Published August 1, 2009


Down by the beach

Unobtrusive and luxurious furnishings make this Sentosa home a seaside sanctuary. By Lim Sio Hui

A BEACHFRONT vacation home is not an uncommon commodity overseas, but here on land-scarce Singapore, they're an almost unheard-of luxury. This one could possibly make many of us kick up our sand castles in envy.

As relatively plain walls and accessories were a must in order not to compete with the scenery, tactile touches such woven leather on the sofas and the sandblasted finishing on the armchair helps bring depth to the decor,00.html?

Located just half an hour away from the Phua clan's family home on Bukit Timah Road is their Sentosa Cove escape, a jewel of a house with its sparkling pool and top-to-toe open glass facade, with the covetable highlight of waves lapping at their front yard, and a view of the blissfully undeveloped Pulau Tekukor islet in the horizon.

Designed by architect Peter Tay, the six-bedroom, 8,000 sq ft space had been playing host to weekend escapes for Raymond Phua and his extended family. But despite it being completed over a year ago, the holiday home had not been 'done up properly', admits Mr Phua, until the homeowners brought in designer Alan Rohwer from New York based luxury consultancy EARTH.

As the managing director of luxury furnishings retailer Da Vinci Collection, Mr Phua had known and always admired Mr Rohwer's work from the designer's long-term collaboration with Versace Home, one of the brands represented by his company. And having seen Mr Rohwer transform blank canvases into beautiful, coherently themed affairs, Mr Phua gave him free rein to decorate the space as he saw fit - which meant there was no brief, just Da Vinci's inventory and a team of movers at his disposal.

Taking inspiration from the home itself, Mr Rohwer used colours found in the surroundings and garden, and worked the beachside atmosphere into the home. Relatively plain walls and accessories were a must in order not to compete with the property's main draw, the scenery, so he played with tactile touches such woven leather on the sofas and the sandblasted finishing on the armchair to bring depth to the decor.

The plush carpets play a secondary, crucial role, 'they're meant to hide the sand you get your feet, which is a problem with most beach homes'.

Mr Rohwer was careful not to add in too many things - with these often over-the-top pieces from luxury brands such as Versace, Fendi, and IPE Cavalli, 'the tip is to anchor it in a corner and just put in one statement piece: think of it as a painting on the wall'.

Mr Rohwer also made the most of nature with cleverly selected materials: the gold wallpaper and furnishings used in the master bedroom reflects the gorgeous sunrise they get from the home, which helps to magnify the light in the home, effectively reducing the periods when they need artificial light.

Indeed, nature is the biggest focus here, says Mr Phua. 'The view is completely unobstructed, and you can see jet skiers, yachts, and other boats in the day, and during the night you can't see anything except for the stars.' That's when him and his family troop to the rooftop terrace and turn the telescope on the Milky Way, where he likes to pick out the planet he identifies most easily, 'Saturn, with its rings'.

Adds the 39-year-old: 'I like to call this place our escape, a fantasy, our little world in a great big world.' His favourite nook is in the entertainment den in the basement, flanked by a large window offering a view into the swimming pool. Dressed in dark, velvety tones and decorated with predominantly black furnishings, the sombre space gets its magic from the natural light that filters in from the pool.

'You're out working, doing business all day, and you're on your guard and on your best behaviour, and seeing in stark, white light. I like places that are darker, which you can hide in. This is my sanctuary. When the doors are closed and the music is blasting, this feels like a cocoon.'

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