Minimal space, maximum impact

Careful planning by Kian Liew ensures that his two-bedroom apartment, while small, is efficiently laid out and has plenty of visual interest.

KIAN Liew's two-bedroom apartment off Newton Circus may look tiny but it sure packs a punch. He manages to fit plenty into the 1,163 square foot apartment, and he says it is "all about planning". As head of global interior design management, Mr Liew knows a lot about planning interior spaces, as it is his job to dictate the look of apartments under Ascott, Somerset and Citadines brands in Europe, North Asia, South-east Asia, Australia and the Middle East.

He had previously been renting apartments, but finally decided to buy his own after friends nagged him to do so. "I decided I would buy an apartment before I turned 40," says Mr Liew, who celebrated his 40th birthday a few months ago. Home is less than a 10-minute walk from the office, and "I like that I'm on a quiet street and yet still fairly close to town". It also helps that the flat has a north-south facing orientation, "and a breeze flows through the apartment".

The apartment's sleek interiors and compact kitchen belie the fact that Mr Liew is an avid cook, who whips up meals almost every day, and entertains almost every weekend. "Visitors who come here are often surprised to learn that I cook," says Mr Liew, who is known to plan dinner menus and do his shopping and prep-work days ahead. The apartment's original dining area is small, so Mr Liew hacked away a wall to make it bigger. He also had an island counter with a sink and wine fridge installed. A dining table which can seat six is attached to this counter, and doubles as a prep table when necessary. The row of cupboards behind the dining table hides a shoe rack, storage space and a fridge for drinks and cooked food.

"This way, I don't have to move around too much, everything is within easy reach," he explains. He also remodelled his kitchen to suit his needs. This meant converting the apartment's third bathroom into space to house his laundry needs; turning the storeroom into a pantry, complete with ovens, and placing the cooker hob to face outside so that cooking fumes don't linger in the kitchen.

The living room is also compact, but it looks much bigger, with the balcony doors open. "The balcony then becomes an extension of the living room, or my secondary dining area," says Mr Liew. Dinners are mostly had on the balcony. The apartment originally came with sliding doors, but Mr Liew had them changed to swing doors, "so that the eye can see further and the living room no longer looks small". He notes that most homeowners don't utilise their balcony space fully, which can be such a shame.

Mr Liew also picked the apartment because of the spaciousness of the bedrooms. The main bedroom can fit a king-sized bed, while the second bedroom has a queen-sized bed. "I did not use the second bedroom as a study, because I see no need for it," says Mr Liew. He has turned it into a guest room, so that when his friends from overseas come to visit, they have a place to stay. He also did renovation works to his bathroom, such as placing the vanity counter in a corner, and doing away with the shower area. He kept the original bathtub, and had a shower installed as well. "Having the tub is necessary, so that I can give my two dogs their showers," he explains.

Since he could do whatever he wants with the apartment, Mr Liew had a clear idea of how it should look. The apartment takes on a muted palette, because "I don't subscribe to a trend". "I like a look that is calming and masculine, so it does not date." The apartment is mostly in shades of walnut, taupe, black and brown, with the occasional colour from some table accessories and from his collection of artworks, such as one of Queen Elizabeth II, and a 3D installation piece by David Kracov of artist Jackson Pollock.

Mr Liew also has a collection by Asian artists, such as a piece from Singaporean artist Lim Tze Peng, in his dining room, and another by Chinese artist Sui Jianguo. "I started appreciating Asian art when I was living in the UK. When you are in a foreign country, you tend to reflect on yourself and your roots," he explains. Also adorning the walls are black-and-white photographs taken by Mr Liew. Some are of African wildlife from a safari trip, while others are of Anish Kapoor's Leviathan installation at the Grand Palais in Paris. "I like black-and-white prints as they allow me to focus on the subject, rather than be distracted by colours," says Mr Liew. "Colours can be boring after some time, and I only like them in small doses."

With plenty of projects overseas, Mr Liew is constantly travelling. No surprises then to hear that when he is back in Singapore, his apartment is his favourite place. "I finally get some time to enjoy what I've designed."

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