A Charming Pre-Colonial Apartment to Indulge Your Vintage Nostalgia

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This family creates a haven as much for themselves as for their trove of treasured antiques.

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After years of scrupulous hunting, accumulating and lovingly preserving, the Tans decided that their collection of antiques was due their time in the sun—as permanent pieces in the family’s new home. Their vast collection, which comprises vintage shop signages to delicate glass pendant lights, has been amassed over the last two decades, from their travels to Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Australia, and beyond.

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Because of the varied provenances of the antiques, one of the main challenges was to display everything somewhat coherently, so that no matter their style—be it colonial or mid-century, occidental or from the Orient—the pieces looked like they all belonged under the same roof. They called upon Derrick Lim, design principal of D’Marvel Scale, for his creative input in planning all 1,055-sq ft of their apartment space.

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Since most of their furniture is freestanding —Mr Tan is a professional home stylist and so prefers loose furniture pieces that he can move around periodically for convenient restyling—Derrick needed to conjure ways to unite the myriad pieces together.

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Observing that the furniture intended for the living room was mostly made of teak and a wood-look vinyl had been chosen for the flooring, Derrick decided mustard yellow, reminiscent of the ancient walls within Galle Fort in Sri Lanka, would be a suitable colour to tie everything together. Using colour to either complement or contrast with key furniture pieces is a theme that was employed all around the house and has proven to be a simple yet ingenious solution to unify disparate elements.

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Despite the challenges, which were not few—one being the fact that this is a walk-up apartment, so almost all the furniture had to be gingerly carried up a narrow flight of stairs—Derrick was able to satisfy his clients’ desire for a vintage-styled home designed so that each and every antique has its designated place and a share of the spotlight.

This post was adapted from an article published in the May 2021 issue of SquareRooms.