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Deck The Homes
NATASHA LIOK-QUEK Dreaming of a White Christmas is one thing, but creating your own is another matter altogether. For her Christmas theme this year, Natasha Liok-Quek drained much of the colour from her home and turned it, well, a whiter shade of pale instead - she calls it a White Nordic Christmas.
As someone who celebrates the holiday season with family and friends in a big way, themed decorations are de rigueur in her household (last year the colour scheme was antique gold). She did it when she was growing up and she's doing it now that she's married with three young children. This will be the second Christmas in her new home, a multi-generation abode where the in-laws have self-contained living quarters - and their own Christmas tree.
Over in her living room, the White Nordic theme extends beyond the tree decorated with white-feathered birds, white ornaments, delicate glass orbs and mini-chandeliers. Still, Ms Liok-Quek describes her decorating style as "eclectic". For instance, there's a floor-standing Chinese vase in a corner near the dining table but she improvised by wrapping it in cream-coloured linen layered with off-white tulle. The vase is filled with white-painted twigs hung with tiny, glittery ornaments.
Meanwhile, the dining table is decorated with silver-and-white glass objects such as angels and bird-shaped candle holders. "I tried to tone it down to blend in with the overall interior aesthetic, which is all about form," says Ms Liok-Quek of her home, which was designed by husband Jonathan Quek and father-in-law TK Quek (see WeekendDesign on page 25).
No matter what the theme is, one item on permanent display during the season is a stuffed toy bought by her husband - a battery-operated bear that wears a Santa suit, has moving parts and recites (complete with background music) the classic poem, 'Twas the night before Christmas. Another favourite item is a set of painted miniature figurines of a nativity scene - a gift from her mother-in-law.
"When I was growing up, my parents always threw Christmas parties," says Ms Liok-Quek. "My dad loves singing and dancing so there was a lot of music and performances in the house - it's important to introduce the classics to our kids." She adds, "Now, we carry on the tradition - last year we did a re-enactment of baby Jesus in a manger."
The grand piano in the living room comes into play during multiple dinners over the Christmas period, when various sets of relatives join in the festivities. "We'll make cookies and the kids will help to decorate the packaging with silver bells and frosted pine cones," she says.
Even the best-laid plans can go awry, of course - like last year when the tree was placed poolside on the outdoor deck and toppled (twice) by heavy wind and rain. "It was a big mistake, "says Ms Liok-Quek. "Try to avoid using breakable ornaments if your tree is outdoors - otherwise it will be very painful."
by GEOFFREY EU
RICHARD AND GINNY WILUAN When it comes to Christmas, Richard and Ginny Wiluan are purists who believe it should always be spent at home in Singapore. "If we do travel, it's on the 26th, after Christmas," says Ms Wiluan. But for Christmas, it's always time with the family on both sides."
Christmas Eve is spent with her immediate family. On the day itself, they're off to his parents' home, where his mother pulls out all the stops for a traditional Christmas spread. "There are roasts and hams, Christmas trifle and mince pies. This year, my husband's siblings will come back with their families from the US and UK, so it'll be a big reunion," she says.
The Wiluans are hosting a number of dinner parties in December, where the hostess with the mostest is in charge of the "front of house", while Mr Wiluan helms the kitchen. The executive director of energy services provider KS Distribution and director of Citramas Foundation loves to cook, says his wife. So, "it'll be a full-service dinner, as he does the plating and all - not buffet style." The menu is usually Western but with a Japanese or French twist, inspired by the year he spent in each country when he was growing up.
For their Christmas decor, Mrs Wiluan relies on an extensive collection of baubles and ornaments she's collected over the years and continues to add on to. She tweaks the theme each year, and this time she's gone with classic red and gold, with thick red ribbons and poinsettia contrasted with gold stars and glistening balls.
Wreaths made from noble fir are plentiful around the house, and candles too, so it does look like a Christmas grotto at night, she quips. The children also have a say - sons Kristian, 7, and Ryan, 5, and daughter Isabel, 4, picked out the teddy bear and a reindeer that go underneath the Christmas tree.
"Because our children are so young, the décor is quite child-centric, so we have a few toys scattered around," she adds.
