Lawrence Wong spends his days on lavish sets and bustling mega productions—most recently, the actor can be seen in The Ferryman: Legends of Nanyang, a big‑budget fantasy series that marks the first Southeast Asian original series from iQIYI, the Chinese streaming giant. His home, however, is worlds away from the artifice and extravagance of a movie set. Hidden behind a cool grey facade is a two-and-a-half-storey four-bedroom house in the northeast that Wong has turned into an oasis of serenity—awash in shades of cream and white, and accented with the chalky, sandy hues of stones and the warm tones of wood.
The space is bathed in light flooding in from both ends of the house via full-height glass doors in the front and a skylight in the back. The design is minimal, but the effect is warm, thanks in large part to Wong’s use of plush, curved furniture with fuzzy, nubby textures and his penchant for the raw surfaces of stone-clad tables and countertops.
“I was drawn to this area because it’s so peaceful even though it’s just steps away from a vibrant neighbourhood,” shares Wong, who is in his 30s. “This house has a good energy—I feel a sense of calmness and that’s something very important to me because my work is already quite chaotic. I need to go through so many emotions as an actor, so when I come home, I want a space that allows me to leave all of that behind—like a clean slate, so I can let in other emotions when I head to work again.” To do that, the Malaysian-born Singaporean, who shot to global fame after his turn in the 2018 Chinese period drama Story of Yanxi Palace, embarked on major renovations, opening up spaces and letting the light in.
“I opened up the wet kitchen. I reconfigured everything on the second level— initially, you went up and all the rooms were just there. There was no landing and it was dark. I put in skylights and curved walls. I raised the height of some of the ceilings and the mezzanine floor. I just wanted the whole space to feel very open and sort of empty,” he says.
That emptiness, while purposeful and deliberate on Wong’s part, still came as quite a surprise to guests who have been over. “I’m a very minimal person—I don’t feel the urge to decorate and fill every corner or surface with stuff. Some of my friends think it’s cold and empty,” he admits, “but I disagree. I feel the space lends itself to any situation. It’s warm when I have people over, but when I’m alone, it’s peaceful. My friends think I should hang paintings on the walls because they’re so bare, but unless I find something I love, something that really speaks to me, I’m not going to force it.”
Currently, the only thing that has caught his eye and the only surface decoration in his house is a custom installation by This Humid House that hangs on the wall facing the entrance. Made of dried foliage, foam and string that have all been bleached of colour, it appears to float like an extraterrestrial plant form—it’s non-colour and wild textures speaking to Wong’s unpretentious approach to design and his preference for quiet beauty over splashy statements.
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“I really like when things are left in their raw state,” he reveals, “which is why I’ve used a lot of stone. The dining table is custom made from travertine and wood. I used granite for surfaces instead of marble because I think it’s more subtle. The floor is also very raw microcement. I don’t like things that scream in your face, so no chandeliers, no gold taps. Nothing here is too precious, not even the furniture.” Part of that is because of his cats, which “will scratch the hell out of everything”, but it is also partly because Wong likes a certain sense of impermanence, of leaving things open to the possibility of change.
“If something is destroyed, it’s destroyed—another thing will take its place,” he says. “It’s also why, except for in the kitchen, I have very little built-in furniture or fixtures. I want the space to be very fluid and adaptable—something that can change according to where I am in life and what my needs are at that moment. Five years down the road, if I’ve become a different person and the way I look at my space has changed, I want to be able to make that change. So much of life is about change.”
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As for how he has personally changed, Wong posits: “I think now, more and more, I’m able to just roll with things. When you’re younger, you tend to be more controlling or more fixated on certain things— how life should go, what success should look like. But as I get older, I find that I’m more open to different possibilities. Life can go in any direction and I’m okay with that.” He attributes this change in perspective to the literal change he made in his profession, venturing out of Singapore in 2016 to basically restart his career as a small fish in the biggest of ponds: Mainland China’s entertainment industry. “Compared to a lot of the local artists who stay put in Singapore, I think I’ve been through a lot more in my career,” he notes. “I’ve seen more, experienced more, travelled more, and I think all these things just add up.”
Although Wong now spends most of his time in China, Singapore will always be home. “It’s where I feel the most grounded,” he shares. “When I’m away, I miss the food here, my cats, my friends, my family, my house, my bed—it’s very, very different being able to come home after a long day of work and lie on your own couch, take a shower in your own bathroom and fall asleep in your own bed. Before Covid-19, I’d sometimes fly back just for two days if I could because even though it’s not a long time, it still feels like a recharge.”
When he’s at home, Wong’s favourite place to chill is on his Jean Royère-inspired sofa in the living room. He discloses: “I find myself falling asleep here more than I do in my bed! Because my life is so busy and I’m rarely around, I really relish the moments where I can just sit here and space out. I like just being here and looking out into the garden, because if you look closely enough, it actually changes every day. It’s something I never realised until I had my own garden and it just amazes me how nature changes so quickly.” Wong’s garden, like the rest of his house, is decidedly unfussy. “I didn’t want it to be manicured—I wanted things that grow wild,” he says. “And a lot of the flowers that I’ve chosen bloom in the morning and die off in the night, and the next morning, they bloom again. I really like that idea; it reminds me very much of life itself and show business in particular—beauty doesn’t last, but that doesn’t mean you can’t bloom again.”
That Zen-like mindset extends to how Wong views earthly possessions and pursuits. “I don’t really form attachments to material things,” he states. “In fact, when I’m in a bad mood or when I feel troubled, I like to get rid of things—I feel like I’m throwing away old energy and making space for something new to come in.” That goes for his approach to fashion as well. “I keep certain key pieces, but I never hold anything too dearly,” he says. The pieces he likes and keeps share a certain minimalist sensibility with his interiors—he reveals that he likes “clothes with really clean lines; things that are well cut in great materials, but with little details that make them special.”
A favourite designer of his is Kim Jones of Dior Men. “I love him because he pushes boundaries, but his work doesn’t cross the line, where it becomes too much. It’s still classy and wearable, but you can’t say that it’s boring. You can tell that he has put a lot of thought into it and he’s pushing boundaries, and yet, he gets the wearability balance very right,” he explains. “I even admire his womenswear for Fendi—I’m not going to wear them, but I appreciate the designs.”
It’s no surprise that Wong admires Jones’s subtle method. It mirrors the way he approaches his skincare and lifestyle brand, Grail, where he pushes for innovation in small, thoughtful ways rather than through grand statements and marketing-driven gimmicks. Having launched a sheet mask and a sunscreen, he is readying his third product but is unwilling to talk about it yet as it still has not been perfected. “With me, it’s a lot slower because I have to be personally involved in the entire process,” he says. “When we were working on the sunscreen, I was in China, so whenever I wanted to tweak the formulation, they had to send it all the way there. I’d try it for a while and then send it back, and repeat the whole process. That’s why I never set myself a timeline, like, ‘Oh, the 11.11 sale is coming up, we need to launch now.’ I want to be able to guarantee that whatever comes out, it’s a product that I truly stand behind.”
As an in-demand actor and a budding entrepreneur, one has to wonder: When exactly does Wong take a break? “I can’t remember the last time I took one,” he admits. “To be frank, I’m very tired. What keeps me going is the fact that opportunities don’t come knocking all the time. I’m a firm believer that if you’re doing well at work and it’s time to work, then just work hard. This being show business, you won’t do well at work forever. And when that happens, that’s when you rest hard. That’s just how things are; it doesn’t bother me at all. The world changes so fast—you just have to roll with it.” More meditative words have never been spoken, though of course, you wouldn’t expect anything less from someone who has built his own temple of Zen.