We talk to fellow publisher OLIVIER BURLOT about his property – a penthouse in Singapore. Also, why he chose a condo in Robertson Quay, his home décor buys and recommendations for living here.
After growing up in North Africa and studying in Paris, French expat Olivier moved to Hong Kong in the 1990s for work. He then came to Singapore in 2013 to set up the headquarters of his company, Heart Media. Today, his extensive publications and websites include WOW, L’Officiel, Men’s Folio, LUXUO, Palace and Yacht Style.
Overall, he has spent 27 years in the region and his collection of artefacts and artwork are testimony to this; they reflect his experiences of living in Asia. His home décor is full of opposites: modern and antique, red and white, and pop art pieces on love and war. All against the backdrop of a modern penthouse in Robertson Quay.
You bought your Robertson Quay condo. Tell us about that decision-making process.
I looked at close to 25 apartments. I was keen on a penthouse, and the two-level concept – one level for socialising and parties, and a higher one for private moments – really suited me.
The size – this one is 2,100 square feet including the balconies – plus the height of the ceilings at Watermark and the private lift were big selling points too. I loved the large terraces off the living areas and bedrooms. They allow for lots of greenery and nature and an indoor/outdoor living theme, even though we’re on the 10th and 11th floors.
Finally, the river neighbourhood was a decisive factor. And I’ve seen how amazing and well thought out the transformation of Robertson Quay has been over the past eight years.
What changes or renovations did you make?
I took down many of the built-in cabinets to give the apartment more of a lofty feel. The curtains were removed to open it all up to the natural “blinds” of the foliage. The front door leading to the private lift was removed, as was the wall and door to the second bedroom upstairs; this is now an open-plan home-office area. I also replaced the wall behind the bar counter with Perspex to allow more light and visibility. The glassed dining room was initially part of the L-shaped outdoor terrace; it’s now perfect for entertaining – rain or shine!
Your mix of antique and contemporary is key to your home décor; what is it about this mix that you love?
Plenty of the artworks are related to Asia. And I like the idea of art as a perpetual reinvention; I love the antique pieces – many of which are Buddhist-related – for the inner peace they project, and the more modern paintings and artworks for their wit and the appropriation of pop culture by contemporary Asian artists.
The key focus of this penthouse in Singapore to me is the light and openness, and the greenery. With the bamboo and plants, it doesn’t feel like a condo.
That was the point – avoiding a “box” feel, and transforming a rather conventional penthouse into a more vibrant and fun place. Every room provides visual surprises and inviting perspectives. My helper Mary, who moved here with me from Hong Kong (so knows me very well), has done a great job in creating and nurturing this little outdoor oasis. The greenery across the condo adds a touch of freshness and nature that is highly appreciated when evening comes and it’s time for drinks and tapas al fresco!
Is there one artwork that you particularly love?
The painting by Chok Yue Zan in the dining space. He’s a young contemporary artist living in Sabah, Malaysia, who is depicting personal memories of a vanishing rainforest. (Sabah is a victim of over-logging.)
I also like the painting by Naufal Abshar in the friends’ bedroom (downstairs). He’s a fast-rising artist who uses plenty of wit and humour when depicting social issues in modern Indonesia.
To finish, a special mention should go to the Shi Li Feng painting hanging above the bed in the master bedroom; it’s the exact painting that was used by Guns & Roses on the cover of their album Chinese Democracy (2008). A rather strong reminder that people will rebel when crushed too hard.
What about a favourite antique?
Yes, the 12th-century standing Buddha in the living room. I purchased it in 1998 in a small village north of Beijing. It was lying on the floor of the shop, covered in dust, with one of its hands broken. The price tag was close to nothing. The imperfections of the statue and its naive features (the size of the feet don’t match the overall size of the statue, for instance) make it a highly personal piece.
There are plenty of opposites in colour and style in the home accents and ornaments; talk us through some of your home decor choices.
Red is a colour very present in the Chinese world, with all its values and mystique attached. There are many patches of red here, which bring back plenty of special memories of travels and enlightenment when visiting temples and palaces across Asia. I also like silver as a material and have been collecting artefacts by French silversmith Christofle for the past 20 years.
Red, white, silver and also blond wood – these are some of the main features and colours you’ll find throughout the apartment.
Where’s the first place you’re going to travel to when we can?
Aside from Brittany in France where my parents reside, I’m a huge lover of Bali as well as Koh Samui. So let’s see which flights resume first!
Furniture & Tableware
Far East Flora | 555 Thomson Road
Hawaii Landscape | 559 Thomson Road
Limoncello (“great for casual evenings”) | 95 Robertson Quay, #01-19/20
Merci Marcel (“weekday evenings”) | 56 Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru
Bar-Roque Grill (“great for lunch”) | 165 Tanjong Pagar Road, #01-00
OSO Ristorante (“lunch and dinner, always perfect!”) | Oasia Hotel, 100 Peck Seah Street
Chinoiserie by Justin Quek | #B-15 The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands
JAAN by Kirk Westaway (“for more formal dining”) | Level 70, Hotel Swissôtel The Stamford
The Lantern | The Fullerton Bay Hotel
The Cooperage Whisky Bar | 42 Hong Kong Street
Maison Ikkoku (“for cocktails”) | 20 Kandahar Street
Bar Rouge (“for the view”) | Fairmont Singapore
Maison 21G | 77 Duxton Road maison21g.com
Aesthetics & Wellness
Dr Rohan Mendis | Mandarin Gallery
Dr Calvin Chan | Wheelock Place
This article first appeared in the August 2021 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase the latest issue or subscribe, so you never miss a copy!