Our Homes of the Past: Kenny Hong’s '70s Home

In the first of a series of stories about Singapore houses through the years, we explore Singaporean designer Kenny Hong’s semi-detached home at Sixth Avenue where he lived in during the '70s.

Updated on June 12, 2017 11:06 am

Michelle Ong

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As a child, Kenny Hong pretended to be a soldier hiding from imaginary bullets under the Scandinavian-style couch in his home, or a secret agent diving into his bed, which he imagined to be the sea. He became neither when he grew up, and instead chose another exciting path: as a product and industrial designer. It’s a good thing he did, because he has done well for himself as one, as seen in March of this year, when Kenny was selected to showcase his innovative printed lighting technology "The Cloud" at the International Furniture Fair Singapore (IFFS) 2015 as one of 20 rising Asian Furniture Designers.

Kenny’s “The Cloud” at the International Furniture Fair Singapore (IFFS) 2015.

Photo by Jerni Camposano

Today, he looks back on his home with special fondness, and is able to appreciate the clean aesthetics of the house he grew up inthanks to photos taken by his parents. Having moved four or five times throughout his childhood, Kenny never stayed in each house long. 

His first home—the pictures of which are shown below—is where his family stayed the longest, from seven to eight years from his birth in 1968. To him, this is the one place that "feels most like a home.”

Kenny (second from right) stayed in this home from his birth in 1968 until his family moved to Saraca Road when he was about 7 or 8 years old.

The Scandinavian touch

"I remember that the whole place was white...everything was very clean and white and there would also be dark wood or cherry wood, which my mom seemed to like,” Kenny says.

Kenny’s mother in between a fish tank and white Scandinavian style cabinet.

The clean, Scandinavian-looking furniture weren’t unique to Kenny's home, but in many Singaporean homes of that time as well. Built in Singapore, these furniture pieces were meant to be long-lasting and were made using real wood. 

“These days, furniture pieces are of low quality," Kenny laments. Even the leather of the past, he claims, was of better quality. “These days, they don’t use leather—they use PVC, fake leather, or half leather. The real leather (back then) made a lot of difference.”

Kenny says much of the furniture in his home was very "Scandinavian-looking," thanks to lots of wood furniture in the home. “It was very popular then, wood furniture. The coffee table would have legs made out of wood in a Scandinavian kind of style—that was very common. It was quite clean-looking and neat.” 

Many of the furniture sold to Singaporean consumers during that period also came with a huge helping of thick, glossy lacquer. 

"Every family used to have one (lacquered wooden furniture). I know my uncle had one, my grandmother had one," Kenny says.

Unfortunately, much of the Scandinavian solid wood furniture they used to own are no longer around as Kenny moved from home to home, and it was not practical to move all the furniture every time. There are a few exceptions though; they still own a big and old Peranakan mirror as well as a vase that used to be a centrepiece in the living room of his first home.

“We used to think it's very boring but (now) I really like these pieces in my house. I wish we didn't throw them away.” Kenny says the vase (seen on the far left of the picture) is still around at his mother’s place.”

Boyhood

As he and his siblings were not allowed to leave the house before 5 p.m., much of Kenny's memories were upstairs, where he played in his little room of toys as well as pretended to be asleep during "forced" afternoon naps. A special time of the day for him would be the 5 and 6 o’clock hours when childhood classics like Ultraman, Astroboy, and Giant Robot would broadcast on the family’s Sierra TV. This would be the hour when many in the neighbourhood took advantage of the cooler temperatures to come out to chit-chat.

Kenny in a swing outside his home.

A difficult child, the 5 or 6 o’clock time slot was also a golden opportunity for Kenny's mother to drive her son to the Botanical Gardens nearby to persuade him to eat.

Kenny’s mother and sister next to Kenny’s mother’s car in their home’s driveway.

Kenny's other memories included shenanigans like hiding under a big table to avoid getting a beating from his Mother. The table made for the perfect place for hiding because according to him, "it was hard for her to climb in."

Inspiring past

While he doesn’t always refer to this home for inspiration, Kenny says he may have been inspired by his old home subconsciously. One of his designs, for example, a coffee table conceptualised during a workshop with influential industrial designer Naoto Fukasawa, was inspired by a Scandinavian table found in his very first home. Elements such as the clean, sleek lines seen in his old home have also quietly found their way into his designs.

Kenny Hong modernised the design of his old coffee table by creating a slight curve as well as a tilted angle to the table legs.

View more of Kenny’s work at www.kenny-hong.com.

Photos courtesy of Kenny Hong

Have interesting old interiors that you want to share with other readers? Drop us an email at hello@cromly.com!

You can also visit our interactive microsite that features Singaporean homes in the past five decades.

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