Lofty pursuits

Ming Chew mixes business with pleasure by creating a home that doubles as a showcase for her company. By Geoffrey Eu

WHEN the en bloc process finally caught up with her former residence last year and obliged her to move into a new home, Ming Chew decided it was also the perfect opportunity to bring her business into the mix. Ms Chew is the managing director of the APS Group, which distributes a variety of consumer products, so she created a home that doubled as a showcase for her company.

DESIGN EDGE
Interior architect Patty Mak had the original marble floors and false ceilings removed, and in their place, came polished concrete walls and floors, exposed ceilings and mood lighting to burn

Since she took over 15 years ago at the helm of the family company – started by her father 60 years ago as an agent for professional camera equipment – Chew has been responsible for diversifying the business, which now includes property management and consumer electronics. Brands represented include Smeg kitchen and GE home appliances, Vintec wine chillers and Nakamichi plasma televisions and sound systems.

‘My interests include cooking, and that’s why I’m into home appliances,’ says Ms Chew, a gregarious and generous, flamboyant and fun-loving individual who has made a career of turning her personal interests into business opportunities. Her company exports similar products to markets in Russia and Central Asia, while her love of travel has also spawned a travel agency. ‘The software must always go with the hardware,’ she says.

She also has a habit of making a point and expressing her views in the form of pithy sayings. To wit: ‘It’s important to travel – travelling a thousand miles is better than reading a million books.’ Her travel company Dorison specialises in adventure destinations like Bhutan.

Ms Chew bought a top-floor duplex in an unassuming new building in the prime Holland Road area, near an existing apartment that she also owns and just a stone’s throw from her previous home. She commissioned interior architect Patty Mak of Suying Design to transform it into a New York-style loft space and moved into it earlier this year.

‘When I first saw the place, I felt it wasn’t really a reflection of my personality, so I told Patty three things: New York loft, boutique hotel and funky industrial,’ says Chew. The original marble floors and false ceilings were removed and in their place came polished concrete walls and floors, exposed ceilings and mood lighting to burn.

The result wouldn’t look out of place in the Big Apple – edgy yet inviting, unique yet comfortable – not unlike a bachelorette pad for the creative Downtown Girl. However, Ms Chew, who shares the 2,500-square foot space with her three teenage children, insists it is an ideal family residence for her.

Upstairs, there are two bedrooms, a SoHo-type study and a spacious outdoor wooden deck – and two bedrooms downstairs, one of which has been converted into an entertainment/chill-out room. The outdoor deck, complete with a fengshui water feature, affords a very good view of the surrounding neighbourhood. Meanwhile, the original staircase was removed and the aluminium-and-stainless-steel staircase that replaced it is a conversation piece in itself – Ms Chew likens it to a life-size artwork.

The high-ceilinged living and dining area is the social centre of the home and is dominated by a charcoal-coloured high table that serves as the dining table, and barstool-height dining chairs. The open kitchen along one wall of the room is not unlike a showroom display, with the requisite high-end oven, induction cooker and heavy duty cooking range, along with built in television and wine cabinet.

The cool concrete floors and walls are offset by rugs and soft furnishings, much of which came from her previous apartment. ‘My favourite rooms are my bedroom and the kitchen – I love to cook and that’s also where I get ideas for the businesses and inspiration for how to be a good mother,’ she says.

Ms Chew cooks up a range of local, Western and Indian cuisines for family and friends who visit frequently. She also works closely with a team of loyal and dedicated executives who she treats like extended family and who routinely attend meetings as well as social occasions at her home.

During BT’s visit, the aftershocks of an earthquake in southern Sumatra that registered 7.6 on the Richter scale caused some buildings in Singapore to shudder dramatically, including Ms Chew’s 12th-floor apartment. The earth may have moved for a minute or more, but the incident left her unshaken. ‘My motto is live life like there’s no tomorrow, and count your blessing everyday,’ she says.

Without question, her new home succeeds in meeting the design criteria she set. Invariably, it elicits discussion, stimulates the imagination and encourages visitors to explore the different rooms, which may be small in size but well thought out nevertheless.

So how appealing is it living in a home that has so many reminders of work in it? She says that in this context she is a consumer first and a brand representative next, so she is fortunate to have products she believes in as part of her daily life. One consequence of the home is that many of the spaces have been distilled to a very basic – if nicely designed – form. ‘Simplicity is very important for me,’ says Ms Chew. ‘It makes me very happy.’

Source : Business Times – 17 Oct 2009

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