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Playing up the curves
WHEN it comes to giving their interior designers a brief, most homeowners dictate the look that they want, be it contemporary chic, or minimalist, or very often the "hotel" feel.
But Loke Wen Wei and his wife, Ooi Beng Koon, simply told their designer Lim Ai Tiong to design their apartment to be "internally consistent" with their condo's exterior.
The couple, who are both 35, live with their two daughters, in a four-bedroom, 2,500 sq ft apartment at d'Leedon. The condominium, designed by the late "starchitect" Zaha Hadid, features seven curvy blocks of apartments, shaped like giant flowers growing from the ground.
Ironically, Mr Loke, an analyst at a fund management company, says that the condo's distinctive curved architectural form was not the main reason they bought a unit there. "Rather, we bought a unit here as we wanted a large apartment in a central location," he explains. "The design of the curved blocks, and that d'Leedon is by a famous architect - are added bonuses."
And when it came to finding an interior designer, the couple picked Mr Lim "because his designs stood out", says Mr Loke. "Other designers tend to simply vary their projects on the surface, such as varying the choice of wallpaper and furniture, but not Ai Tiong. His ideas are more conceptually different."
Keeping in mind the brief to make the apartment's interiors consistent with the exterior, Mr Lim, who is the founder of Lim Ai Tiong (LATO) Architects naturally chose to play up the curves.
"The concept for d'Leedon is like a landscape in an abstract form. That's why you see skewed lines and curves throughout the project," says Mr Lim. "It is such a wonderful concept by a world-renowned architect and I see the potential and possibilities of bringing this concept into the interiors."
Mr Lim created dramatic 3D silhouettes for the Loke apartment. Organic-shaped panels sweep across the spaces, made of gypsum boards clad with timber veneer. In the living room, study, powder room and kitchen, the wooden panels provide contrast to the white walls and ceiling.
The treatment is reversed in the couple's bedroom, where the walls and ceiling are clad in timber with white organic-shaped panels. The gypsum panels look like they have been painted white but are actually clad in wallpaper to give it some textural feel.
Mr Lim explains that he used wallpaper as it is easier to upkeep than a white painted wall. "The wallpaper looks a little like white leather with a very fine grain. The intention is to have it subtle as the curves of the panels are the main focus," says Mr Lim.
While the idea is fairly straightforward, constructing the panels were a challenge. "Even the contractor told me not to design something like this anymore," quips Mr Lim.
Before work started, Mr Lim had done up many drawings of how the curves should be, but still there was fine-tuning to be done on-site. "You realise that by curving, skewing, bending, protruding or compressing a little more or a little less, the overall aesthetics of the apartment changes immediately. The contractor and I almost camped on-site every day to make changes and improvements." It took Mr Lim three months to design the home on paper, and another three months of renovation, which is considered a lengthy time for a new home.
He adds that there is no science to where the curve on the panels should be. "Where I curve, skew, bend, protrude or compress the panels is solely based on my gut feel. No two designers will be able to give you the same curves," says Mr Lim. "You either get wonderful curves around the home, or totally mess them up."
Thankfully for the Lokes, Mr Lim got the curves just right. Mr Loke recalls that when Mr Lim first presented this idea of curved panels around the home, the couple immediately liked it. "We were impressed, and gave the go ahead," says Mr Loke. "The apartment turned out very close to what we had been presented."
Since this is a new apartment, Mr Lim decided to keep most of the original fittings and walls intact. The only major hacking that was done was to tear the walls of the study and have them replaced with curved glass walls.
Replacing the wall with glass lets in more light into the study and living areas, and it also creates more visual connectivity in the home. The curved glass wall also complements the curves of the timber panels.
"Most of the time, the family hangs out in the living room, dining area or study, since these three areas now look like one common space," says Mr Loke.
In line with the curvy theme and the brown and white colour scheme, Mr Lim proposed appropriate furniture. For example, the L-shaped leather sofa from Cierre and dining chairs from Marquis, are in tan, to match the wood tones of the apartment.
The apartment's interiors have since become talking points whenever friends visit. "My friends have not seen anything similar before, so we are constantly retelling the story of how the look came about," says Mr Loke.
The family moved in last June, and love living here. "That the condo was designed by a starchitect is secondary. Living here has been good. There is plenty of space in the estate for the girls to play and run, and we use the pools very frequently. The number of facilities that we have here is even better than at some country clubs," says Mr Loke.