Homes designed by Amy Lim of Pupil Office have a peaceful quietude about them. Clean surfaces abound for natural light to reflect off, cabinetry is considered and often made with a solid timber framework that exudes permanence and artfulness, and the palette runs the gamut of earth tones from taupe to cream.
This home in the heart of town for a pair of working professionals is the perfect case study of her bespoke approach.
Sheer curtains soften the daylight washing into the living room from two walls of glazing. The basic geometries of a round floor lamp and block of marble as the coffee table draw the eye, while a grey fabric custom sofa and twin timber lounge chairs from Phantom Hands beckon with their relaxed profiles.
Clean, natural spaces
“We wanted a home that was quite functional, with staple pieces that we could build upon over time. The original space had always been rented out since it was built in 2008, so it had a (dated) style with (unsightly) lacquered cabinetry. We took everything out and put in only built-ins that we really felt we needed, and we opened up the space more,” says the owner.
She had found Lim online in her search for a designer to create her matrimonial home. “We didn’t only like her aesthetic, but we really got along with Amy after interacting with her,” she said. “Opening up the space more” meant removing the walls of the dry kitchen next to the living room so that the overall gathering space is more capacious.
“The large dry kitchen that came with the development made the space feel confined and rather [busy] the moment you came through the front door, so that had to go,” says Lim. The wet kitchen was also downsized, as the owner and her husband seldom cook. “Even then, we don’t use it much; only to unbox our GrabFood and cook once a month,” she muses.
The new dining area created by removing the former dry kitchen is a picturesque spot. Lim custom-designed a hardy table made from GFRC (glass-fibre reinforced concrete) whose smooth surfaces are highlighted by the soft glow of a tense pendant from New Works. Made from recycled Tyvek — a material similar to paper — it floats like a thin piece of sculpture in the space.
The new joinery features dark tones, influenced by a “New York” aesthetic that the owner had a penchant for. Applied to door frames, cabinetry, and shelving, they accent the home’s light-coloured shell. “A darker wood palette overall throughout the space, along with the amount of sunlight the apartment receives, helps to tone it down and give a more lush vibe,” Lim adds.
Be it stone, wood, concrete, or fabric, she leans toward raw and natural materials, celebrating their unique characteristics, though not without considering pragmatics. “Throughout this project, as much as my client liked having marble incorporated into the spaces, we had to be selective with where they were situated — for example, at the bar counter and parts of the master en-suite. In areas with higher traffic, like the powder room and kitchen, we stuck with more durable materials like tiles and quartz.”
This pragmatism was paramount as the couple has plans to move overseas for work in the near future. “So while making the spaces conducive for them and their lifestyles, we also had to take into consideration that the spatial configuration and materials used still allowed the home to be rentable,” Lim comments.
Hence, she retained the existing marble flooring in the common areas and the parquet in the rooms, although she did stain the latter for a more modern finish. She also enlarged the master bedroom slightly to increase wardrobe space.
The furniture selection took into account the couple’s potential shift. Lim chose easy-to-move modular pieces as well as hardy furniture such as the GFRC dining table. “We had it made lower than normal as we had acquired these beautiful vintage Tendo Mokko black leather-and-wood chairs from Arts & Antiquities (Aeae), and the seat heights were a touch lower than the normal European chair height,” Lim explains of the simply formed dining chairs.
The lighting had a big part to play in the design of the overall mood. “We specified differing beam angles in the different areas for the down lights depending on the purpose, and as always, plenty of dimmers,” says Lim.
She adds, “Most of the time, the owners are out and about during the day, and by the time they get home, it’s around sunset. So a lot of the time they spend at home is in the evenings. Thus, it’s really important to make sure that when they get home, they have a great environment to rest or entertain in. It is subtle and functional, yet it creates a cosy mood — particularly at night.”
Lim highlights that a designer has the responsibility to create a good ambience for the people who live in the home, as they spend so much time in it. “The home needs to speak to the owners, make them feel good, have an emotional response, and tell a story about them as individuals when their friends and families visit.”