Home Tour: A Chinese Art Collector’s Colourful Penthouse in Singapore
Many people buy art to complement the design of their home. But for Jeffrey Soh and Selina Chong, it was the other way around. The couple envisioned a stylish abode that would showcase their collection of Chinese contemporary art in the most impactful way possible. “We wanted our art to create a grand and spectacular impression the moment our guests step into our home,” says Soh, who has been collecting art and sculptures for about 15 years.
His favourite artists include Ren Zhe, Shen Jing Dong, Cai Zhi Song, Pan De Hai and the Luo Brothers. “I have always enjoyed decorating and wanted to spend time deciding on the placement of each piece to create a cohesive overall look,” he adds.
To realise the contemporary yet cosy atmosphere the owners had envisioned for their 3,671sqft penthouse unit in Singapore, they engaged Bu Shukun, design director of Architology Interiors, after discovering the latter’s portfolio via a family friend. The couple, who have three young children, decided to divide their four-bedroom abode into two zones.
“The main floor is the social zone, where they often host their extended family, friends and business associates. The upper floor was to be a master suite for the couple,” says Bu. The design team also had to ensure a balance between the couple’s opposing aesthetic preferences. “Jeffrey leans towards darker palettes, has a preference for rich materials and likes more dramatic designs,” says Bu. “Selina is the opposite; she likes a bright and airy interior with elegant plays of textures on a muted palette.”
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To showcase this striking duality, Bu first analysed the amount of daylight that would illuminate the main floor. He then reshuffled the original spaces to create two main zones—a living area and a dining space—to run parallel to each other, with the former clad in darker tones as it basks in natural sunlight from the balcony.
In the living room, a Ferreira de Sá rug, a custom-made marble coffee table and a pair of Turner sofas from Molteni&C provide a neutral backdrop for a painting of Chinese deities by Shen Jing Dong.
For visual continuity, the coffee table in the living area is also made with Antolini Patagonia granite. Here, a Magma Gold granite feature wall is among its stunning highlights—the gold swirls also complement the 12 bronze animal statues of the Chinese zodiac that flank the wall. “These were intentionally chosen to further blur the lines between art and design in the apartment,” says Bu.
To achieve the desired effect of contrast and balance, Bu took pains to create 3D renders depicting various configurations to figure out the best ways to display the paintings and sculptures in the home, while choosing materials that would make the ideal background for the art. For example, Shen Jing Dong’s Salute sculptures, which represent discipline, respect and protection, stand guard on the balcony. “They greet visitors and also create a presence that links and extends the living space out onto the timber balcony using art,” says Bu.
The dining zone, which is located deeper inside the home, sports lighter hues. “The space incorporates a rich-toned living room with generous daylight, while the dining area has a pared-down white marble flooring with clean timber-clad walls. This contrast and balance was the key to meeting the opposing requirements,” says Bu. In the dining space, a Henge S-Penny dining table by Massimo Castagna features a hand-burnished steel base. Overlooking the dining table is an exuberant painting by Pan De Hai.
Special care was taken to choose the various stone and marble slabs used throughout the home. Key pieces were sourced from Hafary’s marble warehouse, along with natural stone tiles from Italian manufacturer Antolini, also distributed by Hafary. One standout is the kitchen island, which features Antolini Patagonia granite carved to resemble a rugged stone sculpture.
Soh worked closely with the designer on the placement of the artworks throughout the home, as he holds many of them close to his heart. “The owner selected most of the art based on his personal interests and taste. All the pieces are of very high quality and are infused with the symbolism of prosperity, beauty, joy and a rich, vibrant culture,” says Susanna Yang, owner of Yang Gallery, where Soh purchased most of his art collection from.
Even more fascinating artworks adorn the upper level. Right at the top of the staircase landing hangs a red painting from Pan De Hai’s renowned Corn Series. Two stainless-steel sculptures of warriors by Ren Zhe, which represent power, energy and loyalty, flank the walkway to the bedrooms. On these walls hang colourful artworks that Soh bought for his children. Each piece is meaningful to the family as it represents a child’s zodiac sign and symbolises their happiness and growth.
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With such a dramatic material palette and a wide range of bold, expressive art for the home, Bu says it did require a “leap of faith” from both parties to pull off the project with panache; the renovation took a year to complete, due to a four-month delay caused by the pandemic regulations. The results, the homeowners say, more than live up to their expectations. “It is perfect—exactly what we imagined it to be,” enthuses Soh.