Cool sanctuary

Cool sanctuary

WHEN Japanese expatriate Mitsuya Nakata was looking for an apartment in Singapore, he wanted it to be as similar to his previous home as possible.

"My old apartment was in central Tokyo, with easy access to the office, shopping, restaurants and the sea. And I also could enjoy the views of Tokyo's tall buildings from my balcony," says Mr Nakata, who works at a hedge fund company. He moved to Singapore 16 months ago.

Mr Nakata's apartment is located in Beach Road, not too far away from his office in Raffles Place. There are bars and restaurants nearby, and the apartment overlooks not the sea, but Kallang River, with a clear view of the Sports Hub. His current apartment is a one-bedroom, 850 square-foot unit, which he says is about the same size as his old apartment. The space is not big, but Mr Nakata has managed to create plenty of seating space for when he has guests over.

When it came to furnishing the apartment, he went back to the same retailer that he patronised for his Tokyo apartment. "I'm a fan of BoConcept, because their pieces are well-designed and pocket-friendly," says Mr Nakata, who has been collecting BoConcept catalogues for the past 12 years.

His Tokyo apartment was also largely furnished with pieces from the Danish company.

"The two apartments have similar layouts, and since I like BoConcept's furniture, naturally, I went shopping there again," he says with a laugh. He selected his furniture with help from BoConcept's interior stylist Chloe Chee.

"Singapore is usually hot and sunny. In contrast, I wanted my apartment to provide cool comfort but not look shabby."

With this in mind, Ms Chee suggested colours such as white for the walls, to make the space bigger, while opting for cool shades such as grey for the sofa and dining chairs. Ms Chee picked shades of blue for accent pieces, such as the rug and cushions.

Her suggestions went down well with Mr Nakata, who says: "The colour selection is well balanced. I also like the clean furniture lines, which give the apartment a modern look."

Most of the pieces came from BoConcept, including the coffee table, which can be lifted to be used as a dining table. "It's great when I want to have dinner in front of the TV, which I used to do back in Tokyo too."

He did bring some pieces of furniture with him, such as the bed. "I only had it for two months before moving to Singapore. It seemed a waste to leave it behind," he says. He also packed half his book collection to take with him to Singapore. These are neatly displayed on two six-tiered bookshelves.

"They are mostly financial books, which I need for work. There are some history books, novels and some on international relations."

The remaining half of his book collection is in storage in Tokyo. The 33-year-old also brought over his collection of art pieces, some of which he picked for their cool colours. Mr Nakata points to an exception in his bedroom: the artwork is a red-and-black piece depicting horses and a human-like figure.

Asked why he likes it, Mr Nakata ponders for a while, before replying simply: "I like horses."

He's placed a pair of shisa, a traditional Ryukyuan decoration near the entrance of his home. Ryukyuan are the indigenous people of the Ryukyu Islands between the islands of Kyushu and Taiwan. The shisa resembles a cross between a lion and a dog from Okinawan mythology. "I got these from a holiday in Okinawa many years ago."

Shisas are usually placed on rooftops or flanking the gates to homes. They are believed to give protection from evil. When in pairs, the left shisa traditionally has a closed mouth to keep good spirits in, while the right one an open mouth to ward off evil spirits. Mr Nakata says he spends most of his non-working time at home. "I enjoy cooking, reading, watching TV and gaming."

While he used to jog regularly in the Tokyo Bay area, he now runs at Kallang Riverside Park.

Moving to Singapore has been an easy transition for him as he has made his two homes similar. He's not sure when he will move back to Tokyo.

"Singapore is safe, clean and it is perpetually summer here, which makes it easy for me to settle in," says Mr Nakata. "The only downside is the haze."

This article was first published on April 9, 2016.
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