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Home for the memories
WHEN educator Eric Lim was house hunting a few years ago, location wasn't a big issue for him. It was size. His new pad had to be big enough for him, and his growing family - of pets. Namely, a pig-nosed turtle, numerous platy fish, and several goldfinches. "Since I'm upgrading to a bigger place, my pets also deserve an upgrade too," says Mr Lim.
At every viewing, the main consideration was what was best for them. And when he chanced upon this four-bedroom apartment in Bukit Panjang, he knew straight away that it was the one.
It blew his budget but that didn't stop him. "The apartment felt right," he says. "It overlooked a park, has lots of cross ventilation, and when I stepped out onto the balcony, I knew that my birds would be happy here, with the breeze and fresh air."
His fish get prime space in the living room, in a custom built aquarium that is attached to a miniature vertical garden. His pet turtle also has its own specially built tank that is much bigger and deeper than its previous one.
Once the pets were settled, Mr Lim could focus on his other family - his human one. While he lives alone, the apartment is filled with memories of them, be it nostalgic knick knacks, porcelain or Chinese design elements.
The youngest of three children, Mr Lim also moved to Bukit Panjang to be closer to his older siblings. "We are a tight knit family. Even though my two other siblings have families of their own, we often get together for a meal," says Mr Lim. He quips that he is the designated Chinese chef, while his brother and nephew tackle Western meals.
At home, he has turned the corridor leading to the bedrooms into a hanging display of black and white, and sepia-toned family photos. "These are the gems that I dug out when I moved out." His family gets a kick out of seeing them when they come to visit, and he's in the midst of adding more photos.
Now in his forties, Mr Lim still fondly remembers his childhood days, growing up in the 1980s, and he recreates touches of that in his home. His balcony, for example, resembles an old kopitiam, from the black and white mosaic tiles to the marble top table and wooden chairs, with a spittoon for added effect.
"I like having breakfast on the balcony while listening to my birds sing. This is like my private bird corner, like the former one at Tiong Bahru," he says with a smile.
He still has a sentimental attachment to his childhood home in Bukit Ho Swee, where he spent more than 30 years of his life. He even took some of the furniture with him. "You can't buy them anymore," he says.
Mr Lim points to a wooden cupboard with glass panels in the kitchen. "I used to store CDs in there, but now it houses my collection of old crockery," he says.
One of the bedrooms, which triples as a study and mahjong room, is a replica of his old bedroom. There is a desk in one corner, and a wardrobe adjacent to it. "Sometimes I'm in here, and still think that I'm back in my Bukit Ho Swee home," he says.
Not everything nostalgic is from his old home. Mr Lim also collects vintage paraphernalia including an old cinema chair, believed to be from the 1920s, near his front door. The seat cover is faded and there are small tears on its back but Mr Lim has no plans to re-upholster it. "I like the feel of old furniture. There is more character to them than modern pieces," he says.
When designing his home, he made sure he had a place for his porcelain collection, which has grown since he started in 2007. They comprise mainly figurines of Buddha and the Goddess of Mercy, one of which he carried back from Japan. "The white porcelain looks pure and serene," he says. Now they sit in a glass cabinet in the dining room, each in a specific nichethat Mr Lim measured to fit their exact measurements. Growing up in a Chinese speaking home sparked his love for the language and culture. Couplets hanging around his home that speak of filial piety and family harmony. A pair of antique wooden doors, similar to those found in old Chinese houses, stand near the entrance of the home, giving the inner sanctum some privacy.
In another bedroom is a Chinese hunting chair. "Although this is a replica, I'm wowed by the intricate carvings on it," he says.
In his bedroom, a wooden frame with carvings of nine carps hangs above his bed. Mr Lim says the piece was once part of a matrimonial bed, while the nine carps represent wealth.
Mr Lim may be living in his dream home now, but he hasn't really left the old one behind. "I lived in my family's homefor over 30 years, and moved immediately in this one. Who knows, I might live here for just as long."