A Heart for Things Made to Last

A Heart for Things Made to Last
Minlin & Zhi Yi

Growing up, Zhi Yi visited flea markets and garage sales with his father, who regularly scoured the classified ads for potential leads on mid-century modern and vintage furniture. This love for things from the past is now passed along from father to son, as he builds a home with his wife Minlin.

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“Both of us work in the finance industry – very much distant from our general interest in design!”
Z: “Outside of work, I enjoy collecting vintage watches from the 1940s to 1980s while Minlin (M) enjoys cooking, with a particular knack for adapting traditionally Japanese recipes to incorporate local produce.”

Singapore hdb bto flat interior renovation ideas inspiration“We don’t have a specific theme or category for the look of our home. Some would say our house has a Mid-Century Modern or Scandinavian vibe. But we think there’s more to it. The overall aesthetics are based on various items and furniture from the mid-century era, mixed with modern functional pieces.”

“It’s a true blend of things we love and have collected over time, each reflecting our appreciation for well-made and timeless design. Given the mish-mash of items we have, maybe ‘organised chaos’ is an appropriate theme!”

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By the entrance are a pair of Supreme Balloons Skateboards in silver and black hung above a Human Made rug from Tokyo.

“Our favourite nook will have to be the dining area which houses our Kai Kristiansen shelf and our huge dining table. We host pretty often and the oval-shaped dining table is just perfect for a great meal filled with conversation and banter. Our shelf has seen a second iteration of the display items in the few months since we moved in. That’s how much we love curating the space.”

singapore flat hdb bto flat renovation ideas inspirationThe dining nook features a pendant lamp by Louis Poulsen, FM Reolsystem teak wall shelving unit by Kai Kristiansen, an oval marble table by Florence Knoll, chairs by Arne Jacobsen for Fritz Hansen and Charles & Ray Eames for Herman Miller.

Z: The home is really a reflection of two things (1) our interest in design (2) not to take life too seriously. Many of the items we have today such as the Kai Kristiansen shelving unit and vintage McDonald’s lamps were bought way before we had moved in. We don’t take styling our house too seriously and don’t follow any fixed rules in adhering to any particular theme.”

hdb bto flat singapore renovation ideas inspiration“We let the various furniture, display items and interior design speak for themselves. We find pleasure in the ‘organised chaos’ that we now see in our home.

singapore collector furniture toy vintageAmongst the dining chairs is a one-of-a-kind Hamburger Chair that Zhi Yi put together with a seat from the 80s that the previous owner had salvaged from a McDonald's outlet in the US and new stool legs. The room’s vintage Mickey Mouse clock is by Seiko and the aluminium wall storage unit purchased from AEAE furniture

M: “My favourite object in our home has to be the USM-Haller island in the kitchen. It’s super functional as it allows me to collect loads of plates and dinnerware while keeping them organised. The semi-open kitchen and dining are a reflection of my love for cooking and hanging out with friends and family.”

singapore hdb bto flat renovation ideas interior inspirationUsed in the kitchen and around the home, are USM-Haller storage systems. Illuminating the island is a pendant lamp by Poul Henningsen for Louis Poulsen and the framed prints on the wall were from a flea market in Hawaii.  

“When it came to design, we were quite clear on what we wanted before we got the keys – minimal built-in work and maximum space for us to curate. We knocked down the extra bedroom so there is more space in the living area for us to host family and friends.”

Singapore organic cotton bedsheets cushion coversIn the living room, a vintage Jean Prouve Potence wall lamp from Vitra is affixed overhead a Modernica day bed. Featured above are our Crisp Euro Sham Case in Mustard, Minimal Knit Cushion Cover in Mustard and Checkered Rib Cushion Cover in Red.

“Our spaces are quite neatly defined which helps separate work and home during WFH right now. The dining and living area is truly for leisure and personal space.”

Singapore hdb bto flat renovation collector furniture vintageThe couple enjoy lounging in the Paimio Armchair 41 designed by Alvar Aalto in 1932 (bent plywod) for Artek and Cite chair by Prouve for France’s Cite University. The living room’s clock commemorates the 100th year anniversary of the De Stijl art movement while in the distance, the study’s standing lamp is by Ettore Sottsass for Artemide. 

