She looks angelic but Angel Chen, from Shanghai, is a tough businesswoman with exacting demands, especially when it comes to the interior design of her home.
Businesswoman Angel Chen’s present home is her fourth in seven years but she has finally concluded that this one has the right feng shui and decor, so maybe — just maybe — she’ll stay put this time.
The Shanghainese’s first home here was a furnished apartment in Petaling Jaya.
“It was nice but had no character as everything was neutral and boring. I decided to buy empty apartments so I could start from scratch,’ she recalls.
“My second condo was traditional Chinese with elaborately carved rosewood furniture inlaid with mother-of-pearl and grand settees with dragons and phoenixes. It was a mini Forbidden City, and I had many carvings and wooden screens. I liked it but soon decided it was too imperial! It was grand, and everyone was impressed by the dramatic pieces but I think maybe I would live like this again only when I am 50!” says the 32-year-old.
When she moved into another empty condo, Chen decided to concentrate on cabinets.
“I collected a lot of objects and statuettes made of jade, semi-precious stones, wood, porcelain and enamel, so I bought many cabinets and display cupboards. At that stage, I was into free-standing, beautifully carved cabinets from China, though some I bought from Malacca.”
Her fascination with cupboards, cabinets and consoles lasted two years before she tired of them. Enter built-in cupboards and cubby holes hidden from view and recessed into the walls.
“I seem very fickle,” Chen admits. “Some friends think I waste time and money but I sold my earlier apartments for a profit! This one is my dream home. I can sense the good feng shui and since moving in three months ago, business has improved so I plan to stay here for, oh, at least 10 years.”
According to her decorator, Li Hui Yuan of Yuan Design, once the interior design plans were approved, it took only two months to install the cabinets.
“This time I refused to have readymade cabinets or display cupboards that can be moved around the house. I wanted everything to be custom-made to fit a particular section which cannot be taken apart or transferred. The built-ins are permanent as I noticed I hardly moved the cupboards around in my last condo. I also think quality built-in cupboards add value to the house, especially the bedrooms which require closets anyway,” Chen says.
“Purpose-built cupboards and wardrobes increase the selling price as the new owner can move in instantly with everything in place,” Li agrees. “Her condo is 2,100 sq ft but everyone thinks it’s 3,000!”
Now you see it, now you don’t
In her new pad, cupboards are artfully hidden from view behind what look like walls and mirrors. The glossy black cabinets that line an entire wall facing the dining table appear to have been created just to display six exquisite large vases. But, surprise, surprise, concealed panels open up to reveal shoe racks inside.
“These concealed cabinets are beside the front door so they are the best possible place to store shoes and keep them out of sight. I can’t stand exposed shoe racks, and it is also inconvenient to carry shoes from the bedroom to the door, so having a hidden shoe cabinet is a dream come true,” the proud owner says.
Opposite the concealed shoe racks is a mirrored wall and Buddhist shrine. Again the mirrors allow Chen to do more than admire herself enroute to the kitchen. Just a gentle press and hidden hinges open the mirrored doors to reveal shelves. They also hide the meter box and light switches, allowing Chen to amuse herself by asking guests to switch off the lights, just to see them searching for the buttons!
“The shelves are around two feet deep so they don’t protrude or take up too much space,” explains Chen.
Some built-ins were made for feng shui reasons. One wall with irregular shelves act to break the sha qi (harmful qi) as the main door directly faces the door of the second bedroom.
“I practise a little feng shui. Two doors should not face each other directly as they confront each other, which is bad. Most modern condos suffer from this because architects always design two doors facing each other for symmetry. But luckily the neighbour’s door facing mine is the side door — the main being on the other side. It is also half the size of my main door, which is perfect!”
A floor-to-ceiling mirror reflects her entire dining table.
“This symbolises chiak beh liau, which is Hokkien for ‘cannot finish eating’. I also display artificial fruits to signify an abundance of things to eat,” she explains.
Bedrooms are important, and Chen has pulled out all the stops to ensure she not only sleeps blissfully but generates good vibes.
“I have a water feature on my balcony. The water wheel turns and generates money, which flows inside. Directly opposite my balcony are two banks, Citibank and OSK Investment Bank. While most think this is auspicious, I have to be careful as these two giants may crush me. These two skyscraper buildings can overwhelm my luck so I am using this to counteract.” says Chen as she points to a wooden scroll hanging above the sliding glass door with the Chinese characters san hai chen painted in gold.
“The words mean ‘mountain and sea to resist’ or something to that effect! I am using the much mightier powers of mountains and oceans to suppress excessive energies. This scroll acts like a pakua mirror but does not harm anyone.”
“There is a five-blade fan with five small lamps which spins automatically every five hours. The wind will disperse all unwanted shar qi!” says Chen of the fan in her balcony.
As an extra safety precaution she even places two high-backed black velvet chairs in front of her sliding glass doors to obstruct or at least slow the entry of the banks’ qi. Inside is a crystal chandelier in the shape of a heart.
“I keep this lit on a permanent basis as I am a single girl, though I have a boyfriend,” enthuses Chen, who then points to her dressing table’s mirror. “The heart chandelier is reflected directly in the mirror so one heart becomes two and this symbolises the love between me and my boyfriend.”
Chen also believes her bed should not be reflected in her mirror lest an unwanted third party enters. Interior designer Li came to the rescue by building a protruding vanity cabinet.
Chen’s pride and joy is her “cosy corner”, an elevated area resembling a Japanese restaurant tatami room but is actually a comfy daybed. A remote control allows the central section to rise and become a mahjong or computer table. Four people can sit upright with their legs snugly tucked beneath the table here.
“I already have a sofa set so instead of having more, I agreed to install this fun area when Hui Yuan suggested it. It’s so much fun and my guests are fascinated. Oh, I also like the built-in storage beneath,” she says.
At the rate she is going with her built-in storage space, Angel Chen can probably hoard away enough canned food and dry goods for a year without anyone noticing.
o Yuan Design Sdn Bhd is at 5-5
Jalan PJU 8/5i, Damansara Perdana Business Centre. Tel: (012) 378 3830