This article first appeared in Harper’s BAZAAR Singapore, the leading fashion glossy on the best of style, beauty, design, travel and the arts. Go to harpersbazaar.com.sg and follow @harpersbazaarsg on Instagram; harpersbazaarsingapore on Facebook. The June 2021 issue is out on news-stands now.
SINGAPORE – Bare-faced and cosily clad in an oversize Balenciaga sweater and sweatpants, Kim Lim greets you first with an apology for keeping you waiting (she is struggling with stomach flu) and for having you come through the service entrance (which now serves as her main entrance after she had her home fengshui-ed, something she takes seriously).
The beauty entrepreneur’s new home is a double-storey penthouse in the Balmoral area that spans some 6,000 sq ft. Despite the size, the vibe is intimate and cosy, with sleek grey marble and glass offsetting cushy cream furnishings.
At the time of my visit, the entire rug and coffee table in the living room upstairs have been taken over by her three-year-old son’s toys. The smaller living room downstairs is still a work in progress.
Lim, whose father is billionaire Peter Lim, moved here in February from a smaller unit in the same building.
“At that time, my son was still really young, so I didn’t want a house with stairs in case he falls,” says the 29-year-old whose three-year marriage to Kho Bin Khai ended last year. “He’s bigger now, so we decided to move. He likes having all this space.”
Expansive as her new home is, what clinched the deal for Lim is the view. Beyond the huge glass windows that run the entire length of the home is an unbeatable view of the city’s skyline.
“I feel you seldom get a house with a view like this nowadays,” she says. “When you raise all the blinds and look out, sometimes, it feels like I’m not in Singapore. We’re not in the heart of Orchard, so it’s not too busy and still quite private. Yet, you get that city feel, which I really wanted because I’m more of a city person.”
She worked with interior design studio Ninelines on the decor.
“It’s quite a new company. I didn’t want to use anyone fancy and I thought of supporting younger people. I wanted something modern and contemporary – you walk in and there’s almost a bit of a New York vibe going on. It’s nice, but also still quite simple,” she says.
Comfort was key for Lim. “I wanted it to be very cosy, very chill – the vibe is that when I’m here, I don’t want to go out.”
That is quite the lifestyle change for a woman who used to spend half her time outside of Singapore.
But since 2019, Lim has made the country a more permanent home base as she focuses on building up her businesses.
Today, her new pad has made her even more of a homebody, she says.
Her favourite space at home is her wardrobe (which she expanded by converting one of the four bedrooms), but where she spends the most time is the living room upstairs.
It is where TV nights happen and, when friends come over, the action moves into the karaoke room off to one corner of the living room or to the patio and its glass-enclosed conversation pit outside.
Like her approach to her interiors, Lim’s sense of style is, as she describes it, “simple”, evident in her penchant for effortless but elevated streetwear and basics.
“My style when it comes to my home and fashion is the same: I like very simple things. My day-to-day look now is a sweater with long sweatpants.”
When she wants to take things up a notch, she favours a mix of the masculine and the feminine.
“If I dress up, I’ll usually be in an oversize blazer – I just bought a great Saint Laurent one. I like quite boyish looks,” she says.
“There might be something feminine, like a lace top, but I’ll wear it with big, baggy trousers and an oversize blazer. Even if I’m wearing a dress, I’ll wear it with sneakers. If it’s not an event or a photo shoot, I never do a girly-girl look.”
Her go-to brands are a checklist of fashion’s biggest names.
“I like Louis Vuitton. It has really youthful, fashion-forward pieces I like to wear with sneakers. I also like Saint Laurent and Celine, especially the latter’s recent collections. The blazers are really nice, but recently, the brand has been doing a more casual look, like with the sweatpants, which is so my style.
“I like Dior a lot too, but not the clothes – I find them too girly and the fit doesn’t really work for me, but the bags and accessories are great.
“Dior Men, I love. All my Balenciaga pieces are menswear. If I’m feeling lazy and I’m just going to my grandmother’s house or something, I just throw on a big Balenciaga T-shirt.”
Lim still shops up a storm, but these days, she is trying to be more mindful about the mileage she gets out of her pieces.
“Before this, sometimes, I’d buy things and end up never using them,” she admits. “Now, I realise these things aren’t cheap. I have to at least put them to use, so I do try to wear, reuse and rotate pieces.”
Fashion is also no longer such a big priority. Lim’s attention is on beauty these days – specifically her two beauty businesses, Illumia Therapeutics and Papilla Haircare.
“Apart from during the circuit breaker, the past two years have just been about work, work, work,” she says. “I’m at the clinics every day.”
The mogul-in-the-making has grand plans to expand her empire.
“For the next four or five months, I’m going to be in Thailand meeting people for work,” she says. “We’re expanding the businesses in a few countries, but Thailand will be the first. Hopefully, we’ll be able to start running in 2022.”
People assume that she does not need to work, she says.
“But my dad has always pushed us to build something of our own. He would not be happy if I’m not doing anything in my life. And now that I’ve started building something, I can’t imagine not having things to do or goals to achieve. Life would be so boring and meaningless.”