Raymond Quah is not just any homeowner—he’s also the head of Pomelo, his very own furniture shop on Outram Road. As such, furniture was always going to be at the heart of his home renovation. Ahead, he tells us how the designers from Artistroom executed his functional, down-to-earth vision, always keeping his love for furniture at the centre of it all.
What made you want to go for this house when you first bought it?
We bought the place to be close to our kids’ school. It’s the ultimate Singaporean parent cliché, but we previously lived in the East and driving across the island and back every day was just impractical and exhausting. We chose Pandan Valley because the units there are generally much larger. Being an old development from 1978, Pandan Valley is also priced significantly lower than anything else in the surrounding area. We could have gotten a much newer place with shinier facilities for the same price, but it would have been half the size.
What were some changes you wanted to make to the space?
The apartment had a good layout to begin with, so we didn’t make any major changes on the lower level. But one thing that bugged me was the original location of the dining room. It was very dark and faced the corridor wall. I decided to ask Mark and Katy if it was possible to swap it with the small bedroom, and they made it work. In the end, the kitchen and yard were switched out as well. The layout is infinitely better now that the dining room overlooks the living area, with an unobstructed line of sight from the front to the back of the apartment.
What made you choose to get your home professionally renovated and why did you go with Artistroom?
I figured that these things are best left to the professionals! To plan and figure out every measurement, then source, manage, coordinate and supervise all of the suppliers and contractors is something for only the bravest souls. I’ve known Mark and Katy for quite some time and seen their work over the years. They listened to our needs and took the effort to understand the way we live, then translated it into a functional, practical and elegant home. They were easy to work with, open to our suggestions and offered good solutions when hiccups arose.
How would you describe your style?
I don’t know, “Karang Guni Modern” perhaps? We don’t really adhere to or like any specific style. If we really had to pick one, our approach would probably lean towards the modernist: functional, simple, without much ornamentation. I don’t think there was anything superfluous in the renovation.
What were your priorities for this renovation?
We wanted to keep things simple and functional. One of our priorities was to keep costs down, so we kept our carpentry to a minimum. And thankfully we’re not big on “luxe” materials like marble or large swathes of wood panelling.
Did you have to make any concessions with the ideas you had in mind?
We pretty much got everything we wanted. There were a couple of minor compromises. The railings on the balcony, for instance—I wanted them to slant downwards facing out instead of being flat. This was to let rainwater run off and not sit on top where it would eventually rust. But the cost was disproportionately higher, so we went for the regular flat top which, as predicted, lets rainwater pond on top of it.
How did you pick the colour scheme and general look for the house?
There wasn’t much discussion of a colour scheme. We had to keep things very neutral so that the artwork, furniture pieces and other things could go pretty much anywhere we wanted. The one exception is in the kids’ rooms, where they chose their own colour scheme—purple-beige in one, turquoise-white in the other.
Can you tell us a little bit about the furniture?
Most of the furniture came from our previous place. The dining table and chairs, as well as a number of other pieces, have been with us for a long time. This includes the vintage Danish credenza in our bedroom, which was in the dining room before. The Stockholm media console from Punt in the living room is a new addition, however. We also selected the Dulwich extending table to serve as a large work-study surface, as well as the A-Beam light from Hand & Eye Studio to go above it.
Art seems to feature heavily in your home. Could you tell us about what type of art appeals to you?
I don’t have a specific area of interest or collect a particular style of anything. We have on our walls a collection of crows drawn by a savant artist, a map print by Paula Scher, Japanese ukiyo-e prints, 1950s movie posters, Vietnamese oil and lacquer paintings and a wall sculpture by Curtis Jere, among others. So the appeal is very broad to say the least. It’s very ad-hoc and all depends on what catches our eye; there is really no method to it.
Do you have a favourite furniture piece or design feature in the house?
We love the terrazzo in the kitchen and master bathroom. It has such a nostalgic, vintage vibe to it, reminiscent of our grandmothers’ homes. It’s also a very honest material—after grinding away the surface, what you see is what you get. And it’s just kind of “rojak”, which more or less describes us. The terrazzo ledge in the living room was made using the offcut from the kitchen counter and would have otherwise been wasted.
Where are your favourite places to buy furniture?
Naturally, Pomelo is our first stop to get new furniture, so there’s no real need to buy pieces anywhere else. We don’t just own the store; we have been customers from the very beginning too. However, we enjoy poking around vintage shops whenever we come across them. The 1970s teak living room set in our home came from an antique shop in Tanjong Pagar.
What’s your top tip for choosing furniture?
We’re big advocates of the “buy better, buy less” philosophy. Allocate a larger portion of your furniture budget to the pieces you will use the most. If you like to cook and entertain, invest in some great pieces for your dining room.
Do you have a favourite room in your new place?
We all have our favourite spaces and the entire home is very well used. The kids can often be found holed up in their own rooms or in the family room playing video games. We also watch movies in the living room all the time. I personally really appreciate the balcony, where I tend to the plants a few evenings a week.
This post was adapted from an article originally published in the September 2020 issue of SquareRooms.