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The Straits Times
Life Section
24 September 2011
By huang huifen

Dr Anu Menon and Mr Sumana Rajarethnam (above) -- ST PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN
Walking into the dining hall of Dr Anu Menon and Mr Sumana Rajarethnam's home is like entering a loft apartment.

Designed to be the main area of the 1,350 sq ft two-bedroom, ground-floor pre-war unit in Guan Chuan Street, it evokes an old-world charm befitting the Tiong Bahru neighbourhood. This is particularly evident in how the hall's main wall has been stripped of its plaster to expose red bricks for a down-to-earth feel.

A natural-tone teak table, paired with a wooden bench, sits on a cement floor which is reminiscent of that in an old-school canteen.

Dr Menon, 30, a paediatrician at KK Women's and Children's Hospital, fell in love with Tiong Bahru's nostalgic charm when she visited the area six years ago. Hence she and Mr Rajarethnam, 34, an economic analyst, were keen to find a home in the estate when they got married last year.

They bought the apartment shortly after marrying, but rented it out for six months while they sourced design inspirations. In the meantime, they stayed at the house of Mr Rajarethnam's parents in Woodlands.

Renovation work began in May and they moved in last month. They declined to reveal the price of their home but say the renovation cost 'close to a six-figure sum'.

New, old residents get along
To reflect the neighbourhood's nostalgic feel, Dr Menon wanted the home furnished in an old-world style. 'I like places that remind me of old Singapore. So I told my interior designer to give the place an old feel.'

That was the approach used by Mr Eugene Yip from design firm Otherwise for the dining room. 'The exposed brick wall and cement floor retain the old-world charm of the estate,' he says.

But there are quirky touches, such as works by photographer Brendan Fitzpatrick that showcase a Star Wars character doing a range of migrants' work in the master bedroom.

A row of red and white coffee cups hangs over a striking red kettle in the kitchen. The colour pops up again in a red spiral staircase, an original feature of the apartment, next to the dining hall that leads to a study area.

The spiral staircase (above) in the apartment of Dr Anu Menon and Mr Sumana Rajarethnam has been painted red so that it adds an element of surprise. The dining hall's main wall has also been stripped to expose the red bricks beneath. -- ST PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN
Mr Yip also reconfigured the apartment's layout, removing another staircase and parts of walls to give a more open concept. The couple's bedroom beside the dining hall used to have a flight of stairs but he removed it. Now, an 80cm platform extends from the room to create a small balcony overlooking the hall.
 The couple love their home, and not just for the design.
A signature piece, the 4.2m ficus lyrata (above) at one end of the dining hall frames the balcony of the master bedroom. The space below the cantilevered platform has been converted into a shallow pond filled with pebbles and garden ornaments. -- ST PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN


Mr Rajarethnam says: 'The neighbourhood is important to us. We love that there is a mix of people who live here. Some have been here for a long time, while some have just moved in. But everyone gets along, and is estate-proud. That is the very attractive and distinct part of Tiong Bahru.'

hfhuang@sph.com.sg

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