Bachelor's Serangoon pad filled with 10,000 Barbie dolls

Bachelor's Serangoon pad filled with 10,000 Barbie dolls
Three walls of the living area are entirely filled with dolls, both boxed and unboxed. While the shelves were specially designed to be dollheight, behind the sofa is a "feature wall" composed of boxed dolls carefully stacked at specific angles.
PHOTO: Home & Decor

This townhouse apartment is home to a media-industry creative, as well as 10,000 Barbie dolls!

WHO: A 37-year-old bachelor

HOME: Upper-floor townhouse unit in Serangoon

SIZE: 1,050sqf

From the unassuming facade of the townhouse homeowner Jian Yang lives in, you wouldn't expect to find a home with such unconventional interiors. It is only after ascending the staircase to get to his second-floor apartment that you are immersed in a world of dolls.

There are several floor-to-ceiling displays, with customised shelving specially designed to be doll-height, and a 12m run of wardrobes that are "six dolls-deep". But stripped of the dolls - all 10,000 of them - the space is actually a blank canvas with a contemporary look, little ornamentation and a pared-down structure.

It was what architect and designer Vincent Lim of Visual Text Architects (VTxT) knew was required, to allow the huge collection of dolls to be showcased in the best way possible.

"But it's not just dolls, actually - I love toys!" says Jian, whose background is in advertising.

The dolls, however, are his pride and joy. We find out more about his doll devotion, and how it fits into his home.

TELL ME ABOUT YOUR PASSION FOR DOLLS.

I've been buying dolls since 1984, and it started with Barbie, as it was only thing in the market at the time. Later on, I began collecting Jem Dolls, Equestria Girls, Blythe, Pullip, Monster High, Disney Princess and more…

I'm one of those guys who just likes to buy toys - it just happens that the focus is on dolls, possibly because of the fashion and pop-culture references related to them.

I also have toys from Star Wars, Transformers, Sky Commanders, Littlest Pet Shop, Baby Alive - all the Hasbro brands, here and in my office.

HOW DID THIS INTEREST BEGIN AND GROW?

Back in 1984, under the Christmas tree, I opened a present that happened to be my sister's - it was a doll. But your four-year-old mind doesn't see it as a "girl's toy" - it's just a toy that you'd like.

And in a child's mind, everything merges - Barbie can be a girlfriend to He-Man, or a G.I. Joe giant. I just saw her as another toy - an action figure with brushable hair.

So, as with any other collection where you buy more pieces to complete it, I was buying new clothes, shoes, and cars.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT THESE DOILLS, AND COLLECTING THEM?

There are so many facets, but here's one thing: I have an obsession with faces - as with different facial features, you make sense of them in the world and are able to see them as cultural generalisations - so looking at a doll's face is one of the reasons.

Every doll has a different face, with different skin colours, eye colours and hair colours.

I'm actually more of a fan of the brunette and African-American Barbies than I am of the blonde Barbie, as blonde is too generic! Can you imagine a blonde doll pulling off this look? (Refers to an African Barbie doll in eclectic fashion.)

The detail is insane, with the feathers and everything and, using your imagination, you would think that this is a black girl who went to Scotland - this outfit can be pulled off only by this doll.

I also like that Barbie is just a very neutral figure, whoever the child wants her to be, unlike - for example - Disney characters with a fixed backstory that sets the play pattern. Also, I like the fact that all these items in my house are not objects, but actually subjects - they are a conversation in themselves.

For example, a few of these dolls would remind me of a memorable first trip to New York.

WHICH IS THE MOST EXPENSIVE DOLL YOU HAVE?

The one I paid the most for was an auction piece at a charity event by Swarovski and Mattel. She's a Silkstone Barbie with Swarovski crystals, exclusively designed by Singapore artist Dan Goh for the event.

Silkstone is a vinyl and porcelain hybrid material created by Mattel, for a different skin texture, heavier weight and more collector value. I paid $3,600 for the doll.

HOW MUCH DO YOU THINK YOU'VE SPENT ON THE DOLLS?

My rough estimate is 10,000 dolls times an average of $20 each. But as some cost a lot more… it could work out to be about $500,000.

The collection, however, is worth millions.

WHEN IT CAME TO DESIGNING THE SPACE, WHAT WAS YOUR MAIN CONCERN?

My brief was basically: I have a collection worth millions, so I would like to fully appreciate it. I didn't have any taste formed, as it was my first home, so I was grateful that Vincent (the architect and designer) managed to find a voice for the space.

Because I know what an overpowering collection can look like - a lot of my friends are collectors of everything, from artist vinyl figures to Star Wars. When you see a Transformers collector's house, it's like a junkshop explosion.

So I told myself, I need a space that enables me to live like a human being, which just happens to have a ridiculous collection of dolls.

HOW DID YOUR DESIGNER ACHIEVE THAT?

First, he knocked down the non-structural walls, and left just two support beams, to replace with shelving to display the dolls.

Vincent knows that dolls generally come in 12- and 16-inch heights, so the whole space was created for the collection, to the point where I have only a bed, sofa and dining table as stand-alone pieces. Everything else was built in.

This article was first published in the AUGUST 2017 print edition of Home & Decor.

Purchase this article for republication.

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