It’s always interesting to see how different people can use the same kind of space to create something distinct yet equally striking. Expat Living showcased another apartment in this same building two years’ ago, so it was opportunity for us to see just that. This apartment happens to belong to Visha Nelson, owner of home décor shop The Cinnamon Room, where you can find cowhide rugs and cushions, artwork and home accessories – not to forget free weekly meditation sessions. Here she talks about translating her own design influences into her family’s home.
Who lives here: Visha, of Sri Lankan origin but born in Singapore, British husband Richard, children Harry (12) and Lara (10), helper Marie and rescue dog Mango.
How long in Singapore: Eight years this time (Visha grew up here as a child).
Size and type of home: 360-square-metre, four-bedroom apartment off Lornie Road, which they bought three years ago
This isn’t the first time Visha has lived in Singapore. From there she travelled to London, where she lived for 17 years, then Hong Kong for two years and New York for one. Both she and Richard have a background in law – Visha previously worked as a capital markets lawyer, and Richard as an energy lawyer. When they moved to Singapore, Visha had given up her job, and they were moving with Richard’s position. The relocation options given to them were Moscow, Hong Kong and Singapore. “We’d lived in Hong Kong already and with young kids I just thought no, then when they started discussing bulletproof cars for the family we struck Moscow off the list too!”
So Singapore it was, albeit reluctantly, admits Visha. One thing she highly recommends, and which helped her come out of her initial funk, was finding work. “I found myself at way too many coffee mornings with people moaning about being bored, or their maids, so I started working at an art gallery, then trained to become a docent at the Singapore Art Museum; this is one of the best things I can recommend people do. It was a great way to meet like-minded people.”
Finding her feet
The family first settled on a huge house in Chancery Lane, but when this deteriorated beyond reasonable use they moved to another property on Chancery Hill. Ignoring the dud houses they were shown – including one with a urinal in the front yard! – Visha narrowed it down to this Arcadia condo. It’s an older build whose size and stability appealed to her, as well as the maintenance assistance – something you don’t get when you purchase a house.
Home away from home
Although she has a background in law, Visha’s passion is in design and décor. So, when she quit her profession to start a family, she also followed her heart and went to Chelsea Art College to take part in a handful of courses to learn the interior design trade. Once settled into Singapore, she struggled to find furniture and furnishings that fitted her budget and quality standards. Initially setting up sale events and attending fairs, she then became part of a design collective, which opened for a short while in PasarBella.
Visha decided to progress towards a design business rather than purely a shop, and she needed something that would also give her that crucial worklife balance. She opened her Holland Village shop, The Cinnamon Room, towards the end of last year, and is clearly positive about the decision. The shop is also home to a regular meditation session, held every Thursday by Gladys Lee of Dawn of Gaia.
Inspiration and aspiration
For Visha, design influences are all around her, but particularly when she travels. She and Richard have just purchased a plot of land in Sri Lanka, ten minutes from Galle, which provides another inspirational hunting ground for Visha. “You can find these hidden places selling gorgeous old shutters or candle sticks; I love the discovery of it all. In fact, send me anywhere with a market and I love it. Take Morocco: there’s often a lot of tat, but then you’ll find a gem. Present me with a beautiful shop and of course I love it, but I really get my kicks out of rifling through somewhere and finding a little treasure.”
By: Amy Brook-Patridge
Photography: Michael Bernabe
Health & Leisure
Gladys Lee of Dawn of Gaia (“for meditation sessions, retreats and workshops”)
Greenwood Avenue (“for a great enclave of fantastic restaurants, bakeries, a fishmonger and a butcher”)
Charlie’sAntiques (“for hidden treasures and antiques waiting to be revamped into pieces of beauty”)
2 Turf Club Road | 9791 2607
The Cinnamon Room (“for chic contemporary home décor, including hide rugs that can be customised to any size, plus artworks by Diana Francis, Elephant Parade Merchandise and lots of unique gift ideas”)
#02-74 Block 43, Jalan Merah Saga
9727 3051 | facebook.com/CinnamonRoomDesigns
Where should you live? Look at our neighborhood guides
Get more design inspo in our Homes section.