HAVING grown up in Joo Chiat, it was only natural that when Alan Tan decided to buy his own apartment, it would be in the same area. "Joo Chiat Road has lots of sentimental value for me," says Mr Tan, a director at architectural materials solution provider, Rice.
His home is an apartment at Sandalwood designed by architect Chan Soo Khian. Mr Tan has a second reason for buying in this area. "Soo Khian is one of my favourite architects, and the units here are very hard to come by." So when an apartment was put up for sale, he immediately grabbed it. "The condo is very charming and peaceful to boot," he adds. At slightly more than 1,000 sq ft, and with its dark interiors, the apartment looks small, but oddly feels spacious. Mr Tan points out that by practising a "disciplined use of materials", he has been able to make a compact space look bigger than it is.
His company offers a wide range of floor materials, from tiles to stone and mosaic. With more than a decade's experience in the industry, Mr Tan knew exactly which material he wanted for his home. His choice is a large format porcelain stoneware tile in a warm grey shade from Italy, for the kitchen, living and bedrooms. "Using just a single type of tile makes the different areas in the apartment appear seamless and therefore bigger," he says. "A large format tile has a more luxurious look compared with smaller tiles." He adds that perfectly matching coloured grout and tiles are crucial to achieve the seamless look.
Just as how he has picked only a single material for the floor, Mr Tan went with lots of wood for the walls. The apartment is fitted out almost entirely with carpentry work, from a series of floor-to-ceiling cabinets that separate the entrance of the apartment with the living room, to another cabinet that runs along the bedrooms. Mr Tan had niches built into these cabinets to serve as display space for some of his personal items.
There are more wooden panels in the same shade as the cabinets around the dining area, and some of these slide open to reveal the apartment's three bedrooms. The same style of cabinets are used for the bedrooms too, which are connected by the balcony which runs along the length of the apartment.
The exception is the guest bathroom, where a wall panel has been fitted with porcelain tiles from Spanish designer Patricia Urquiola.
The patterned tiles are inspired by traditional Victorian floor tiles but with a 21st century spin. "Some patterns have a slight heritage look, which I find so appropriate since I'm living in the heart of this Peranakan neighbourhood," says Mr Tan.
The placement of tinted mirrors in strategic locations around the home also helps make the apartment look more spacious.
Mr Tan prides himself on having exquisite taste when it comes to designer furniture pieces and it shows.
Rather than make do with the usual three-seater sofa and coffee table in the living room, he did away with that layout entirely. Instead he has paired an Eames Aluminium Group chair and ottoman with a couple of Capellini Low Pad chairs by Jasper Morrison. "The living space is not big, so a sofa would just take up too much space," he explains.
He picked the Baguettes table by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec for his dining table. "This looks like a typical glass-topped table, but I am attracted to the slim aluminium legs," he says. Mr Tan has paired the table with another of his favourite pieces, the Master chairs from Kartell. "The furniture is simply a collection of timeless pieces," he says.
While the furniture is mostly Italian, Mr Tan's collection of home accessories are mostly French.
Hermes is his preferred choice and Mr Tan has placed pillows and stuffed horses from the fashion house around the apartment. "I'm not born in the year of the Horse, but I like them, and they are so appropriate for the upcoming Chinese New Year," says Mr Tan. The pillows he picked come with horses printed on them. "I love Hermes' attention to details," adds Mr Tan.
He also likes ceramic pieces from Astier de Villatte, which he purchases from HP Deco homeware store in Japan. Mr Tan is a frequent visitor to the country for work and leisure.
A newly purchased item is a ceramic piece that sits on the dining table. It looks like four separate waterjugs placed next to each other, but is actually a single piece that works as a vase.
On another counter are two more Astier de Villatte pieces. One is a plate with an arrow on it, with a smaller plate that has a heart drawn on it, placed on top. "I was lucky to have met both the designers, Benoit Astier de Villatte and Ivan Pericoli in Kyoto. One drew a heart on the plate, while the other autographed it," Mr Tan recalls excitedly. "I like the brand because the pieces show creativity and are all handmade."
As a friend of Mr Chan's, Mr Tan has invited the architect to see his apartment. "I was inspired by his design for Sandalwood when I did up the interiors. Hopefully, he will like the way I've furnished the apartment," says Mr Tan.