This article was first published in The Straits Times on Jan 10, 2009.
Bachelor Ian Fong’s home is a cosy, two-storey abode that would not look out of place in the English countryside. It is, however, located in a residential estate in Whampoa.
It also looks like a terrace home when it is actually HDB property: It is one of 285 such landed flats that were built in the 1970s by the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT), the predecessor of the Housing and Development Board (HDB).
Besides Whampoa, there are similar two-storey flats along Stirling Road in Queenstown.
Mr Fong, managing director of public relations and design firm Sirius Art, bought the 1,300 sq ft property for $418,000 and moved in last April. It is considered a three-room flat because it has two bedrooms on the second floor and a living room and kitchen on the first.
“It was the price that attracted me,” says the 40-year-old, who considered buying landed property in other areas. With this flat, he gets to live in a landed home at a fraction of the price. It has 65 years left on its 99-year lease.
He worked with his company’s designer and spent about $150,000 on renovations, which included installing a bathroom on the second storey and extending the living room area by about 1m into the front garden.
He describes his home, where he lives alone, as one that is modern, eclectic and English “but also with bits of Orientalism, because I’m very Chinese at heart”.
Eclecticism can be a challenge, he adds, because “everything has to look different, yet still match”. On the bright side, it gives him “more leeway as I can buy anything without worrying about it not fitting in”.
He also has no qualms about mixing expensive and affordable pieces for his home. For example, his living room has a $6,000 Natuzzi leather sofa and vases from Ikea that cost less than $20 each.
His bedroom is filled with Oriental furniture that is painted white. It is less boring this way and gives the furniture an alternative look, he says. Dominating the space is an Oriental shelf filled with photos, toys and figurines, all adding to the eclectic look.
The other room, which is for guests, is decorated simply with light green wallpaper and a beige sofa bed.
For a touch of luxury, he lined the walls in his living room and kitchen with wallpaper, but only the upper half, “to give the room more dimension and make the ceiling look higher”.
Explaining his choice of the mostly brown wallpaper design, Mr Fong says: “Florals would make it too girly. I wanted something more masculine.”
Because he is an avid cook who enjoys entertaining, his favourite part of the home is his all-white kitchen, which immediately gets a wipe-down whenever he spots any stains.
“All my guests prefer hanging around the island in the kitchen, rather than in the living room,” he says with a chuckle.