Stepping back in time

Stepping back in time

STEPPING into this apartment along Zion Road feels like going back in time. Rather than shiny marble flooring which is the norm now, the floor is made of cement.

Fim director's vintage Zion home

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    Stepping into this apartment along Zion Road feels like going back in time. Rather than shiny marble flooring which is the norm now, the floor is made of cement.

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    And in place of a concrete roof, polycarbonate sheets, similar to those found in greenhouses, protect the home from the elements. On a clear afternoon, sunlight streams into the kitchen.

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    When it rains, the pitter-patter of rain comes down hard on the plastic sheets, creating a musical of sorts. Thankfully, there are no leaky ceilings.

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    The apartment, along with the other walk-up units on the same stretch at Zion Road, was built in 1963, and the building facade certainly looks its age.

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    But its retro charm got the attention of Chai Yee Wei and his wife, Diane Chan. This is their first marital home.

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    The couple were keen on living in an old shophouse, and went to view a few in Tiong Bahru. Sadly, they did not find their dream home there, as the leases on those apartments are less than 50 years, with a high mortgage to boot.

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    As luck would have it, they came across this 1,150 sq ft apartment at Zion Road, which was the former studio of photographer Jason Wee.

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    "It was old like how we wanted, the price was within our budget, and we liked that it still had many years left on its 999-year lease," says Mr Chai, a film director.

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    What also won the couple over was that the apartment needed little renovation. "In fact, some of the things were left behind by Jason. We pointed out what we wanted, such as a pair of vintage wooden cabinets," he says.

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    The couple hired June Goh from interior design firm Moopak, to make some minor changes, such as building a new bathroom that is tucked away by the side of the bedroom.

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    The old bathroom, with its bright-red mosaic tiles has been converted into a walk-in wardrobe.

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    Besides, a love for vintage finds, Mr Chai also unabashedly declares himself an Apple fan boy. In his collection are a Macintosh Classic introduced in 1990, an Apple QuickTake digital camera from 1994, an iMac3 in its iconic Bondi blue translucent plastic case from 1998, and an iMac4 from 2002.

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    To top it off, he has a table lamp, shaped in what else, but the Apple Inc logo.

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    He also has another quirky gadget, an R2D2 movie projector that comes with its own Millennium Falcon remote control.

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    To give the apartment a more intimate and warmer feel, the frames of the doors and windows in the apartment were changed from stainless steel to wooden ones.

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    The apartment still retains its industrial look, thanks to its largely grey-coloured interiors and cement flooring. The floor was given an epoxy coat over, "so that it feels less dusty", says Mr Chai.

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    That feeling of stepping back in time is not limited to the apartment structure. The couple's choice of home furnishings look like they belong in a museum, too.

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    As a film director, it is only natural that the apartment has plenty of other movie memorabilia, such as posters.

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    While he has tonnes of framed movie posters in his home, Mr Chai is hard-pressed when asked to show his productions. He digs around before pulling out a rolled up poster of Twisted (2011), and a film reel of Blood Ties (2009).

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    The shelves in the apartment are filled with countless CDs and laser discs, some of which Mr Chai has kept since his teenage days. "They are too precious to me, I refuse to junk them."

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    His new movie, That Girl in Pinafore, about the xinyao folk music movement - another retro theme - will be out on National Day.

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    "We like old stuff because looking at them makes us feel young again," says Mr Chai, 37. "In today's society, where people favour new things, it is a pity to throw the old things away."

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    Over in another corner is a framed display of gold records for Michael Jackson's Thriller album. Mr Chai bought this on eBay for US$700, saying: "I'm a huge MJ fan. The Thriller album was the first Michael Jackson cassette I had, so it has special meaning for me."

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And in place of a concrete roof, polycarbonate sheets, similar to those found in greenhouses, protect the home from the elements. On a clear afternoon, sunlight streams into the kitchen.

When it rains, the pitter-patter of rain comes down hard on the plastic sheets, creating a musical of sorts. Thankfully, there are no leaky ceilings.

The apartment, along with the other walk-up units on the same stretch at Zion Road, was built in 1963, and the building facade certainly looks its age.

But its retro charm got the attention of Chai Yee Wei and his wife, Diane Chan. This is their first marital home.

The couple were keen on living in an old shophouse, and went to view a few in Tiong Bahru. Sadly, they did not find their dream home there, as the leases on those apartments are less than 50 years, with a high mortgage to boot.

As luck would have it, they came across this 1,150 sq ft apartment at Zion Road, which was the former studio of photographer Jason Wee.

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