Saturday, 20 September, 2014

Published August 30, 2014
Wow of a house
Passers-by seeing Eric Cheng's house for the first time are likely to stop and stare - which is exactly the kind of reaction he wants. By Tay Suan Chiang
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Above: A black granite stone wall, specially cut and imported from China, fronts the four-storey house, while the house itself resembles boxes stacked upon each other at an angle. - ALL PHOTOS BY YEN MENG JIIN

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ERIC Cheng, group CEO of property firm ECG Holdings, has built over 75 homes in Singapore in the last three years, so when it comes to his own home, he knows exactly what he wants. "The house must have a modern design, meet the needs of my family now and in the future, and it has to be elderly-friendly too because my parents are living with me," says Mr Cheng. "And the home must have a wow factor."

Drive past the semi-detached house in the Tanjong Katong area, and you are likely to slow down and do a double take. "That's the effect I want," says Mr Cheng, 39.

A black granite stone wall, specially cut and imported from China fronts the four-storey house, while the house itself resembles boxes stacked on each other at an angle. You may wonder if that is really a pool you see on the second storey, and yes, your eyes are not playing tricks on you. "Having a pool on the ground floor is nothing new. I'm a bold person and I'm motivated to do things out of the norm," says Mr Cheng. "So I decided that the pool should be on the second storey."

His architect and builders, naturally, think it a wacky idea. "Everyone says nothing like this has been done before, but still I persisted." He even made presentations to the Building Construction Authority himself, to convince them that it could be done and is safe. The front of the 15m long pool is encased in tempered glass panels, while the other half is partially covered with wavy, coloured metal panels, to give it a more dynamic look. "I don't use the pool very much, it is more for my two boys," says Mr Cheng. The pool also comes with wi-fi enabled surround-sound speakers, a jacuzzi and water jet technology to make swimming more fun.

"Look up when you are standing at the front door, and you can see who's swimming, and all the bedrooms have views of the pool too," says Mr Cheng, who was named Young Entrepreneur of the Year at the 2011 Asia Pacific Entrepreneurship Awards.

Not one to be contented with just sitting back and letting the architect and builder do all the work, Mr Cheng spent much of his time travelling overseas to pick out the materials he wanted for his home, and he is very particular about the finished look too. For example, the extra-large marble slabs in the living room are laid out using a special technique ensuring a uniformed and elegant look. What looks like wallpaper in the living room is actually six coats of paint in different finishes to give the walls a soft, shimmering look.

Even the lift is given a special touch. The exterior shaft is clad in rainforest marble, while the interior walls are lined with imported calf leather, handcrafted to imitate ostrich skin texture. "I like playing with textures," Mr Cheng explains.

In one of the powder rooms, there is an art piece crafted from mosaic tiles, set against the swirls of the marble walls and floor. The mirror here is set at a slant. "I call this the crazy bathroom, as there is so much happening in this compact space," says Mr Cheng.

The use of floor to ceiling high doors, and the lack of columns in the living room, give the first storey a grand feel. There is only one column in the house, which is on a balcony on the second floor. Given Mr Cheng's love for doing things differently, it's no surprise that the column is in a polished gold finish.

While the dry kitchen is mostly used for entertaining, which Mr Cheng does often, his wet kitchen can rival that of a restaurant. It comes equipped with a steamer, griller, ovens, two burners and six refrigerators. "What do I like to cook? Curry chicken, prawn noodles, bak kut teh," says Mr Cheng, rattling off a list.

For the home's soft furnishing, Mr Cheng has chosen his favourite labels Fendi Casa and Armani/Casa, while his wife Lena Tang, who is a director in the firm, opts for pieces from Hermes.

"Fendi Casa and Armani/Casa are not loud in their designs, which is why I like them," says Mr Cheng. He flew to Italy to purchase the pieces, not only because they have a wider selection there, but to get some of the pieces customised, including the dining table and chairs from Armani/Casa.

Mr Cheng is especially proud of the Fendi Casa chandelier in the dining room, which took two men seven days to hang the crystals by hand. "They had to be very careful, but the effect is just amazing, especially at night," he says excitedly.

Another of his favourite pieces is a life-sized stuffed panda seat from Hermes. There are only two in the world, and clients have to be invited by the fashion house to purchase it. "The panda somehow adds life to the living room," says Mr Cheng.

The couple have their bedroom on the fourth floor. One side of the room is the sleeping area, furnished with a calf leather headboard, Fendi Casa rugs, and Hermes bedlinen. There is an alcove here too, for Ms Tang to display her Hermes homeware collection. The room is so luxurious, no wonder the two boys prefer to sleep here than in their own rooms.

On the other end of the room is the couple's walk-in wardrobe. Mr Cheng doesn't care that you may think he is being overly fussy. He happily shows off his personalised hangers, which all come with the ECG logo on them. "I like everything to be uniform, it makes things look neater," he says. Ms Tang has her collection of Hermes bags here.

The bedroom not only scores on the aesthetics front, but is rather high tech too. There are five different lighting effects to set the mood of the room, and a wide-screen projector with surround sound system is available for when the family want to do movie nights.

Mr Cheng is already doing up another family home, and already, there is interest to buy over his present home. "But no, I've no plans to sell this yet," he says.