Renowned hotelier and restaurateur Loh Lik Peng has a penchant for collecting designer chairs. P1 sits down with the avid collector
Loh Lik Peng is a familiar name and face in Singapore’s cultural circles, yet his route has been an unlikely one. Born in Dublin to Singaporean parents, Loh studied Law in England (including a postgrad at the London School of Economics) before returning ‘home’ at the age of 23. Just a couple of years later, Loh had left the world of corporate litigation to instead turn his attentions to the hospitality industry – hardly a well-trodden career path. However, Loh excelled in his new world, opening hotels and restaurants first in London, Singapore and Shanghai.
In 2004, Singapore Tourism Board awarded him the New Tourism Entrepreneur Award for his work in transforming a simple traditional shop house into Hotel 1929. Loh hasn’t looked back, opening other signature hotels like the iconic New Majestic, which forms the perfect space to house part of his collection of designer chairs.
“When I was a student, I started buying chairs – small-time investments here and there – and then read a lot about the history of chair design. My fascination developed from there,’ Loh tells P1.
“I started collecting classic mid-century chairs when I was in college and my collections have bled into everything I do now – from the hotels to the restaurants – and it influences a lot of things we do at Unlisted Collection.”
Unlisted Collection is the umbrella brand for Loh’s boutique hotel properties and restaurants in Singapore, London, Shanghai and upcoming in Sydney. The hotels are set within heritage listed buildings that have been sensitively restored and reinvented into cutting-edge lifestyle concepts. There are now 27 properties within the Unlisted Collection.
Unusually for a collector, Loh is quite happy to have his prized possessions not only on public display but available for guests to lounge around in his hotel lobbies and restaurants.
“I collect purely for fun and because I become obsessive about things, but I don’t like to have museum pieces that I can’t place around or use daily,” Loh says, admitting he has hundreds of chairs in his properties.
“I lost count of those in the hotels and restaurants,” he says. “The rest that I’m unable to fit into the properties I have a warehouse where I store them!
“I do not get to keep any at home now! My wife does not like having the clutter and boxes lying about,” he laughs.
Loh says he has no idea what his collection is worth in terms of monetary value, so is also unsure whether his passion has been a good investment – having never had them valued and never sold one. In fact, he only plans to add to his impressive collection and now has his sights set on a private jet seat. So what satisfaction does he get from his seats, being a busy entrepreneur with little time for sitting down?
“I sit in them all the time – they’re everywhere in the hotels and restaurants,” says Loh. “So I guess yes, I do have time to appreciate them.”