Right in the heart of Singapore, on Caldecott Hill, sits a lavish Modernist bungalow with sharp angles, sleek gray concrete, and dark wood accents.
Despite its size, the house has a warmth and serenity, thanks to a Japanese rooftop garden – visible even from the street – as well as the rocky arrangements and bonsai-like greenery lining the driveway.
This is where Fumi Lee, a personal stylist and Japanese fashion consultant in her 50s, lives with her husband, two children and two dogs.
The aesthetic of the decor is minimal but not austere, elegant without being cold.
A whimsical giant chilli sculpture by artist Kumari Nahappan that sits outside the front doors hints at what needs to come inside.
Art adorns almost every wall. The house also has an impressive collection of modernist furniture.
Lee, who studied styling and interior design in Tokyo, says, âThe first thing that attracted me to this house was the structure, which is really simple, but modern and beautiful.
âI like that the exterior is simple so that the interior can really shine. It’s the things you put inside that reflect the personalities of the people who live there.
âEverything here is a collection of things that I love, which are mostly modern Italian furniture and Japanese antiques from the Meiji era. Even with furniture, I’m drawn to things with simple shapes but very beautiful details. . Small details are very important to me. “
His attention to detail and his love of the finest things have also enabled him to build an important collection of haute couture.
âWhen I go to high fashion shows and see the details that go into the clothes, it makes me want to cry. I am very touched by the art, the design and the craftsmanship,â she says.
“A lot of fashion now is about technology, but for me it’s about seeing it up close, touching it, feeling it on the body, the emotion of it all.”
Her style is not what you usually expect from a couture client.
âI have a basic look, which is really simple,â she says.
“My favorite style is a T-shirt and jeans with a Chanel jacket. Then I’ll add some avant-garde ankle boots and a HermÃ¨s bag, for example. It’s about making the simple more sophisticated.”
Chanel holds a special place in Lee’s heart.
âI love Coco Chanel’s story. She’s the one who liberated women in fashion. It touched me a lot because in Japanese culture, women are the ones who are always supposed to be calm and obedient – this is what I learned and how I grew up.
“That’s why I think it’s so important to have that power through what you wear. When I want to feel powerful, I just put on a black Chanel jacket.”
She loves the brand’s jackets so much that she buys at least one every season, even in the spring / summer season.
Her collection now has more than 50 pieces, and now with Virginie Viard at the helm of Chanel, she finds herself even more drawn to the house.
“With Virginie, I feel that the clothes are easier and more comfortable to wear. We feel that she is a creative woman.
âI love Karl Lagerfeld, but his designs are very Karl. Virginie’s work resembles Coco Chanel’s vision, but translated through Virginie’s perspective into what works best for women today. “, explains the former fashion buyer, who started her fashion. Style & Me consultant when she moved to Singapore in 2015.
She has acquired so much fashion that a closet is not enough. In addition to the standard walk-in closet she shares with her husband, a Korean-American private investor, Lee has also transformed an entire room on the top floor into storage space for her collection.
A sculptural spiral staircase connects the four levels of the residence, and aside from her personal quarters on the top floor, she says her favorite space is in the upper basement.
This is where the two dining rooms, the more intimate family living room and the two leafy outdoor patios are located. The space overlooks the swimming pool which spans the entire width of the house.
âThe dining room is where we spend the most time together as a family. It’s a space where we all feel relaxed,â says Lee.
âEspecially now with Covid-19 and we can’t go out, I like having house parties so we use the formal dining room more. We’re hosting more now than before.
“Every weekend there will be a party here, but they’re a lot smaller and more intimate now and I really like that. Sometimes with big parties you can’t really connect and talk to each other.”
She also pays attention to details when it comes to hosting.
“I always set a theme, whether it’s for the color or the dress code.
“For food, my favorite is Japanese because then I can serve it on my old Japanese plates. I also collect vintage Baccarat glassware and crystal, which are great for entertaining.”
â¢ This article first appeared in Harper’s Bazaar Singapore, the fashion magazine for the best of style, beauty, design, travel and the arts. Go to harpersbazaar.com.sg and follow @harpersbazaarsg on Instagram; harpersbazaarsingapore on Facebook. The June 2021 issue is now on newsstands.