Story by Aulia R. Sungkar; Photos by Bagus Tri Laksono
Originally published in June-July 2018 edition of Indonesia Design
On one sunny day, Indonesia Design paid a visit to the residence of Ambassador Tan Hung Seng, Singapore Permanent Representative to ASEAN. The two-storey modern Art Deco inspired architecture has the comfort of its own, especially in its usable spaces and many corners where the ambassador and his spouse, Kayo Suzuki Tan, display their collections of artworks from various countries.
With an avuncular smile, Kayo, welcomed us while Hung Seng soon joined to show us around their house. Just like most of the art deco inspired buildings, the house features high-ceiling and distinct column pillars. Yet, unlike most of the two-storey houses that usually have at least one guest room on the first storey, this one is the exception. All the bedrooms are located on the second storey.
“The house boasts an open concept, as you enter the house you can see right through to the garden at the back. The structure of the house allows the sunshine to come through large windows,” Hung Seng explains. “And it’s very airy, too,” Kayo adds.
The Ambassador is an avid art collector. Stepping inside the house, you will see displays of old Egyptian lithographs on the walls, with a range of diverse artefacts and artworks. As you explore the house more, you will notice some paintings by notable Indonesian artists Jeihan Sukmantoro and Popo Iskandar.
The walls are entirely painted in white, except in some interior and exterior parts, like the staircase and balcony railings. The main door provides a direct access to the big glass windows overlooking the backyard. For Hung Seng and Kayo, the colour of white in the entire house not only evokes the energy and purity, but also creates ideation. “There are plenty of spaces to display the various objects that we have picked up, and wall space to hang our paintings”, he says with a smile.
“That’s Bunga by Jeihan. I love that painting. Bunga is the name of the girl in the painting who appears as she is floating in the air in a very contemplative mood. If you see her, she has hollow eyes. That’s the hallmark of Jeihan’s painting, a figure with hollow eyes,” the Ambassador explains, pointing at the painting that is hung in the dining area. On the other side of the dining area, there is another painting which is one of his favourites from his homeland. “It’s done by Lee Hock Moh.
He is a Singaporean artist who specialises in painting orchids. He uses a special detailed technique of Chinese painting called gongbi. The technique enables the artist to produce the extremely detailed and realistic orchids in the painting.
The formal dining room seats 12, but his favourite corner is the round table area where you find the curved window facing the garden. “It’s bright and airy there. Overlooking the garden and swimming pool, the table seats eight. It’s a perfect spot for hosting lunch and breakfast.”
One interesting object in the main living room is the retro-looking speaker cabinet made by a talented French engineer living in Jakarta. “This guy is unbelievable. You can’t find it anywhere,” Kayo says while her husband adds, “It is custom made and produced using modern equipment. You see the design is curved and sleek, with the typical 1950’s look.”
Asked who arranged all of these objects that enhance the beauty of the interior design, he replies, “It’s a combined effort between Kayo and I, although I do enjoy decorating the house and displaying our collections of paintings and artefacts.”
In terms of design, he further asserts that his basic philosophy is very simple, “You must have symmetry. When you think about beauty, it always boils down to symmetry.”