At this very moment – wherever you are, and whether you realise it or not – you only need to look around to see that the subliminal effect of lighting has transcended its function of merely illuminating your environs. Rather, a thoughtful source of lighting can conceive any desired atmosphere, enrich the interiors, and perhaps even deeply shape the emotions and moods of those under it.
Tino Kwan understands this all too well. The globally feted lighting designer and founder of TinoKwan Lighting Consultants is behind some of the most sophisticated, elaborate lighting solutions across Asia and the world, with his designs adorning spaces from the Raffles Singapore to The Peninsula Tokyo, and even to palaces in Iran. He has translated the crème de la crème of his know-how and flair into his most sacred and personal project – his 3,000sqft duplex home, nestled in the hills above Happy Valley – into which he warmly welcomes us on an autumn afternoon.
Tino’s meticulous eye for detail and his warm hospitality are felt from the moment the lift doors open to a set of plush seating by the entrance where guests can take off their shoes. It’s placed next to a small display of his art collection, setting the stage for the delights that are to come. Through the front door, delicate figurine sculptures by Chinese artist Liu Bolin (from his Red Hand series), each enjoying their own carefully conceived spotlight, flank an entrance hallway that’s deliberately been conceived with a lower roof. “Because the ceilings of this home are relatively low, I wanted to create a visual progression for guests so that when they pass through this small entryway, they are treated to the surprise of a space that opens up,” explains Tino.
Indeed, the hallway leads into a sight to behold: a majestic dining room, where a monochromatic chandelier from luxury Italian furniture company Barovier & Toso takes pride of place above an elongated wooden dining table adorned with verdant tablescapes and striking floral arrangements. “When I was living in the UK many years ago, I used to go to Italy a lot and visit the artisan factory of Barovier & Toso,” recalls Tino. “I fell in love with the brand’s lighting designs that are made with Venetian glass. Compared to traditional crystal chandeliers, this is more beautiful and has more personality; it’s almost like an artwork.” Sleekly sinuous and timeless, featuring delicate droplets and simple lines, the chandelier serves as a visual anchor for the dining room, all the while working beautifully with the room’s adjustable ceiling light to achieve the perfect ambience for any moment.
Just behind the dining table, a striking glass-enclosed, rose gold-rimmed wine cellar stretches all the way up to the ceiling and nearly across the full width of the home; here, an impressive collection of vintage bottles is displayed. This bespoke partition designed by Tino also offers a sense of mystery, as if luring guests to discover the rest of the home hidden behind the veil.
A tranquil oasis unfolds, whisking you away from the resplendent dining room into a plush, sophisticated living area designed for complete and utter relaxation. It’s enveloped in storied sculptures and a palette of calming neutral tones, including soft beige wall panels that were just installed a few months ago – behind which conceals his and hers bathrooms and a state-of-the-art karaoke room – and gigantic cream-white sofas from Minotti that are Tino’s favourite spots to unwind with a movie.
It’s here, against a spectacular floor-to-ceiling backlit bookcase that displays his most treasured curios and antiques, that Tino traces the footsteps of his design journey: “As I matured, my aesthetic had gradually shifted. I decked my home in pink and black when I first returned from the UK – I was experimenting with a punk style then. When I moved to the Peak, I was drawn to the more classic colonial design, and I also started collecting lots of antiques and wooden furniture. For this house, I created an atmosphere that focused on purity and simple elegance. These days, I especially love an atmosphere that’s convivial and timeless, so I decorated with lots of elegant naturals and rose-gold hues.”
Having designed each of his own homes, these one-of-a-kind havens are tailor-fitted to his lifestyle and needs. Here, this includes a decadent fully equipped kitchen in which Tino, an extremely skilled chef, spends many evenings whipping up pasta dishes and scrumptious desserts. On special occasions, these are served atop a rose-gold liquor trolley that he exclusively designed with Colourliving, which features adjustable illumination and a delicate towering spotlight that accentuates any dish.
“A beautiful or expensive lighting design doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good. What’s more important is to create a cosy environment in which you feel harmony,” says Tino, gesturing to the indirect lighting that casts a subtle glow from the ceiling, walls and floor throughout the home. “These can help to elongate the interiors and open up the space while creating a luxurious ambience, in which the eye can naturally travel from the artworks to myriad design accents.”
Within such an evocative, beautifully conceived living environment, Tino is sure to find a restful respite from the day’s stress and bask in the joy of living slowly and elegantly. He concludes, “Even after 10 years, I can see myself still loving this home.”
Photography: Keith Ng