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Self-Improvement & Hobbies

White vibe

Clean lines and pale shades abound in the apartment Voon Wong designed for art lover and businesswoman Florence Lim.
The Sunday Times - September 1, 2012
By: Tay Suan Chiang
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White vibe ARTY ARRANGEMENTSrnView of the dining area with its series of photographs by Roni Horn, and Bullet Hole by American artist Nate Lowman on the left wall. - PHOTO: JOHN HENG

WITH 16 years of friendship between them, it was "only natural" that architect Voon Wong designed her apartment in Singapore, says businesswoman Florence Lim. It helped that the Singaporean, London-based designer had previously designed her six homes in London and Spain.

Ms Lim, together with her consultant husband, and their two sons aged 10 and 12, moved into their four-bedroom apartment near Bukit Timah last November.

The family moved to Singapore so that the two boys could learn Mandarin. "There are good schools here, and it is easy to live in Singapore," says Ms Lim, who was born in the Philippines, grew up in Canada and lived in London for 16 years.

Ms Lim wanted her first home in Singapore to be "as luxurious as possible". She was attracted to the 29-year-old apartment's spacious layout and the lush greenery surrounding it which Ms Lim finds "a breath of fresh air, unlike the new apartments which are tiny".

The apartment's deep balcony, where most of the entertaining is done, is big enough to double as an outdoor living and dining area with unblocked views of the city.

Despite being completed in 1983, Mr Wong says the place was "sound and well-built, and there was no need for major realignment of the apartment". Instead, he changed some entrances for easier movement around the apartment.

The home is divided into three large sections. The living and dining areas are in the centre, with an additional family area that is hidden behind a wall in the dining room. On the right side of the apartment is where the couple's bedroom is, and a guest room. On the left are the bedrooms belonging to the two sons.

Clean lines abound, which Mr Wong is known for, and which Ms Lim appreciates. "Voon and I are on the same wavelength, so we always know what the other is saying," says Ms Lim. "We have mutual respect for each other."

Having lived in an all-white home when she was a child, Ms Lim's apartment now is also in the same shade. "White is a soothing colour, and it gives me a feeling of peace and tranquillity," she says. The white extends to the B&B Italia dining table and leather chairs. It is also on the walls, and on the floor, which is made of reconstructed marble. Ms Lim chose to have it in a matt finish as "shine is only suitable for lipgloss", she declares.

Mr Wong adds that white "serves as a neutral background, so the focus can be on the art works and objects in the home".

There is art on nearly every wall, and even before moving in, Ms Lim already planned out where each piece of artwork would be displayed.

The art lover bought her first piece when she was 19 and has been collecting art ever since. Her pieces are bought directly from the galleries. Among the art pieces that she has collected are a red painting from Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, a neon installation from British artist Tracey Emin, and a silver piece from British sculpture Anish Kapoor.

"I like works by crazy artists," says Ms Lim. "I use art to channel another side of me."

Her love for art has also rubbed off on her two boys. She takes the kids to art exhibitions and buys art for them too. Elder son Gianluca likes English artist Damien Hirst.

"When the boys were younger, some of the art pieces got broken accidentally," says Ms Lim. Her boys now know better. Pointing to a Tang horse sculpture, Ms Lim says, "I tell them this is an expensive piece, please don't break it."

Singapore's humidity is not friendly to art pieces, so the apartment is constantly kept to a cool 22 degrees Celsius via air-conditioning.

Ms Lim is particular about details and aesthetics, so colours and items have to be carefully chosen. "I am more for aesthetics - 70 per cent aesthetics and 30 per cent function," she says unabashedly.

Some of the eye-catching pieces include a Swarovski crystal hanging lamp by Dutch designer Tord Boontje and a coffee table filled with gold leaves by French artist Yves Klein. Even the family dog, Pacha, a sharpei, was picked for his rich grey fur.

The former interior designer now runs a business selling beach wear and home decorative items that are reminiscent of the beach, such as coral or shell decorative pieces. "I love being tanned and hanging out on the beach," says Ms Lim.

Overseas friends who come to visit love the look of the apartment. While she has taken pains to ensure that her home is exactly the way she wants it, Ms Lim adds: "There is no need to make big gestures. There is beauty in simplicity."

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