The expat lifestyle is often described as a dose of the surreal. But 17-year expat Susan Sadler, who hails from the original La-La Land – Los Angeles – takes it all in her stride. With a warm smile, this quintessential California girl welcomed us into her Holland Grove home to talk about long distance relationships, home renovations and why every woman needs at least one chandelier in the bathroom.
I ring the bell and white-painted iron gates at the entrance to the driveway slowly open. I amble past the beautifully manicured lawn (not a rooftop garden, but an actual yard, sigh), past Scout – ferociously vicious guard-dog-turned-cuddly-dud with a few loving pats to the head – and up to the glass-plated front door.
Susan welcomes me with an amused glint in her eye. “Did you see the butterflies on your way in?” she inquires. Butterflies? Why no, I didn’t, but I certainly saw the palms and beautiful flowers, I explain. Susan laughs, interjecting, “No, on the sidewalks! It was election time last month. And, to keep the constituents happy, they painted flowers and other pictures on all of the sidewalks in the area. It just so happens that my street got butterflies!”
As we joke about the effect on the housing market of the neighbourhood’s newest art installations, Susan says she has learned to just go with flow. She’s going on for her 15th year in Singapore (with an additional two in Jakarta), after all. What brought her to the region? Why, the noblest reason of all – love.
In the mid 1990s, Susan was building a successful advertising career in L.A. when she met her now-husband, Ed, on a ski trip in Aspen, Colorado. “Ed was living in Singapore at the time, so my friends on the trip kept asking me, ‘Why are you wasting your time with this guy?’”
Ed and Susan’s second date was sealed through another ski trip – this time to Verbier, Switzerland (accompanied by Ed’s entire family, no less) – and a third date in Tokyo followed not long thereafter.
“When we got engaged, we calculated that we had only spent 32 days together. And, this was before the days of email. During our first month of dating, my telephone bill was over US$1,000. We would fax notes to each another, which we thought was really high tech!”
The Sadlers have lived in six different homes since moving to Singapore. (“We moved every two years, whether we wanted to or not.”) After the birth of twin sons, they quickly outgrew their first apartment on Cairnhill Road and spent the next six years in three different condos along Bukit Timah Road. They bought and sold a house not far from where they live today, before finally settling into their current three-storey home on Holland Grove View in 2008.
When they moved in, Susan’s initial plan was to duplicate the look of her former home. Then a friend recommended that she give Wendy Smith from Design Intervention a call.
“When Wendy saw this house, she had so many new ideas – ones that I never would have thought of,” says Susan. “Plus, she is excellent about mixing Asian and contemporary furniture, which is the style that Ed and I like.”
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