To say that Dr Sue Anne Toh is an art lover would be a massive understatement. Framed and lined up on walls and stairways, sitting atop chests and sideboards, leaning against large windows, her art collection is best described as everything, everywhere, all at once. But make no mistake, while her home boasts an impressive collection of Singaporean art ranging from paintings by Chen Wen Hsi to pottery by Iskandar Jalil, it is far from being a stuffy museum. Instead, her three-storey house in Newton which sits on 5,000 square feet of land, has a relaxed, breezy feel, with the art pieces—ranging from Chinese ink paintings to pottery to large-form sculptures—thoughtfully curated and fitting in seamlessly with the chic furnishings and lush landscaping.
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Dr Toh lives in the home with her husband, Steven, who works in finance, her two children, aged 10 and 13, and two dogs. They moved to this property in December of 2020, having stayed previously in a conservation house in Cairnhill.
The main reason for the move was to have a personalised space that could properly house all their art. She told her architect, Jonathan Quek of RT+Q, that she wanted to see either “greenery or water from every corner of the home and every window she looked out of”. It also had to be designed to house all their artworks, especially the larger pieces which needed sufficient wall space. Such is the couple’s eye for detail that even the lap pool outside the living room is a veritable art piece—a bonsai tree framed dramatically by a moon gate feature wall, their architect’s signature that adds a Zen-like feel to the space. Creating an oasis of calm was central to the design brief. Dr Toh took care of the interior decorations herself as she found the process therapeutic rather than stressful. She so enjoyed the process of sourcing for the furniture and pieces, the endocrinologist says she would not rule out a retirement career as an interior designer.
Her multi-disciplinary health and wellness practice focuses on getting to the root of a patient’s health issues. “It’s about looking at a patient as a whole person, instead of one body part,” explains the founder, CEO and medical director of NOVI Health. She takes wellbeing very seriously, advocating a holistic approach that looks at patients’ diet and fitness activities—alongside cutting-edge technology—and coaching them remotely to treat and manage chronic health issues rather than simply treating the symptoms.
Dr Toh takes a similarly holistic approach to her art collection—each piece must integrate into the décor. She has certain rules that she abides by. First, both she and her husband must like a piece in order to acquire it. Second, art is meant to be put on display and enjoyed, so she does not fuss about keeping their Chinese ink paintings in an air-conditioned environment just so they can be protected from humidity. Third, she does not “chase” after a piece if it is not meant to be. For instance, a sculpture by artist Han Sai Por took some time to find its way to Dr Toh—she waited for the artist, who finally contacted her after some deliberation. She also owns another piece by Han that she cherishes, an abstract sculpture called Family that was made for a travelling exhibition that started in Russia. The sculpture takes pride of place in a second floor living room area that overlooks the pool, and holds special meaning for Dr Toh as it symbolises the five members of her own family at that time, which included her late dog Nemo. In that same space is a collection of artwork by another Singaporean artist, Jane Lee. Alongside the artworks, which include a large-form sculpture and 3D paintings in bold shades of red, is a curated photo wall of framed family snapshots taken by her husband, which along with her collection of coffee table books add a personal touch.
Collecting Singaporean art gives Dr Toh a deeper appreciation of the creative process. “Part of the joy in collecting is getting to know the artists and their journeys, and how the works reflect their progression, both in terms of their skill, but also in terms of the times that they live in, and what they capture during those times,” she says. Many of the couple’s paintings are mounted on wall hanging systems that allow them to be easily changed out, so that they can rotate their collection. An entire room in the house is dedicated to storing art pieces that are not presently on display.
In order to let the art shine, she has chosen furniture and lighting with clean lines. An example is the Arne Jacobsen Series 7 chair that pops up in various incarnations both at the dining table and throughout the house. Crafted in different colourways and finishes, each chair’s appearance is transformed by these touches, points out Dr Toh. “I like the simple curves and ergonomic form of this chair. They are also surprisingly comfortable,” she adds. Comfort is as important as style, as evinced by a large, pale grey Cassina Maralunga sofa with adjustable headrests in the living room that sits under Chinese ink paintings by Chen Wen Hsi and Cheong Soo Pieng. A large Moooi Coppélia Suspended chandelier above the dining table echoes the open form of the silver Zheng Lu sculpture in the nearby living area—similar yet different, these small, unstudied touches create a thematic cohesiveness in the decor.
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Besides championing Singaporean artists, she also supports local fashion, such as Stolen for its fluid pieces, as well as cheongsams from labels which subvert traditional dress codes such as Ong Shunmugam, Laichan and The Missing Piece. When dressing for work in the clinic, she believes in being “comfortable and respectful”. Other designers she favours include Chanel, Balmain, Hermès and Louis Vuitton—she recently acquired two pieces from the brand’s latest collaboration with Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. “When it comes to my wardrobe, I like things that are timeless and sophisticated. We are all unique, special individuals, and you have to be comfortable in who you are. How you dress yourself and your home is a reflection of that. It’s all about an authentic way of communicating,” she says.
Photographed by Gan
Styled by Gracia Phang
Digital Content Manager: Navin Pillay
Videographer: Ewan Lim / Ohai Media
Makeup: Mandy using YSL Beaute
Hair: Peter Lee/35A using Goldwell
Stylist’s assistants: Brandon Chia and Naysa Pradhan
- A Fashionable Life