Royston envisioned his apartment as a blank canvas that allows him to change his environment whenever he likes — very much like living on a film set!
The loft-like home has a unique C-shape layout that hugs the kitchen. Raymond maximised the natural lighting in the living area by demolishing the wall of one bedroom, in favour of a larger living room with a full stretch of windows (not seen). Tableware and cushions, from Commune.
Royston Tan, local film-maker.
Royston Tan – known for his art cinema feature and short films, such as Sons, Mother, 881 and 15 – is one of Singapore’s most promising young film-makers. The 39 year-old is a graduate from Temasek Polytechnic, and has to his name over 60 international and local film awards. With a huge cult following around the world, his films have been shown in the US, Europe and Asia.
The beauty parlour signboard was given to Royston by the owner of Xin Cai Hong Hair Salon, which had been around since the 1960s. As a student at Zhonghua Secondary School, Royston used to walk by every day, and ended up filming his documentary, Old Romances, there three years ago. Tableware, cushions and throw, from Commune.
“The nature of my work involves working with lots of props, and I’m used to being able to move loose furniture around so the look can always change,” says film-maker Royston Tan, on his home’s design. To this end, interior designer Raymond Seow of Free Space Intent gave the apartment a “clean, industrial-zen look”, with concrete screedfinished walls and floors, and minimal built-in fixtures. This uncluttered, bare structural canvas allows Royston to have free play in styling the place with his huge collection of vintage furniture and decor pieces – two huge storage rental rooms’ worth! “My friends say I’m a hoarder! So I have to do justice to every single piece I’ve collected, and rotate them in the space,” he says. He has been collecting vintage pieces since he was just 17. “I grew up in the 1980s in a kampung, among furniture you can no longer find now. Singapore is moving too quickly and I see the need to hold on to bits and pieces of the charming past,” he continues.
The only built-in fixture installed in the whole home is a concrete bench for the dining area – a practical design feature that makes the most of the space’s narrow width and location. Accessories on table from Commune.
From gadgets such as a 1961 Sony transistor radio and rotary dial phones, to furniture and accessories like the retro TV and record player console, old-school Formica chairs and the framed mirror with Chinese characters from the 1960s, Royston collects them all, but has one requirement – “Everything has to be in working condition!” To match his vintage “props”, basic furniture pieces, such as an extendable dining table, sofa, bed and desk, all with a “retro-modern” look, from furniture shop Commune were selected. As for artwork to dress up the walls, there is nothing more apt than posters of Royston’s own films, plus some commissioned paintings.
A weather-beaten door, originally from Shandong, China, was installed along sliding tracks to close off the kitchen. Royston first spotted this statement piece at a boutique in Orchard Central. When the shop closed down, he tracked the owner down to acquire the door!
The two chairs placed in the entrance foyer came from seats that Royston managed to salvage from the old Capitol Theatre. The rest of the seats have become part of a permanent film installation at the Singapore Art Museum! The lamp is from Commune.
Part of the living area, the open study is situated in the footprint of a former bedroom. A framed mirror Royston bought in Taiwan hangs above a desk with pencil legs from Commune, while collectibles and colourful toys are stowed in the vintage wooden cabinet behind.
A commissioned painting by local artist Elton Goh adds contrasting colour to the hallway. It is an artwork that has been painted over numerous times, at different milestones of Royston’s life.
Looking upwards to the “ceiling” of the home, the change in wall finishes reveals where the false ceiling was originally installed. The designer removed it to expose the roof structure beyond; you can now see the brickwork, concrete beams, cable trays and ducting – a bold move!
Understated concrete screed-finished walls and floors, as well as an exposed high ceiling, form the backdrop for film-maker Royston’s collection of vintage “props” — furnishings he switches around every now and then to change the apartment’s look.
Posters of films directed by Royston accompany the assortment of vintage decor and retro accessories throughout the apartment.
Located on the mezzanine, the master bedroom is furnished with just the essentials – a bed with an upholstered headboard and wooden nightstands from Commune.