What does a designer’s prewar home look like?

By Aaron De Silva / EdgeProp | November 11, 2017 10:30 AM SGT
"Life is everything," says Nathan Yong about his bohemian home.
You might expect the home of a furniture designer to be slick and polished, like a well-curated showroom. But for Nathan Yong, the opposite is true. Home for him is a slightly dishevelled apartment in a two-storey, prewar terrace just off Haig Road in Katong. This is just the way he likes it.
“This space isn’t super-efficient – the drains get choked and rats run in sometimes, but I love it because that’s what life is like. You can’t get that in condos,” says Yong, who co-owns multi-brand home furnishing store Grafunkt in Millennia Walk and also designs for brands like Ligne Roset and ipsa ipse ipsum.
“I don’t think my house looks like a typical designer’s house. It’s actually rather bohemian. Design isn’t everything. I get my inspiration from life and living,” he adds.
The building, along with seven others in an estate bounded by Jalan Tembusu and Haig Road, was once the quarters of the former Public Works Department (PWD). The buildings are currently managed by the Singapore Land Authority (SLA). According to Yong, each apartment is leased out on an eight-year term, although the SLA reviews the tenancy every two years.
Yong’s 1,300 sq. ft. two-bedroom apartment has unique features such as a kitchen chimney (which has been sealed off) – hinting at a time when households cooked with charcoal-fired stoves. The estate itself has a village-like feel, a quality that drew Yong to the area in the first place.
“I had a friend who stayed here about 15 years ago. That was the first time I visited, and I thought it was amazing. It didn’t feel like Singapore because of the space and the fact that there weren’t many tall buildings around. But I was quite young then, and not ready to move out on...