A fixture on the philanthropy and society scenes known for her sartorial sense of adventure—which in itself belies her very serious job as Senior Consultant and Director of Neuroanaesthesia and Neurocritical Care at Singapore General Hospital—June Goh-Rin, who is in her 50s, isn’t one whose abode you might assume to be so subdued. The sprawling but restrained two-storey structure a stone’s throw from the Botanic Gardens sports a mostly white facade; inside, muted shades of greys and whites dominate. It is neither stark nor severe though—soft, oversize furnishings, vibrant art, and antique Chinese objects showing the rich patina of age have made it a warm, cosy home for four.
Though each room is closed off and contained, lending a sense of privacy to its occupants, floor-to-ceiling glass doors and windows keep the spaces interconnected while bathing the house in natural light. Those same expansive windows also bring the outdoors in—specifically, the central courtyard and pool around which the house has been constructed.
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While the overall effect is effortless, every detail— no matter how seemingly minor—had been thoroughly considered. “When we moved in here, it was with a baby and a six-year-old, so it had to be child-friendly. We wanted space for them to run around, muck about, get messy in. We also compartmentalised these separate areas so they could have their piano lessons and tuition classes, or so my husband could have his friends over for wine, while everyone else goes about their day,” says Goh-Rin.
In terms of atmosphere, the time the couple spent in London in the late 1990s and early 2000s informed her approach. “Our flat on Kensington Church Street was actually an artist’s studio,” she shares, “so it had these huge glass windows with cherry blossom trees outside. We got used to having a lot of light and connecting with the outdoors, so with this house, we didn’t want to feel confined or closed in.”
Opting not to work with an interior designer, Goh-Rin instead let practicality guide her design choices. “We didn’t want anything too avant garde; we just wanted something that was quite timeless,” she says. “I also wanted a house that was quite low maintenance, and with the pitched roof and the extended eaves, we don’t get water streaking and never had to repaint. The granite surfaces outside need absolutely no maintenance.” The granite reappears in the kitchen, again due to practical reasons: “As much as I wanted all-white marble in the kitchen, I heard it stains terribly. So the island is black granite and now, I can spill turmeric or whatever on it—it doesn’t stain and it doesn’t lose its gloss. It wasn’t all about the look. For me, it was very important to marry practicality with aesthetics.”
While Goh-Rin veers towards the classical in architecture and interiors, her approach to fashion is vastly different. “Fashion can change with mood, temperament, time,” she asserts. “I like all sorts of styles, which is why I like experimenting. I never want to be frozen in one particular look. Plus, we all have to adapt to our circumstances—whether you have a young child or get older; when our lifestyles or our figures change.”
Perhaps no change has been more monumental in recent memory than the onset of a global pandemic and Goh-Rin’s priorities have shifted accordingly. “I find myself going more towards loungewear now,” she lets on. “It has to be functional, really comfortable yet suitable and presentable enough for Zoom meetings.”
Though she may have new favourites for this new normal—she has been gravitating towards brands she has never bought before, such as Deveaux, Faithfull the Brand and lululemon—some old ones remain. “For classics, I like Chanel as well as Fendi’s almost-conservative chic, with the longer dresses and the puff sleeves,” she says. “I like Loewe for the way it does volume and that sort of boho-chic, arty look. I like that the brand brings in a lot of artisans to work on the clothes and bags—this woven leather bag I bought that was inspired by Japanese basket weaving.” On a day-to-day basis, Goh-Rin has a thing for Dior: “The comfortable t-shirts with the big belts and the longer skirts—that’s a look that translates quite well for work. The accessories are great too—I think the Saddle belt goes with a lot of my things and I like the bucket hats too.”
Goh-Rin’s love for dressing up (and Dior) was probably inherited from her grandmother, whom she says was “a real pioneering Peranakan woman. There’s a photo of her driving a red sports car and wearing shorts—quite forward for a woman of her time. She was always best dressed; she had these beautiful gowns, strapless Dior pieces with big, full skirts. I have her old cheongsams, which are stunning—like Maggie Cheung’s in In the Mood for Love. She loved big, bold costume jewellery, not delicate little jade pieces. I fell in love with fashion just looking at her photos.”
While her grandmother sparked that love, it was Goh-Rin’s time in the UK that helped nurture it and hone her eye. “I loved going to flea markets; we would go to Camden Market, Portobello Market, even markets outside of London,” she shares. “But because our flat in London was tiny, I switched from buying furniture to smaller objects such as beaded bags, antique jewellery, old Chanel and Dior pieces that were so beautifully made.” Her love for antiques has been a long-lasting one. “In the ’90s, nobody really wanted these Chinese furniture and antiques, so a group of us from medical school would go hunting for antiques in these old warehouses in remote places. They would just be sitting there on the floor.”
It was around the same time that Goh-Rin started collecting art alongside antiques. “I started buying when I graduated,” she discloses. “My pay, frankly, wasn’t very high, so I went for young artists and Asian artists.” That same ethos has remained and today, works from a wide range of Singaporean, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Malaysian and Indonesian artists populate her home—all united by their vivid, brilliant use of colour and texture.
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One of the paintings that takes pride of place in her living room is by a mental patient from what was formerly the Woodbridge Hospital, where Goh-Rin was posted to early on in her career. Unlike those who view their art collections purely as another investment vehicle, Goh-Rin’s collecting is driven by emotional resonance. “I buy things not because of their value, but because they appeal to me. I have to like them to live with them,” she states. As logical and obvious as it sounds, that approach is not as common as it should be in a world where slavish devotion to market trends and advisor-approved purchases are inescapable parts of the reality. And it is also why Goh-Rin’s unpretentious mix of the practical and the emotional has resulted in a truly stylish home—emphasis on the last word.
Photographer: Brendan Zhang
Stylist: Gracia Phang
Makeup and Hair: Grego using Estée Lauder and Keune Haircosmetics
Photographer’s Assistant: Ryan Loh