Tuesday, March 31, 2009

BTO: Playing with space

Business Times - 28 Mar 2009

Playing with space

Belinda Chua and her interior designer combine textures and floor-to-ceiling mirrors to create an illusion of being up in the air. By Cheah Ui-Hoon


WHITE - and huge lighting fixtures - dominate this penthouse apartment, with the homeowner and her interior designer playing around with textures and floor-to-ceiling mirrors to create the illusion of space and the feeling of being up in the air. Like most new condominiums these days, Belinda Chua's apartment is encased largely within glass walls, the better to view the scenery with. The double volume ceiling also gives it a spacious loft effect.


The stylish founder of Flower Diamond Boutique might be staying 'temporarily' in this three-bedroom penthouse off Bukit Timah Road, but it doesn't mean that she's living out of boxes, not with interior decorating help being easily accessible these days.


The single mother and her teenage daughter moved out of their three-storey townhouse on Balmoral Road last year - 'It got too big,' she says - explaining that she bought this 2,500 sq ft penthouse to live in for only a couple of years. The plan is to move to a bigger condominium even closer to Orchard Road, which she has already bought, but hasn't had time to do up because her priority now is her new upsized jewellery store in Ngee Ann City. Even so, she made sure her temporary digs suited her personal style. For that she picked a designer who had also styled Hong Kong actress Deborah Li's home in Singapore. 'I liked her style when I visited her home,' says Ms Chua. 'It's quite a feminine look.'


That would refer to the luxe touches like embossed wallpaper at the private lift entrance and a padded wall in the living room, in front of an imposing mirrored wall two stories high. The living room space is quite modest for a penthouse, so most of the furniture like consoles and coffee tables are either made from see-through acrylic or have mirrored facades.


A shaggy black carpet 'grounds' the living room besides providing a modern contrast to the white plush sofa and overall white-and-glass space. From the top of the high ceiling hangs a Light Shade chandelier from Moooi, a traditional chandelier fully encased in a semi-transparent cylinder made of a mirrored film. Meanwhile, soft touches like candles and porcelain ornaments are placed tastefully throughout the house, an unmistakably feminine touch.


The penthouse had an open kitchen concept which Ms Chua didn't like because of the clutter, so she had a wall built to shield that open space. 'It's that or having to maintain a spotless kitchen at all times,' she says. An oval dining table seats six. 'Since I've moved in, I've had a few close friends over, with family coming over on the weekends,' she says.


While her domestic helper has been with her for more than 10 years, she is an avid cook herself - when she has the time. She has contributed a recipe for Taiwanese beef noodles for a cookbook compiled by the Singapore Chinese Women's Association, of which she is a board member.


Her daughter's bedroom - decked out in pink - is on the same level as the living room, while upstairs, Ms Chua has converted a small room with a terrace into her study cum exercise room. 'I work out on the elliptical machine in the mornings, while watching news on TV, to start my day,' says the trim lady in her late 40s.


'Two or three times a week, I make it a point to have dinner with my daughter at home. Once a week we meet up at a restaurant, and we try a new one every week,' she says. It's a way they get to catch up - given her busy schedule and that of her 16-year-old daughter, an aspiring figure skater. 'It's something that she developed a passion for since she was 12,' says Ms Chua.


The jeweller travels often for trade shows and to buy gemstones, about three to four times a year. 'I like to buy home accessories when I travel,' she says, referring to wooden vases and porcelain jars from Thailand. An art print from Los Angeles hangs on the corridor upstairs, while a red painting she bought from Opera Gallery is hung over the stairs to provide a focal point of bright colour in the living room. A black-and-white 'portrait' of Ms Chua also hangs on another wall at the stairs, painted in a pixellated manner to look like a blown-up photograph.


At heart, she's quite a homebody, says Ms Chua, even though she has quite a packed social schedule. Inevitably so, when her client list includes the who's who of Singapore, Indonesia and beyond. In fact, the parties she attends aren't confined to Singapore alone, and she often jets to places like Hong Kong for a customer's birthday party, for example.


It's all part and parcel of her job since she opened her jewellery boutique 13 years ago. Her home reflects her personal style, which is elegant chic; a proven formula, seeing as she has grown Flower Diamond every year to become a popular jewellery boutique for socialites and blushing brides.

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