East meets West

East meets West
The living room and balcony (above) of the home of Ms Annie Sun open up to a clear view of the Kallang River.

All it took was a video clip to convince Ms Annie Sun to buy an apartment.

That was about five years ago when she received a telephone call from her housing agent telling her about a Tanjong Rhu apartment with a great view. She was in Italy then on a business trip with her husband Jimmie Lee, 63. He is the chairman and founder of wellness company Dynaforce International - it provides gyms and spas for luxury projects and hotel properties - where she is the group chief executive officer.

To seal the deal, the agent sent them a 20- second clip which gave them a virtual tour of the 2,000 sq ft 99-year unit with three bedrooms. Once the couple saw how the balcony and rooms opened up to a spectacular view of the Kallang River and the National Stadium, which was being rebuilt then, they were sold right away.

Ms Sun, 45, concedes: "It's not the same as seeing the house in person... But when we returned to Singapore and took our first look at the apartment, we were glad we took that leap of faith."

Besides the view, the privacy the unit offered was also a big draw. "It was important to us that no neighbours can look into our home from all sides," says Ms Sun, who paid about $2.6 million for the apartment.

Next came the renovation. Ms Sun gutted the interiors and reworked the layout.

To accommodate a walk-in wardrobe, she enlarged the master bedroom by merging two rooms. The space for clothes is split evenly between the couple, though she also gets shelf space for her designer bags. The remaining room is set aside as an ensuite guestroom.

The couple, who have no children, each used to live in a bungalow in Bukit Timah. But when looking for a place to live together, they decided on an apartment as they travel often and want a smaller space that is easier to maintain.

The Shanghai-born Ms Sun proudly compares her home to a hotel suite, which is unusual as most people see their home as a cosy after-work haven.

"Bungalows have their own set of problems, such as warped floors, water pipe issues and gardens to maintain," she says. "We travel a fair bit and I didn't want us to exert ourselves when we returned home. And the place has to be of hotel standard, where everything is in its place and the luxury and comfort are there."

Part of the $300,000 remodelling budget went into creating an open-concept kitchen, which has an L-shaped bar countertop with eight tall stools. She removed the walls around the kitchen, which she found "claustrophobic".

Ms Sun, who entertains often, says: "People can have dinner at the counter or mingle like it's a cocktail party."

The decor of the apartment reflects her Shanghainese heritage and her love of Paris, which she visits at least once a year.

The walls in the living room have been painted with a flat brush instead of a roller to give it a textured, velvety look, while black cornices frame the white walls, lending the space a chic French flair.

Among the buttoned armchairs by luxury furniture label Boffi and lamps and side tables from Armani Home is a traditional Chinese silk painting, which she bought from an art school in Lijiang, China. There is also a Chinese hunting chair from an antique furniture shop here.

"I think the best style is when East meets West, when you take heritage pieces and mix them with a European theme. This gives a contemporary feel so the place does not look old-fashioned."

The couple also hunt for quirky art pieces. A leather lion they bought from Lotus Arts de Vivre in Raffles Hotel greets guests at the entrance, while a mini zebra's head is perched on a decorative bowl adorned with rose quartz.

Says Ms Sun, who has signed pieces from Brazilian neo-pop artist Romero Britto among others: "We're not serious collectors but when I do buy a piece, I like to get the artist to sign it so that it's personalised. I feel that makes it more than just a limited piece... It becomes one of a kind."

She is herself a budding artist. She picked up Chinese calligraphy and painting as a child and recently rekindled her passion for both. She has created a space in the balcony to paint bamboos and write Chinese characters on rice paper. She practises her strokes a few times a month when she is home. "It evolved from being a home gym to where I practise my hobby. Doing this recharges my energy."

While it seems like she engineered the whole look without her husband's input, she laughs and says of Mr Lee: "I'm more into the theme of the apartment and the details of what goes into it. He's more concerned with the functionality of the space. I guess we complement each other."

natashaz@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on June 21, 2014.
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