WITH its chic interiors, this home looks like one created and inhabited by folks with an eye for classy design. But this is only half correct. This three-storey home in the East Coast belongs to a couple with four children aged four and under. Meet the owners Andrew and Avril Tan, their four-year-old twins Abigail and Arielle, two-year-old Abel and ten-month old Abraham.
Mrs Tan said laughing: "I cleared away the toys before you arrived. The kids have been on a no-toys policy since yesterday."
The toys have been tucked away in a store room under the stairs.
With a young brood, the couple knew they needed a place large enough for everyone. Mr Tan said: "We wanted a decent-sized home with four to five bedrooms."
He was attracted to the "simple layout" of this house. On the first floor are the living and dining areas, along with a wet and dry kitchen and a garden large enough for the children to play in. There are plans to build a lap pool there. The bedrooms on the second floor are at opposite ends, separated by a family area, which has been converted into Mr Tan's study.
Two more bedrooms are perched on the top floor, one for the couple and the other for the children.
Mr Tan, a managing director and regional vice-president for a telecommunications software company, said that right from the start, even with four young children under the roof, design aesthetics was important to them.
The brief to designers Therdnapa Charoenkool and Jeremy Lee of BOX ID Studio, was to "give a timeless feel to the house", because the couple were adamant about not chasing after what was popular.
The walls along the length of the house were knocked down and replaced with full-height glass panels to allow in lots of natural light.
Even though there is a fully-functioning dry kitchen, Mrs Tan does most of the cooking in the wet kitchen at the back. "I prepare the meals in batches and do the heating up of the food in the dry kitchen, where I can oversee the kids at the same time," said the housewife.
The dining area looks sparse, but provides plenty of space for the children to play. When it came to selecting furniture, the couple chose pieces that were "minimal and not fussy". They are mostly in neutral shades of black, white and beige, save for the Bonaldo Big Table dining table, which has colourful slanted legs. Transparent dining chairs make the legs visible. On weekends, the family spend time in the living area, where the kids watch Dora the Explorer. A custom-made TV wall with built-in storage creates space for DVDs and other small items.
As the study on the second floor does not have large windows, unlike in the bedrooms, the designers created small rectangular windows that run lengthwise. These let in natural light while still imparting a cosy feel. The room is filled with books from floor to ceiling. Mr Tan said: "Many people have asked if I have read all of them. I tell them: 'I have touched all of them'."
The master bedroom on the third storey is spacious, but with the addition of mirrors by the bed, the room looks even bigger. There is also a walk-in wardrobe off to the side, tucked behind the TV partition.
The couple selected travetine marble for the bathroom walls because they liked its pitted holes and troughs on the surface, said Mr Tan.
A bathtub was on the list of must-haves. "I travel alot, so I'm used to soaking in a tub," he added. While other parents indulge their kids with rooms in pastel shades, the look in the children's room is more adult. The headboards are in soothing beige and grey; on the opposite wall, wall-mounted cabinets hold toys and books.
Mr Tan said: "Nothing kiddie here, as we wanted to future-proof the kids' room." When the boys grow older, they will have their own rooms. For now, all four sleep in one room to make it easier for Mrs Tan to check in on them during the night. She puts them to bed no later than 8pm.
Mr Tan travels for work, so he put in effort to keep his home from feeling like a hotel. He shops avidly for items from places such as the etsy website, and likes items with a vintage feel. Among his buys are an 80-year-old egg basket, an old eye chart that is now a decorative piece and a set of four paintings of a cat, a duck, a terrier and a Jack Russell.
"The nature of the animals reflects the kids' personalities," he said.
The family used to live in Melbourne, from where some of the pieces were bought. They are all on display, and the couple do not worry about the kids touching them. There is also little child proofing around the home, except for a safety gate at the foot of the stairs.
Mrs Tan, a full-time mum, said: "We believe in letting the kids fall and pick themselves up." When Mr Tan is home on weekends after his trips in the region, he enjoys a soak in the tub; his other favourite spot is in his study. He shuts the glass door and has his own quiet time in there. But the children have other ideas. "They know not to disturb Daddy when the doors are shut, but they don't let doors deter them," he said.