Desmond Lee is a jack of all trades.
He not only runs Thelonius Interior Concept & Design, but is also the main contractor for other design firms. At home, he is the handyman of the house, upcycling bits of furniture in his spare time.
For his home renovation, Desmond naturally retained elements that were in fairly good condition - such as the television console and kitchen cabinets - so he could modify them.
To give the home a more European look, he added brass-finished handles to the kitchen cabinets, and installed herringbone floors in the bedrooms. The balcony features diamond shaped tiles, as well as powder-coated steel folding doors.
"I spend so much time on DIY-ing, my wife jokes that the time is better spent on housework instead!" says Desmond, with a laugh.
There is an oriental touch to the space, too. To bridge the two themes, he relied on colour. Black and white tiles "give a colonial and French look", while teal - a hue often used on antique, Eastern-style furniture - was his primary choice of colour. He paired this with both antique and modern furniture to stay true to the overall aesthetic, while keeping the space vibrant.
"We've lived in many different homes with different styles, but our recent trips to London and Paris, where my daughters studied design and fashion respectively, inspired a European twist in our home design - French, in particular. We like the oriental look, too, and we have included a number of pieces from our previous home," says Desmond.
Desmond can turn anything into a display piece, too. "My wife has a large handbag collection and her wardrobe is too full, so I chose those with tapestry and vibrant prints (that match our theme) for display," says Desmond. As for furniture, Desmond shops online a lot. The Chesterfield sofa was shipped from the United States and set him back $6,000, while the rug is from Amazon and cost $600. He also often shops on online site Taobao.
"I am an audiophile and a CD collector, and my interests span music like rock and jazz to Blu-ray movies. As it is almost impossible to soundproof a room in a home - unless you have money and space to spare - I have acoustically treated this room as best as I could. My window is double glazed, but I have sealed it (and the rest of the walls) with mineral wool, as well as a two-inch timber panel. I've tested it; you can't hear anything on the first floor and there have been no complaints so far. I have also used styrofoam cubes to create an uneven surface on the ceiling. This is so you don't get much of a sound reflection that will distort the music," shares Desmond.
The master bathroom was previously dark and cramped. Desmond transformed it into a chic and airy space by removing the bathtub and opting for black and white tiles.
When Desmond feels the furniture they have is too contemporary or plain, he would order brass decor tacks and corner caps to enhance them. "I also buy earrings and tassels from Chinatown to hang at interesting places such as on the chandelier, lamp holders and wardrobe handles," he adds.
For homeowners who want to design a home on their own, Desmond advises, "An element may not look outstanding on its own, so you have to mix and match well. My wife initially did not like the teal laminate for the master bedroom console. However, after I paired it with brass handles and designed the wardrobe, she is impressed with the outcome."
This article was first published in Home & Decor.