Bella Koh has a beautiful home. You see it all the time on her Instagram feed, whether it’s the marble-topped kitchen counter featuring the photogenic meals she whips up, or the wooden dining table she often takes stylish outfit snaps at.
So when we spotted renovation works happening on her Instagram Stories, our curiosity was instantly piqued. Two burning questions surfaced: Why was Koh moving out, and what would her new place look like?
Koh says the move was prompted by certain practical considerations. “We didn’t plan a playroom for our daughter, Alessandra, in the old house, and the environment wasn’t child-friendly. The new place has a communal garden with plenty of greenery and even a trampoline. I also miss waking up to chirping birds and the calming sounds of cicadas in the afternoon.”
Said new home base – a black-and-white colonial house in Bukit Timah with four bedrooms and three bathrooms – was a clear winner in Koh’s and her husband’s eyes. “We were taken by the spacious living and dining rooms, ample natural lighting and huge rooms,” she reveals.
While the Bukit Timah home design is being kept under wraps for now (no photos unfortunately!), fans of Koh’s #thecatkitchen series of snapshots and videos will be relieved to know that her current home, a Tiong Bahru shophouse apartment, will still be around and used mainly for Koh’s work.
Read on to find out more about Koh’s approach to interior design, the trends that are exciting her most now and her top tips for designing your home:
Her interior design style
“Minimal and uncomplicated, with beautiful mid-century objects (serving as a good focal point). I would say it’s a combination of modern and Belgian influences.”
Biggest design inspirations
“(British architectural designer) John Pawson, (Belgian designer) Vincent Van Duysen, (French interior designer) Joseph Dirand and (Spanish architect) Ricardo Bofill. And we have somehow always had elements of (Japanese architect) Tadao Ando in all our homes. These designers taught us how to use singular materials and how the beauty of minimalism withstands time.”
Home decor trends she’s loving right now
“Gold accents juxtaposed with raw elements and Sicilian or Tuscan wall colours (think earthy and raw tones). Also, plants, plants, plants! More recently, the designers of (Danish design firms such as) Menu World, Hay and Ferm Living have really changed the way interiors look these days. There’s a larger focus on modern living, but they never neglect the aesthetics of daily objects in a home.”
What the new Cat Kitchen will look like
“We are opting out of an island due to space constraints, and partly because the new 2.5 metre-long dining table should make do as my temporary island. We will have an even bigger fridge to replace my two fridges in Tiong Bahru. (I’m also looking forward to using my Italian-made) stand-alone Bertazzoni Heritage cooker. Just the look of it makes me want to make stews – pretty sure I’ll be cooking up a storm with a six-stove cooker.”
The one design element she will never neglect
“Space. Besides having ample space in a home, space planning is extremely vital for a proper house to function. Space calms the mind, like how clutter can mess with your peace.”
The interiors worth investing time, money and effort in
“The bathroom and kitchen. These are therapeutic, pampering and self-care spaces that we utilise more than once a day. You want to be happy stepping into a space like this every single day to relax after a long day of work.”
One interior design fixture to pay more attention to
“Proper lighting should enhance a space, with spotlights that are not disturbing to the eyes. I have been to many houses where contractors or designers recommend 10 spotlights in a single bedroom. It is quite ridiculous. They do that because they earn more money, but it doesn’t quite achieve functionality or aesthetic.”
Design choices to avoid
“Never use homogenous tiles. They stain and over long-term use, usually become too slippery or sticky. It can never be compared to natural stone. It’s like (the difference between) having processed food and unprocessed food. Also, don’t go overboard with colours. Keep to only two colours for a small house to retain continuity. Anything more feels contrived.”
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