Published 6 May 2011
The Business Times
By Audrey Phoon
WHEN you buy a home before it has been built, it can be tough to reconcile the completed property with what you had imagined it would look like. The rooms, the facade colour, the bathroom taps – they almost inevitably never turn up as big or pretty or shiny in real life as they do in the mind’s eye.
That was the issue J Lee had with her apartment at the recently completed Marina Bay Residences, which she acquired in 2009 and moved into eight months ago. Says the retired professional, who lives with her teenaged son: ‘When I came in, the place was not what you see now. Everything was dusty and hot and there were no amenities yet. It wasn’t what I thought it would be, so it took me a few months before I came by again and said, okay, I’ll move in.’
It was primarily the view from the 1,100 sq ft, two-bedroom apartment’s broad balcony that eventually won her over. A sweeping tableau of sea, sky and city, it’s distinguished by a great swathe of the Singapore Strait and of the angular curves that form Marina Bay Sands; at night, traffic swirls on the roads below like a Julia Watkins painting against a backdrop of ships whose lights illuminate the dark like a sprinkling of stars.
It’s a panorama that surpasses even the greatest of expectations, and Ms Lee says as much: ‘I’ve always liked a sea view because it has a very calming effect, and this is such a beautiful one. It transforms everything.’
Little wonder then, that one of her pet places in the apartment is the plush, Chesterfield-style couch in the living area, set close to the entrance of the balcony, where she can ‘watch TV and see the view at the same time’.
‘It keeps me very busy!’ jokes the affable owner, whose favourite time of the day is sunset, when ‘I can sit here and do nothing but observe the light slowly changing’.
The couch is upholstered in white and silver brocade with silver studs, a cool colour scheme that Ms Lee has sought to keep throughout her home and that is influenced in part by an effort to counter that first ‘dusty and hot’ impression she had of the apartment. ‘I thought I should do a white and silver theme because they’re clean, soothing colours,’ she says. ‘Also because the place is small and you have to have light colours.’
The apartment’s layout is simple – the main door opens up to a rectangular space that encompasses the kitchen, dining and living areas; beyond that lies the balcony, with the bedrooms tucked away to the right. But as this is the first home that Ms Lee is decorating, it’s very much a work in progress, not to mention a learning process.
Shares the owner: ‘I don’t have a particular style, I’m just doing everything slowly, buying things if I like them and changing things as I see fit. Some of the furniture I bought earlier on was not suitable, so I gave it away. For example, I used to have a different sofa, but then I saw this one which I felt was better, so I gave the old one to my mother.
‘I’ve changed the table once too, and the carpet as well,’ she says, gesturing towards the latter, a thick, velvety soft, silver rug beneath a white coffee table (also not assured of permanent residency status – ‘it’s there as a footrest right now’) that sits in front of the couch. ‘It’s not final, but I’m getting there and I’m improving. After all, to me, happiness is transforming a place myself to make it liveable.’
Not everything here is subject to this game of quick-change, though. There are several decorative items within the apartment that the owner is more committed to: her plants. Clustered in three colour-coded groups – pink, purple and yellow – on different parts of the wood-decked balcony (Ms Lee had the deck added to raise the floor level of the balcony to that of the living area so there would be a ‘seamlessness’ throughout), they lend a warm resort feel to what is otherwise a stark-ish space.
‘If there are no plants, a place tends to look very cold and hard,’ she observes. ‘So I have lots – ferns, foxtail, orchids … some I don’t know the names of. The first thing I do in the morning and at night is water them and spend some time arranging them. They’re very costly but I find taking care of them therapeutic, especially when the flowers bloom. The colours make my day better.’
Another element of nature that Ms Lee is considering adding to her balcony is a cascading fountain, to conceal the traffic noise from below. Not that she really minds it – it’s a small price to pay for being right in the thick of the action, she reckons.
Says the owner: ‘It’s very convenient here – I do my shopping downstairs (at Marina Bay Link Mall), plus the supermarket there delivers to my house. Also, I don’t drive, so being here allows me to take a train to Orchard without getting caught in the rain or hot sun because it’s covered and air conditioned all the way.’
The view from the bayfront promenade, which runs along Marina Bay Residences, is lovely too, she observes. But then she admits: ‘I don’t go there often, though. After all, I have my own view at home.’
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