AESTHETICS doctor and mummy blogger Donna Chow describes her home as a "woody wonderland". Her three-storey intermediate terrace home in Upper Thomson has "trees" inside. Not real trees, but rather tree-like structures. "I love nature and the shape and motif of trees," says Dr Chow. She lives with her husband, Shaun Koh, who works in the oil and gas industry, and their one-year-old son, Kandon; and the family enjoys going out for walks at the nearby Bishan Park.
About two years ago when the couple were renovating their home, Dr Chow decided to incorporate trees into the design. "Since I knew what I liked, I decided to sketch different tree designs to show the contractor," she says, while poring over decor magazines for ideas.
Those tree-like features can be seen all around the home. For example, there is a thick tree trunk in the living room, where the television is mounted on. The tree's branches double as display shelves for Dr Chow's knickknacks.
Just by the dining area are a couple of life-sized trees, which mark the entrances to the store room and bomb shelter. "The contractor found it a real challenge constructing these 3.5m tall trees," says Dr Chow. She drew the trees herself. "It was a labour-intensive job that required a lot of climbing up and down the ladder."
Even the dining table is made out of a tree. "While holidaying in Bali a few years ago, we came across this store that was selling wooden furniture," recalls Dr Chow. "I like this one which has a real tree trunk as its base. Using parts of the tree as furniture, you can never get two of the same design."
Dr Chow personally designed the entrance to the kitchen - a sliding door with a tree motif on it. "I consider this my masterpiece," she declares. In the kitchen is a feature wall, made of tiles which have the cross section of tree trunks on them. "Since my compound isn't big, and I don't have a big garden for trees, I try to have as many man-made trees indoors as possible," quips Dr Chow.
Two bedrooms were spared the tree treatment, but in the study, Dr Chow couldn't resist "planting" a tree there. This comes in the form of a tree trunk on the wall, with its branches as display space, just like in the living room.
To further enhance that woody wonderland look, Dr Chow created a cosy sitting area on the second floor. There's a tree trunk bench here, with a display stand constructed from a tree trunk, and a rug that resembles pebbles. Besides a family photo, Dr Chow has also placed several animal figures on the stand. "It is to create the feeling of being in a forest, but actually, we hardly use this space, it is done up more for aesthetic reasons," says Dr Chow with a laugh.
She has created another sitting area on the third storey, where she often reads to Kandon. The area's sloping roof, green rug, brown Egg chair, a side table constructed from an olive tree and a stuffed bear, together make this a cosy spot for mother and child.
Besides trees and nature, Dr Chow has other loves, which she displays in her 3,500 sq ft home. For example, her collection of designer bags is stored in a specially constructed cupboard in the living room. The cupboard comes with sliding doors that have strategically placed holes on them. "I can see my bags, through these 'windows'," she says. "Also, the holes are in line with my theme, as they resemble the hollows on a tree."
The couple love travelling, and always make it a point to buy fridge magnets from their holiday destinations. They used to be displayed on the fridge in their previous home, but are now arranged neatly on two magnetic boards. "It just got too messy," says Dr Chow, who adds that Salzburg is her favourite destination, as she loves the Austrian city's architecture. She also has magnets from Finland, Australia and Japan.
Besides fridge magnets, Dr Chow also likes buying cookbooks while on holiday. "They give me inspiration, but somehow, I always end up cooking Chinese dishes," she says.
Before Kandon came along, the couple doted on the family pet, a schnauzer named Ah Bee. "I would sew outfits for Ah Bee, and he even won the top prize in a canine fashion show," beams Dr Chow. The lucky seven-year-old dog also has portrait shots of him, and even a book about him. "Ah Bee is precious to us," says Dr Chow. She has two stuffed dogs made in his image, "so that even when he's gone, we are still reminded of him".
Little Kandon too has a growing collection of baby memorabilia, such as a calligraphy brush made from his hair and a footprint keepsake. His mum also sews his clothes for him. "I usually do my sewing at night, and I find it therapeutic," she says.
Friends who have visited Dr Chow's home comment that the decor is interesting. But what does Mr Koh think? "He had no say in the design," quips Dr Chow.
This article was first published on July 9, 2016.
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