Chinoiserie Chic? We Beg to Differ.

By Grace Chen
/ Creative Mind Design |
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Contemporary Asian design does not have to scream “chinoiserie”, as proven by a penthouse show unit at Leedon Residence designed by Creative Mind Design. Ian Lee, lead designer of the project, describes it as the “new Asian luxury”, where luxury is quiet, contemplative and, as paradoxical as it sounds, modest.
Born to Malaysian-Chinese parents but raised in the UK, Lee admits to being more familiar with Western values and culture than his Asian roots. Nevertheless, he subconsciously draws from Asian influences in his design process, marrying them with his Westernised tastes. Hence, you are not likely to find heavily lacquered timber, fretwork screens or dogmatic minimalism in his design. Instead, you will find balance, restraint and serenity, which are highly valued in Asian societies.
Throughout the interior spaces, dualities in form, texture and colour are skilfully balanced. Clean lines bring out the patterned surfaces of natural stone and timber, while the hardness of these materials is softened with flowing drapes. The space is amply filled with cushions and plush throws and rugs. Dark millwork forms a reticent backdrop for furniture mostly in light grey and beige tones.
Balancing contemporary and classic
In the living area, a full-height shelving unit with a hidden TV compartment has sliding doors clad in faux shagreen. Shagreen is a highly sought-after decorative material dating back to the Chinese Han Dynasty and has graced the sword hilts of the Japanese samurai and the trinkets of French aristocrats alike. Commonly sourced from East Asia, it is traditionally found in the homes of the very rich around the world and deemed an exotic and precious material by those in the know.
A sense of balance is also apparent in the furniture selection. Anchoring the space is a modern, classic L-shaped sofa, paired with a rectilinear coffee table. There is stability in the stance of the table, yet a sense of lightness as it seems to hover just above the soft carpet. Balancing out the conservative silhouettes of the sofa and coffee table is a very hip and unexpected form of an armchair with its pillowy upholstery — the Husk by Patricia Urquiola — and a wireframe end table, both of which exude playfulness and freshness.
Balance out conservative silhouettes with unexpected forms such as the playful Husk armchair by Patricia Urquiola
The courtyard concept
The penthouse unit comes with a sky garden, which has two main spaces — a lounge area and an outdoor dining area. The sky garden does not pretend to be a traditional Asian courtyard, but it serves to contain family- oriented activities. A bright red Kub low table by Japanese design studio Nendo gives the lounge area an upbeat vibe.
Celebrate the work of Asian designers with fun pieces of furniture such as this red outdoor table by Nendo
Spacious sanctuary
Timber blinds over a glass screen separate the bedroom from the master bathroom, a spare and clutter-free space that has a freestanding tub to complete the experience of a private Zen-like sanctuary.
A free-standing tub makes the bath appear spacious and clutter-free, creating a private Zen-like sanctuary
Luxury with restraint
In the dining area, a bespoke marble table is arguably the showpiece of the apartment. Composed of Italian marble with timber accents, this three-metre table may not be Asian in appearance, but it is so in essence.
It was designed to be a gathering place, drawing families together for a meal in traditional Asian style.
It is luxurious without being ostentatious, as its designer, Charlton Ho of Creative Mind Design, explains. “Bullnose detailing, as well as the choice of white Carrara marble, make this potentially clunky table appear elegantly sleek. We also made sure the proportions are generous enough to seat the whole family comfortably.” He explains that timber laminate strips were incorporated to complement the dark millwork in the rest of the apartment.
For the dining chairs, Lee selected the iconic mid-century Platner Arm Chairs in ivory. With their graceful wire structure and comfortable upholstery, they are a picture of elegance or, in other words, restrained luxury.
Bullnose detailing and the choice of white Carrara marble make this potentially chunky table appear sleek and modest
Serenity in style
The quiet luxury of the common areas carries over into the bedrooms. Fuss-free fabrics in a neutral palette create a calming, restful mood, with “punches of statement Thai silk pillows from Jim Thompson to break the monotony”, as described by Lee. In the master bedroom, he opted for dark timber strips that form a feature wall behind the headboard. To accessorise the space, he chose objects that are “subtle but have character”, such as exotic bedside table lamps with shagreen-clad stands sourced from Thailand.
Instead of wallpaper, how about a feature wall made of dark timber laminate strips to add depth to the space and enhance the calming ambience
Grace Chen is a communications writer/designer for Creative Mind Design, an award-wining interior design studio that crafts meaningful and relevant interior spaces, bringing fresh and compelling expe riences for all to enjoy. Visit for more information.
This article appeared in The Edge Property Pullout, Issue 727 (May 9, 2016) of The Edge Singapore.

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