In the mix

PHOTO: In the mix

DECIDING how to decorate your home can be tricky. You don't want it to be too polished and precise or it looks like a characterless showflat.

You don't want to be too minimalist - it's too cold. Go overboard with the retro look and you risk living in a museum. Yet you want a little of everything, in a way that would make visitors say, "Oh, this is so you".

Guan ShanShan, who works at a multinational software corporation, found the perfect solution, when she was doing up her two-bedroom apartment at Kembangan.

She opted for the eclectic look - a mix of old and new and of varying styles. "It is a reflection of my personality, I like to mix and match," she says.

While eclectic is about mixing things up, Ms Guan manages to create an apartment that is well put together and not a chaotic mess. She has been blessed with an eye for detail and beauty, but also adds, "it helps to have a clear idea of what I want".

Another tip is to limit the quirky items to just two or three pieces for each space.

She worked with her designer Benjamin Lim from Livarc on the hardware for the home, but sourced the soft furnishings herself.

Ms Guan had stumbled upon Standard of Living in Kampong Glam by chance, and loved the brick wall at the furniture store. Coincidentally, Mr Lim also owns the store.

He created a faux brick wall in Ms Guan's living room, "which gives the home a bit of a country look," she says. For the flooring, Ms Guan picked light wood laminate over the apartment's original marble flooring, "for a slight Scandinavian feel".

Ms Guan also wanted to inject fun into her home. In place of a conventional kitchen door made of wood or glass, the door in this apartment has a chalkboard finish.

Steel bars were added to the top of the door for an edgy, industrial look. "When I have family over, we draw on the door when playing charades," says Ms Guan.

The kitchen takes on a raw look, with cement flooring paired with distressed wooden cabinets. Its neat look belies the fact that this is a heavily utilised kitchen. An avid cook, Ms Guan often has family and friends over, where she does themed dinners. "The kitchen is one of my favourite spots in the home," she says.

Her friends love her apartment so much that they no longer want to head to town for dinner but would rather chill out in her home.

She keeps things simple in her bedroom which, after all, is a sanctuary for rest. A bed, custom-made by Second Charm, faces another faux brick wall.

Ms Guan drew her inspiration from holidays in Australia, Europe and Japan. "They have interesting concept shops, cafes, bistros and restaurants. Boutique hotels and apartments are good sources of inspiration," she says. She also surfed the Internet for ideas, using keywords such as 'French industrial', 'Scandinavian', 'mid-century' and 'eclectic'.

Three months before moving into her apartment, Ms Guan began shopping. "Rather than buy everything at the last minute, it pays to shop early, and you can build up your collection slowly," she says.

Shopping for lights is tops, as "the right lighting creates the right ambience", she says. She bought a pair of black-and-white, hexagonal-shaped, ceiling lamps from a local lighting store, as "they look so unusual".

The trio of lightbulbs enclosed in what resembles tiny birdcages hanging over her dining table was purchased in Hong Kong.

"The electrician had a nightmare with them, as I insisted the lights had to be hung in a certain way," Ms Guan recalls with a laugh.

Her favourite lamp is a standing one - a steel lamp. "It is not cheap, but it is such a statement piece that I had to have it," she says.

Ms Guan also injected her love of vintage into her home, in the form of old standing fans and clocks. Her bespoke sofa is a new piece but also done in a vintage style, with slightly distressed leather.

She is particularly pleased with her choice of mismatched dining chairs, one of which is brand new from homeware store Egg3, while the other two were bought from an online classifieds website for a steal. "Guess how much they were? Two for less than $20," she says excitedly.

There are other quirky items around her home, such as an old road sign. "I used to live at White House Park, and it has sentimental value for me, so I bid for the sign," she explains.

And from her grandparents, she inherited their cubed, porcelain pillows and an old charcoal iron. In keeping with the eclectic look, Ms Guan has opted to do away with conventional shelves to display her knick-knacks.

The pieces, including some artworks done by her, are placed on the floor, and if needed, a wine crate doubles as a shelf or a side table.

Rather than leave her collection of handkerchiefs in the drawers, Ms Guan found a way to display them - in photo frames bought from Ikea.

She admits there are not many stores in Singapore that retail eclectic furniture. "Hence if you have the opportunity to travel, visit flea markets and furniture stores overseas - there are often great finds to be made," she says.

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