"Closer to Christmas, the children and I will also bake hundreds of white chocolate chip cookies to give out to friends, colleagues, and family." Like their father, they enjoy being in the kitchen. Mrs Wiluan is thankful that the children do enjoy the giving side of Christmas more than just waiting in anticipation of their presents. "So for about a week or so this month, the house is turned into Santa's workshop while we bake and bake, and then start delivering the jars of cookies."
by CHEAH UI-HOON
ELAINE KIM Christmas may be a time of merry making and parties but for Elaine Kim, it marks the day when Jesus was born. "That's still the most important reason why we celebrate Christmas, isn't it?" Dr Kim asks.
The mother of three is a palliative care doctor, and an entrepreneur outside of medical work. She is a co-founder of CRIB, a social enterprise and the founder of Milk and Honey, an event design company.
On Christmas Day, together with her venture capitalist husband, John Kim, and her immediate family, they will be attending a church service. After that, it will be a Christmas lunch at the couple's home on Sentosa, a meal which Dr Kim cooks herself.
On the menu will be roast prime rib or lamb, with pasta, soup and pudding. She may make her specialty, a chocolate tart. "There will be turkey too, but usually we order that," she says.
In between her work, caring for her kids, including having her third boy seven weeks ago, Dr Kim has found time to do up the home, starting with a Christmas wreath on the main door. She is a stickler for tradition, going with colour themes such as silver and gold, or red and green which was used last year.
"My father and eldest son, Kyan, went shopping together for a live fir tree recently," she says. The tree in the living room is adorned with silver ornaments, a mix of sequinned bauble and icicles, which she has been collecting over the years.
Dressing up the tree is a family affair, done over one weekend morning. "Kyan and Luke, the two older boys will hang ornaments on the lower branches. Sometimes I readjust those baubles later," she says with a laugh.
As she is hosting several parties for friends in the lead-up to Christmas, her 12-seater dining table has already been done up. On the table is a mix of white floral displays and warm gold ornaments.
Dr Kim is still in the midst of getting presents, "usually for the kids it will be toys that they ask for, but we tell them to wait till Christmas."
Her parents-in-law usually fly in for Christmas, but this year, they will be coming later since they were in town recently for baby Nathanael's birth.
Dr Kim's fondest Christmas was three years ago, when she was heavily pregnant with Luke. Her parents-in-law "had flown in from Korea, her sister-in-law and husband from the United States and her cousins from England. "We had the entire family together, which made that Christmas very special," she says.
by TAY SUAN CHIANG
CHENG HSIN YAO What do smoke alarms, Christmas and the Cheng family have in common? Plenty, it seems.
For Cheng Hsin Yao, director of Omakase Burger and his family, Christmas is usually spent at a home away from home. "Together with my parents, wife, my brother and his family, we usually spend about two weeks at a ski resort, such as in the United States, Canada or Japan.
On Christmas Eve, they will dine at the resort restaurant. "But on Christmas Day, we insist on cooking our dinner in the lodge," says Mr Cheng.
"If we are in the US, without fail, my brother would always order T-bone steaks from his favourite butcher in New York, and deliver them to wherever we are," he says.
"These steaks are so thick, that when my mum cooks them, inevitably, the entire lodge would be filled with smoke, even setting off the smoke alarm," he says.
"One time it got so bad, that security came running over to see if our lodge really was on fire," he quips. "We now have a strategy - to tape up the smoke alarm and make everyone stand by the windows, ready to fling them open to let the smoke out."
For Mr Cheng, whose elder brother lives in Hong Kong, Christmas is the time everyone gets together. The men bond over skiing and snowboarding, while the women enjoy their hot chocolate. "But we all love that this is the only time we get to sit by the fireplace, the ones that come with logs and not the electric ones," he says.
Since Christmas also means gift giving, the family make it a point to bring their gifts along with them on these trips. "We even bring wrapping paper along, wrap the presents in secret and place them under a tree," says Mr Cheng. His brother, who is in charge of organising the Christmas getaways, arranges with the resort to have a tree done up in the lodge.
by TAY SUAN CHIANG