From the outside, and to the uneducated eye (mine), Jenny Lewis and Richard Bleasdale’s house on Eng Neo Avenue looks like a classic black-and-white home. However, according to Julian Davidson, author and expert on Singapore’s historic houses, this property is not actually a colonial property. Jenny says, “Apparently, it’s only black-and-white because it’s been painted in that way. They were built as university houses, but many people do think they’re historic.”
Colonial or not, Jenny’s home has a distinctive and striking style that resonates from her background and expertise in the textiles business. She has been running her fabrics company Bode from home since 2008, and the distinctive fabrics she imports can be seen dotted around the place, including the vibrantly coloured bumblebee cushions from Timorous Beasties that she sits against in the garden.
Since the property is owned by the SLA (Singapore Land Authority), Jenny and her family have made only a few alterations to it themselves. Many years ago, she recalls, Richard built a tree house for the children, but due to the shallow roots of the indigenous tree it fell down the very next day. However, after eight years in the house, they’re now looking to downsize.
“I’ll be sad to leave this house; it’s such a nice, easy place to live in. I don’t think we would be leaving if the owners had done more to look after the place, but I also feel the need to move somewhere closer to town, into something smaller.” Jenny’s Bode business has already moved out of her home and into the Tan Boon Liat Building on Outram Road, so there’s even less need for space. “Our eldest daughter is at university and our youngest is of course getting older, so it’s really time to move.”
Having worked within the graphic design and branding industries for many years, both in her home country New Zealand and then briefly in Scotland, Jenny decided it was time for a change: she would work for herself once they’d established their home in Singapore.
“I found working in branding frustrating, and felt I was just drifting along,” she says. “I’d always liked interiors, and I thought – naively, it turns out – that there wasn’t such a leap from graphic design and branding to interiors. But of course there was!”
One of the most important things for Jenny, and a turning point for the business, was to foster strong contacts within the interior design industry. She counts many of the architects and designers she works with her as her style influences. Her projects span commercial and residential properties, and her company mandate is to create collections that are interesting and not the norm in Singapore.
“I think that trends in fabric and wallpaper design move faster than they used to, and technologies such as digital printing have introduced greater diversity.” Brands such as Designs of the Time, Timorous Beasties, Florence Broadhurst, and Liberty Arts Fabrics, to name a few, can all be seen in her stylish new showroom.
Jenny points to travel as another of her style influences, including the bits and pieces she picks up along the way. We talk about one of her favourite destinations, Sri Lanka, where she and her good friend Dean, previously her business partner at Bode, now own a house together. Scrolling through the pictures she has of the place on her phone, it’s evidently stunning, and she says she’s looking forward to many family holidays there.
Closer to home, she’s not so keen on the imminent hunt for somewhere else to live. “It’s hard looking at moving; there’s always something wrong with the places you see, but at the end of the day you just have to compromise.” With that we take a walk around her current (for the time being, at least!) home.
Fost Gallery (“excellent for contemporary art that is affordable, and a lot of interesting Singaporean artists – we just bought an incredible piece by an artist called Grace Tan”)
#01-02 Gillman Barracks
1 Lock Road
Artistry Café and Bar (“for music and hanging out in the Arab Street area”)
17 Jalan Pinang
6298 2420 | artistryspace.com
Providore (“they’re really passionate; I just bought some orange bitters from them the other day – it makes such a difference to a gin and tonic, and even makes cheap gin taste good!”)
#05-03 Tan Boon Liat Building
315 Outram Road
The Projector (“a fabulous new cinema in an old movie theatre on the fifth floor of the Golden Mile Building; it shows all the interesting movies that don’t make the blockbuster cut here”)
#05-00 Golden Mile Tower
6001 Beach Road
17 Hong Kong Street
28 Hong Kong St (“for cocktails and the best bar food”)
Bode Fabrics (“We also now carry Vantage Concept rugs. Pauline has the best selection of both natural and glamorous rugs.”)
#05-10 Tan Boon Liat Building
315 Outram Road
This story first appeared in Expat Living’s August 2015 issue.
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