A blank canvas

A blank canvas

Gallerist Lim Ju Lynn prides herself on being different from her counterparts. "I have the ability to see a piece of art and know if it would fit into a home," she says. By that she means she knows which pieces are more appropriate for museums and galleries, and which would fit in a residence.

Her home, a three-bedroom, 1,200 sq ft apartment in the Bukit Timah area, is a testament to that. A variety of artwork hangs on the walls, from photos, prints, paintings to an installation of a pair of slippers. Yet the space still feels homey rather than gallery-like.

"We have an idea of where each artwork will go, but we do try different placements around the home. Sometimes, we rotate the smaller pieces of artwork as well," says Ms Lim. By we, she is referring to herself and her husband, who works in the healthcare industry. She declines to give his name.

The couple have been married for 13 years, and met when Ms Lim, who previously worked in a furniture company, sold some pieces to him. "We are still using the pieces that I sold him 16 years ago," she says, citing the sofa in the living room and the low marble table in the bedroom as examples.

Ms Lim says they are lucky that they both have similar tastes in art and furniture, although there was a lamp that she didn't approve of, and which she got rid of early in their relationship.

The couple also agreed on how they wanted their home to look. "The apartment is a blank canvas, so that we can let our art and furniture be the real highlights," she says. The home is largely white, with splashes of colour coming from the furniture and art.

Before moving back to Singapore six years ago, the couple lived overseas, such as in the United States, England and Thailand. "I've learnt that with art, it is so much easier to take them with us, compared with furniture," says Ms Lim. It was only in Thailand that the couple shipped their furniture along.

Ms Lim represents artists such as Samantha Lo, Thai artist Parn Klangnok, Dutch artist Julie Hendriks, and Hong Kong-based photographer Alexander Haslam.

Their works are sold through Ms Lim's Lee Ban Lu Gallery, which actively takes part in art shows in Singapore and around the world. The gallery is named after her husband's grandfather's now defunct rice processing company. "We wanted a name that is romantic and reminiscent of the past," says Ms Lim.

The works of these four artists are placed around the apartment, mostly in the study, which has become a mini gallery. "I live with these artworks, so I know where best to place them," she explains. For example, a colourful piece of a vase of flowers by Ms Hendriks is placed in the dining area to add colour. A muted piece by Damien Hirst is in the couple's bedroom, because they wanted something quiet for that space.

Ms Lim says that some of the pieces in her home will sometimes be taken off the walls and sold at art fairs, but there are a few pieces that she will never sell. One is a painting of glaciers, titled Glaciers Eclectic. "My husband bought this piece with his first pay check," she says.

Another piece is by their seven-year-old daughter Nina. When she was two, Nina coloured a page from a magazine and her proud parents have that framed up. "I remembered asking her if she wanted to add more colours, but Nina said no, just red and yellow were enough," recalls Ms Lim. "We would have thrown out that magazine if Nina hadn't coloured it."

These days, Nina has her own series of artworks, which she sells beside her mum at the art shows. "She will have her little corner, and she will explain to visitors the story behind the pieces," says Ms Lim.

While the furniture and the art are the highlights of the home, there are other items that Ms Lim proudly displays. One of them is her hat collection - she has about ten. The hats are hung up on the wall, and some have found their place in a glass-door, solid wood cabinet in the kitchen. "I underestimated the amount of storage space we really need," she says.

She began collecting hats when her husband decided to give her one on a whim some years ago. "It was such as wonderful experience, carrying a hat box, walking down the streets of New York," she recalls.

Subsequently, she visited famed milliner Philip Treacy to get more made. "The whole process was so fun, from getting my head measured, to walking down the streets wearing one," says Ms Lim. "It was quite impossible to get into the taxi wearing the hat, which just adds to the thrill."

She only wears the hats on special occasions, and also to art fairs. "People accept you wearing a hat when you are selling art," she laughs.

Besides art and furniture, the couple also have a love for ceramics, which they display in the glass-door cabinet. "I loved going to the car boot sales in the UK to get the ceramics," says Ms Lim. The pieces are used often, as Ms Lim cooks mostly Japanese-style meals daily. "We love our rice, vegetables and fish," she says.

After dinner, the family would head over to her parents' home, which is also in the same condominium. She appreciates living close to her parents for the convenience. "I grew up in this area and loved it, hence we bought this apartment when the opportunity was available," she says.

Ms Lim doesn't rule out the possibility of having to move again, should her husband's job require him to. "We will definitely be bringing our art and furniture with us," she says.

This article was first published on Feb 27, 2016.
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