a home from its past - a late Art Deco conservation terrace house on Cairnhill Road.

"Both my husband and I love architecture," says the 53-year-old who now does philanthropic work. "We wanted a house that you can't find in the West. This is very unique to my culture and to this part of the world."

The Aman resort look is her go-to design aesthetic, and RT+Q Architects were picked to execute it. "The Aman does a good job of taking the culture and heritage of a building and country, while modernizing it with maximum comfort."

Conservation rules dictate that the facade of the house had to be kept and repaired. But inside, the design team retained as much as it could. Adjustable window louvres were recreated, and the original doors repainted.

The all-white living room is a deliberate contrast to the stronger, warm reds of the kitchen and dining room. Naturally, the kitchen is the heart of this home. "When friends and family come over, we hang out in the kitchen and adjacent entertainment room," says Ms Fong, who returns to Singapore two or three times a year.

A central courtyard joins the front and back of the house on the ground floor, while a glass bridge connects the second floor. A spiral staircase with built in bookshelves leads to the attic, where you find a study and cosy lounge area.

"I did all the decoration myself," says Ms Fong. She personally scouted for Peranakan-inspired tiles in France for the kitchen floor; fell in love with a Chinese lantern in Malacca that now hangs over the dining table; and covered a wall with family photos from both her and Mr Chalopin's sides.

Is there a recurrent theme that runs through her stable of homes? Not really, apart from each home taking its identity from the place it's in. "But I do like symmetry, so I would say there's an element of 'East meets West' in all my homes."

Amendment Note: The article has been updated with the correct year that Ethel Fong got married