This personality-imbued home has been designed such that almost every wall is utilised to showcase the homeowners’ fascinating collection of objects!
Leon Lai, the co-founder of creative communications agency GOVT.
With a background in communications and having worked in the advertising industry for seven years, Leon co-founded GOVT in 2012. Fuelled with a passion to create work that is locally and culturally relevant, the 31 year-old has produced campaigns for the likes of Airbnb, Nestle, DBS, Absolut Vodka and Haagen-Dazs. The award-winning GOVT is also a curator for Singaplural 2016, a showcase of local design that is part of Singapore Design Week
In between the dining area and openconcept kitchen, a glass-and-teak wood cabinet showcases an array of old Singapore Telecom rotary dial payphones and home phones.
In the foyer, chairs salvaged from the old Capitol Theatre provide the homeowners with special seating arrangements when wearing shoes!
For Leon Lai and his wife, Meryl Ho, their pop culture collectibles mean so much to them that they were willing to sacrifice two of the three bedrooms in their new flat, for a more spacious layout that best shows off their treasured objects. They engaged designers Wong Zihao and Liew Guofeng of Studio Super Safari, who “designed a home not just for the couple, but for all their things, too!”
Leon bought this 1930s Burmese teak wood U-leg sideboard from a vintage dealer in Kallang, and had it restored. The tricycle was bought in Bali fi ve years ago – the fi rst vintage item the couple got together.
In fact, Leon had brought the designers to his storage-rental facility prior to the design process, so they knew exactly what they were dealing with. “I’m a hoarder by nature!” laughs Leon, who has amassed a variety of vintage furniture, sneakers – over 50 pairs of them – Absolut vodka bottles and retro Singapore Telecom rotary dial phones, among other things, over the years. Zihao and Guofeng ended up building display shelves over every possible wall of the home to house everything the couple wanted to showcase!
Linking the dining and living areas is a feature wall designed using teak wood. Leon chose the material, as he appreciates that it was commonly used to make furniture in the past.
The design of the feature wall, with Indonesian teak pieces laid in a chevron pattern, is a “playful interpretation” of the shoe storage’s faceted design.
For Leon’s large collection of shoes, the designers constructed an L-shape display that leads from the foyer to the living room. Finished in a light wood-tone laminate from Lamitak, it has a striking geometric form with rows of linear “cut-outs” to place the colourful sneakers. Besides concealing the access to the bomb shelter and common bathroom, the structure was also designed to accommodate a large Donald Duck “sculpture” (actually the seat of an amusement park carousel ride) that the couple acquired in Bangkok. “Since it’s rare for a guy to take up way more space for his shoes than his wife, this Donald Duck display is for Meryl!” says Leon, regarding his wife’s fondness for the cartoon character.
Two bedrooms were sacrifi ced for a larger living area to show off the couple’s collections. Simple and functional storage allows Leon’s Absolut Vodka bottles to take centre stage.
The bedroom is fi tted out with built-in cabinetry separating the sleeping and dressing areas. Above the bed is a window grille that was salvaged from an old house and spray-painted to look new.
Alongside the spacious dining room is a visually arresting feature wall created with Indonesian teak pieces laid in a chevron pattern, against which a black steel-frame open shelving is hung. On display is an assortment of their favourite items, such as old food tins, incense bottles from Japanese cult brand Neighborhood, and a working vintage radio. The solid wood finishing continues on the reverse side of the wall, segueing into the adjacent living room.
The amusement park carousel ride seat (in the form of Donald Duck) between the concealed common bathroom and bomb shelter is a focal point of the living room.
The master bathroom features cool blue mosaic tiles and has a concrete screed fi nish, for a utilitarian look.
In place of what used to be two bedrooms, the open-concept living and study area features Leon’s prized collection of Absolut Vodka bottles, including limited editions. Arranged in a backlit tinted-glass-and-timber display, the bottles glow softly and take on an artistic quality. “I actually have over 300 bottles, but there are only about 100 here!” says the homeowner, who started collecting them when he was in university. The furniture peppering the home is a mix of vintage pieces; Leon says his love for vintage furniture was cultivated during the years he spent growing up in his Grandma’s home. Besides local finds, he also has an Einar Larsen sofa and a Hans Wegner armchair – Danish pieces bought from Noden Collective. Seeing as every nook and cranny is put to good use, the renovation – which cost about $90,000 – provided Leon and Meryl with a stylish canvas to curate and present their cherished possessions.