Finding the Narrative

by Luo Jingmei
Photography by Marcus L.
22 Jul 2022

For Celine Tan, Partner at The Ate Group, a home should be thoughtfully conceived to embody the stories and needs of family.

In a ubiquitous HDB estate in the east of Singapore, at the end of a whitewashed corridor lined with potted plants, is a cobalt door – uncommonly characteristic and full of cheer in this quotidian setting. This apartment belongs to Celine Tan and has been designed to transport Tan, her husband Alexander Mordvincev who coaches the Singapore Swim Team, and their son Nikolai to a world of their own.

Mordvincev and Tan at their kitchen island where many daily activities are held.

As Chief Operating Officer and Partner of The Ate Group, Tan is adept at telling stories. Her team at the brand communications and consumer experience agency has worked with well-known brands like TWG Tea, Odette, Jigger & Pony, and Bynd Artisan. Her own abode bears many personal tales. The first, she shares past the cobalt door, is a wooden sculpture with outstretched limbs on a pedestal. “My dad made this when he was 16. He passed on before we had Nikolai. It’s about victory, determination, and depicts a man who ran a race and passed the finish line,” Tan describes.

  • On the wall after the entrance foyer is a commissioned artwork by Singaporean artist Tan Zi Xi that depicts elements from Mordvincev's hometown of Ukraine.
  • nterior designer Stacey Leong created a small transitional space between the public and private zones that can be sealed up with sliding glass doors.
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On the wall behind the sculpture is an artwork bearing another family tale – this time of Mordvincev’s heritage. Tan had commissioned local artist Tan Zi Xi to create the artwork for her husband to remind him of his hometown in Ukraine. It shows a heart-shaped medley of places and objects, such as a flowering cherry blossom tree (they are plentiful there), and Mordvincev’s house and school that he attended. “This is the first piece you see when you enter. There are also drawings of mushrooms, flowers, and vegetables because when we visit, we eat as much of these as we can as the produce is amazing,” Tan elaborates.   

These items stand out in the singular environment that Tan has painstakingly created together with interior designer Stacey Leong who helms her eponymous studio. There is fluidity in the spatial layout, visual layering and calm provided by a tempered palette. On the brief to Leong, Tan stated that she wanted a space that transported her from the cacophony of Singapore. The reference was Eastern European modern interior architecture with historical nuances.

(Related: A black & white bungalow that's music for the eyes)

This translated to rooms set out with a spatial formality, explains Leong. “These apartments tend to have a sense of unfolding from the front to the back, or from more public spaces where guests are welcomed to the private bedrooms. The foyer is an important space that conveys a mix of welcome and surprise as to what lies beyond,” she adds. To create a sense of arrival, as well as open up the apartment, Leong removed a bedroom next to the main door. Sliding doors and a glass panel with arched accents separate the foyer from the main living spaces but let light and breeze though.

“The rhythmic use of metal and glass screens punctuate the transitions from each space, visually delineating the important spaces, bouncing light and creating vignettes of the apartment from various angles. We added design pauses in the form of hallways, art walls, and plant corners so there is space for Celine’s collectibles to ‘breathe’ and also to allow a rotation of her favorite objects,” says Leong.   

Twin Camerich armchairs from Proof Living mirror the play of symmetry from the artworks created at an Hermès event that Tan worked on before she gave birth to Nikolai.

In place of the former room is a dry kitchen with a 2.8-meter-long island counter. It is a multifunctional platform for quick bites, home working, and where Tan bakes and cooks for family and guests. The space segues into the living room that feels capacious even after it was reduced to cater for a larger master bedroom. Another glass door shuts away a transitional space to the bedrooms, which is useful for home parties after Nikolai’s bedtime.

Says Leong, “Accentuating the expansive living space by playing with the scale of the island adds drama and flair, and anchors the spatial experience, keeping it central to the apartment’s public areas.” Tan handpicked the Versilys marble with statement-making swirls. “Stacey said when we see the right one, it will sing to you. This was one of the first pieces I saw. No matter how many I viewed later I would think about this one,” Tan recounts.

For someone that shapes the experiences of her client's customers, much thought went into how items are used. For example, she chose dining chairs that are comfortable enough to linger and sizable even for larger guests.

The home’s color palette helps shape the serene surroundings. “We looked to taupe, tobacco, and greys, with touches of olive and greenery from plants so the space feels fresh,” says Tan. The home is still a work in progress. “I don't think a home ever becomes done. You [change or] move things around. I take pleasure in finding new pieces and accessories online. Locally, my current favourite is Crane Living. In my experience, they seem to understand home needs for the consumer landscape today,” she says on the object d’art and aesthetical tableware from the lifestyle store that adorn her home. The home, designed to be timeless, is a perfect foil for the malleability of shifting tastes and time.