When he’s not spending most of his weekdays teaching his students at LaSalle College of the Arts, tutor Steve Thio spends the rest of his time at home, a spacious Balinese resort-inspired five-room apartment.
It starts at the entrance
Even before you step into the apartment, you’d be greeted by the vintage metal grille gate – the one that you’ll only see at old-school hardware shops these days – at the entrance.
“The gate was custom-built for us by our contractor upon request,” says Steve’s housemate, CK Tan.
While the design is not unusual to modern HDB homes who want to incorporate the vintage industrial look, Tan explains that their gate retains the original design of opening sideways.
The housemates say they specifically requested for the door, as they liked the look and concept of it.
Once you’ve stepped over the threshold, you will first notice how expansive the area is, as one of the bedrooms have been converted into an extended living area, which essentially combines the living room, dining space and bedroom into one big space.
The changes were made by the previous owners, who were Tan’s friends.
“We didn’t change the layout of the place much – the previous owners knocked a room down for a bigger living room space. We just added a glass and metal sliding door for the entertainment room and reconfigured the master bedroom slightly to extend the space a little,” says Steve.
When asked to describe the style of the décor, he sums it up as “eclectic”.
But it’s really more than that. Take a closer look at the furniture and you will find that most of the items come with a story.
For instance, the colourful table runner on the living room table came from Bhutan when he did the wedding photoshoot for celebrity couple Jesseca Liu and Jeremy Chan in October 2017. Liu and Chan tied the knot in July the same year in Liu’s native hometown of Langkawi, Malaysia.
Other fab finds include “gorgeous patchwork blankets and fabrics from India, and artefacts from Bhutan”.
“I try and buy something from all my trips abroad – like these pretty charms from the temples I visited in Japan. They remind me of my trips and experiences abroad and there’s always a story to tell,” he says.
The rest of the pieces come with history, or are simply fantastic finds from furniture shop sales.
When asked about some of them, including the vintage vases that now house plants along their corridor, Steve says most of the furnishings were from his previous homes and hand-me-downs from his family.
“I have wooden stools here that are over 40 years old!” he enthuses.
Sustainability is also at the forefront of his decorating philosophy too.
“I love resort style wooden furniture and also vintage pieces and industrial metal pieces – a more worn and used look that’s crafty, colourful and breezy,” he declares.
The old and the new
Steve’s vision for the apartment doesn’t mean it has to cost.
In fact, before deciding on new additions to the house, only one question matters to him: “Is it on sale?”
“Quite a few pieces here were bought during sales so they’re quite affordable! I like hardy refurbished furniture with textures and a worn patina – there’s a certain romance about these pieces. I always buy based on instinct and what I like,” he says.
“I believe if you buy what you like, no matter how different the pieces are, they will come together in the end to create a beautiful space that reflects your personality and style perfectly,” he advises.
Apart from scoring treasures for less, Steve also sources his buys from Chinese e-commerce site Taobao, as well as the Chatuchak weekend market in Bangkok, Thailand.
Taobao wins, for instance, include the industrial-looking shelves in the living room and the master bedroom, as well as the antler-like light fixture that greets guests at the entrance.
And sometimes, when inspiration hits, Steve says he is able to transform a piece of wrapping paper – such as the goldfish print he got from a store in Sydney, Australia – into a piece of framed artwork.
Among the framed pieces in the apartment, he also counts the art pieces he procured from Pariwat Studio, a Thai artist he found at the Chatuchak weekend market.
“[He] really has a creative eye blending Asian cityscapes in witty and quirky ways. I wanted something modern and graphic to offset my furnishings and his Asian flavoured artwork was perfect,” he says.
The onset of Covid-19 at the beginning of 2020 have brought about more than a few changes. The housemates were no exception.
During the circuit breaker measures that were imposed nationwide from April to June 2020, the housemates transformed their sanctuary into a veritable garden.
“It was during the lockdown embarked on a plant buying craze that we haven’t been able to control. So now the home is packed with different plants in every available space!”
Staying home almost 24/7 wasn’t an issue as well.
“We really love staying home so the lockdown was not a big issue for us, especially with our plants. We felt like we were at a resort during the whole time,” he adds.
A killer view
When he’s not busy with his job as a part-time tutor, you’ll find Steve sitting by the window and admiring the sweeping views.
The apartment, which is located on the 30th floor, affords the housemates a clear view of Bishan Park, the central business district (CBD), as well as the fireworks during National Day.
In fact, some of the best moments in this house are spent enjoying the peace and quiet of the place, as well as the cool breeze.
For now, the housemates have no intention of making further changes to their décor.
“[We are] just looking to maintain the place well, and keeping our plants alive! I’ve stayed in a few places before, and this is really the dream home I’ve always wanted,” he says.
For new homeowners, Steve says he always advises his friends that “a view is always important when it comes to choosing a place.”
“It doesn’t have to be a fantastic view but I have stayed in places with blocked views and it was dark, claustrophobic and depressing,” he says.