M: We converted our original master bedroom into our study as we needed more space, and it also has a USM-Haller system for two work stations and storage.”

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“We spend our work hours in the study and when it is time to unwind and prepare meals, we enjoy sitting in both the dining and living areas, leaving work behind at the back of our minds.”

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Z: “We have this orange Petite Potence lamp that was designed by the late Virgil Abloh in collaboration with Vitra. I got it from someone who actually knew Virgil and was able to get lamp #001 in the limited run.”

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Z: “It’s a difficult choice, but my favourite item in our home is probably the vintage McDonald’s lamps which are from the 80s era. These were given to McDonald’s employees and were of a very limited production run. I started hunting for these almost 5-6 years back and it took me awhile to find one. Since then, these have become even more rare and collectible.”

mcdonalds collectors interior collection vintage design homeThe McDonald’s paraphernalia extends to the common bathroom with a Hamburger lamp from Jun Takahashi’s label, Undercover in collaboration with Medicom.

“In terms of picking out pieces, most of these were bought from awhile back without actually thinking how they would fit together in a HDB unit. But with timeless design from the mid-century era, you almost can’t go wrong! We buy many of our pieces secondhand from online mediums such as Carousell and eBay. Locally, we have bought some items from Noden, AEAE Furniture and fellow collectors.”

collector vintage singapore furniture interior decorA Vilbert chair designed by Verner Panton for Ikea in 1993 was purchased from a fellow collector and sits in the couple’s study. Acquired from Carousell are prints by French architect Le Corbusier which grace the walls of the dining room. 

Z: “Whenever we travel, we also visit flea markets and vintage stores. During our recent trip to Paris, we brought back a rare Pelota lamp designed by C Casati and E Ponzio for Lamperti Studio DA in Italy. Minlin also managed to find some nice vintage crockery at some of the flea markets.”

singapore collectors vintage interior decorThe Pelota lamp sits on an USM-Haller trolley, used during get-togethers to hold drinks and beverages. 

“For us, it is ultimately about timeless design. We seek items that we’d be happy to keep and move to our next house and beyond.”

Z: We like collecting local artworks as well. There are some local artists that do good work – Jeffrey from Flabslab is one of them. I have bought quite a few figurines from him over the years.”

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“We don’t have a fixed morning ritual. On days where we head to the office, both of us get up and get dressed for work. On days where we WFH, we like to head down to the coffee shop for a cup of local coffee before starting the day.”

Singapore organic cotton local bedsheets loungewearMinlin and Zhi Yi’s bed is dressed in a Classic Mix & Match Sheet Set of a White Classic Fitted Sheet and Forest Classic Pillow Case Pair, along with an extra Crisp Pillow Case Pair in Mustard and an Organic Cotton Quilt in Forest. The tapestry above the bed is by Colombine Jubert and Laetitia Rouget under the name, Pangea with hanging lamps from Louis Poulsen 

“SOJAO sheets feel extra soft with a luxurious finish. They are comfortable even in our humid climate and make us want to lounge in bed for longer!”

Singapore local organic cotton bedsheets loungewearPhilippe Starck’s Gnomi stools for Kartell serve as bedside tables. 

“We like to sleep with some air-condition on, so it’s always on a self-timer mode which turns off mid-morning.

Singapore bto hdb flat string storage shelvesIn the bedroom, the couple’s memorabilia sit on String modular shelves along with a Butterfly Stool by Sori Yanagi for Vitra.

“Home is a place for us to finally place all the stuff we have bought in the last few years! No, but seriously – home is and should be a place where you find solace and happiness. And I think we have that going now. It is cozy enough for us to feel restful after a hard day at work and it is curated in a way that brings a smile to both of us.”

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Z: “To anyone looking to start their own collection of vintage items, have a look at design magazines or books such as the Phaidon Design Classics for some inspiration. And then, happy hunting!”

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