Antiques meet kids' antics

PHOTO: Antiques meet kids' antics

Children and antiques are not always a good combination but at Ms Violet Lim's house, it is a relationship that works.

The co-founder and chief executive officer of dating agency Lunch Actually lives in her in-laws' home - a three-storey bungalow in Gentle Road - where their collection of about 100 Chinese antiques, ranging from vases to cabinets, exudes a chinoiserie vibe.

The mother of two young children often gets asked by her friends: How are the antiques spared from excitable kids?

"They are quite good about being careful around the antiques. As they grew up with them, they have been conditioned to living with them," says Ms Lim, 32. She has a six-year-old son, Corum, and three-year-old daughter, Cara, with her husband Jamie Lee, 36.

Aside from the antiques, four generations inhabit the house, in which Mr Lee has lived since he was born.

Fifteen people are under its roof: Mr Lee's parents and his grandmother, his elder brother, his sister-in-law and their five-year-old son, and his bachelor younger brother. There are also four maids.

The house, bought in the 1970s, had been renovated once in 2000. Its interior now is in a Balinese-Oriental style, with a high ceiling in the living room, and wood panelling around the house.

Floor-to- ceiling glass windows give the first floor a spacious, airy feel.

The antiques belong to Mr Lee's parents and grandfather. Keen collectors, they amassed the pieces over time from stores here and in China.

Mr Lee, who co-founded Lunch Actually eight years ago with Ms Lim and is its chief financial officer, says: "We didn't really design the house our way. It was more of a theme that my parents liked and they modelled the house after it."

The couple usually hang out with their kids in their bedroom on the second floor, which Ms Lim compares to a home within a home. "We do have family time at Sunday lunch, where everyone comes together. But we have made our room our own space," she says.

Inside their cosy space, there is a small fridge and cupboards for food as well as a work table and a shelf of dating books. The couple also have a couch, where they watch television.

Also stacked on another bookshelf: war strategy board games such as Axis & Allies and Red Storm Rising. These belong to Mr Lee, who is a history buff like his father and grandfather and has regular board game sessions with his friends at home.

Artworks by the children are hung on a clothesline, held up with mini wooden pegs, in the room. For Ms Lim, they are a reminder of how fast her children are growing up. She still has some of her son's early paintings, done when he was three years old.

"It started with just one painting but they have added more. We have them up for the kids to show us what they have done and it's cute as well," she says.

The couple plan to stay put, even when their children grow up - Corum and Cara share their room now - and may need their own rooms. For them, having family around is important for a warm home. Mr Lee says: "It's nice coming home to many people and it's good for the kids to have their great- grandmother and grandparents around."

Ms Lim, an only child who moved here from Malaysia in 2002, adds: "It wasn't really a big adjustment for me. Everyone in the family is pretty easy-going, and we've bonded and get on really well. It's nice having a big family around."

natashaz@sph.com.sg