Anyone fortunate enough to know JEN and DUNCAN BOND will attest that they’re a couple making the most of every single Singapore second. With a gracious black-and-white colonial house as their base, they work hard, play hard and lead an active life with their tribe of three kids in tow. We stopped by the Bukit Timah house for a visit and a chat with Jen.
About the home
Size: Five bedroom black-and-white house
Location: Leyden Hill, Bukit Timah
Who lives there: Jen and Duncan, Alice (10), Rosie (8), Lachlan (6), helper Marites and bird Toto
Tell us a bit about yourself and your beautiful family.
Like many adventure-seeking Australians, at 27 I applied for a working-holiday visa to the UK. Taking leave without pay from corporate finance work in Melbourne, I left for London with a backpack, suitcase and one-way ticket…
While I’d intended to travel for a few months, I somehow landed in the middle of Rio Tinto’s divestment programme shortly after I arrived – in hindsight it was fortunate given the global financial crisis was just around the corner. Twenty months later, I was being lured to Singapore by my then boyfriend (now husband) Duncan who works in shipping. Thankfully, with Rio Tinto’s growing presence in Singapore I was lucky to be transferred here with the company.
As Singapore has such a large shipping community, 13 years later we’re still here enjoying the incredible life that the Little Red Dot has to offer. And in that time three little people have joined us on this wild ride!
What are some of your top non-negotiables with property?
As sport-loving Aussies, our non-negotiables included a pool and access by foot to a running corridor or park. Equally high on the list of essentials are a good location, space and natural light.
When we first arrived in Singapore as a professional couple, condo living was attractive to optimise facilities and location. As our little brood grew in size and energy, our priority shifted to obtaining noise dissipating space, a backyard for flying balls, and room to simply “be” as a family. As busy working parents, it’s nice to come home to a place where we can relax.
Did you always have your eye on a colonial home, or was it a happy coincidence that you ended up in one?
After a decade living in Singapore, I was drawn to the charm of the black-and-white houses. But the main priority was a functional, big backyard (preferably space for a cricket pitch – Duncan’s criteria!) in a reasonable location. This tends to be limited in Singapore, but something offered in spades by many of the old colonial houses. I was on the lookout, or being totally honest, on the hunt, and ready to pounce when something surfaced! I was already familiar with and loved the neighbourhood, so it felt like fate when 4 Leyden Hill came up for tender.
How did you know that this was the home for you?
Without doubt, the backyard vibe sealed the deal for us! The spacious, tree-lined outlook was a refreshing relief from the “Singapore shuffle” (with frustrations heightened ten-fold in the 2020 COVID lockdown). The party-perfect nature of the outdoor space also did not go unnoticed by Duncan. We hosted a fabulous “Boardies and Bikinis” Brazilian barbecue party last year with a live band and dancing. A night to remember!
The house is in a fantastic location near the Singapore Botanic Gardens and MRT, in a lovely neighbourhood, and is the perfect size for our family. It’s also well-kept for a black-and-white, which is important as you become responsible for the ongoing maintenance and upkeep. The property is rented as a shell, so basic utilities like air-conditioning and hot water are the tenant’s responsibility to install and manage. The kitchen fit-out was lacking, so I put in some cost-effective, well-designed IKEA cabinetry before we moved in.
This Bukit Timah house feels so light, bright and welcoming! How would you define your interior style?
I always start with a fresh, neutral base and overlay with some playful personal touches. My style leans towards a coastal, Scandi aesthetic. But I love a splash of colour to inject personality and warmth to the space.
Being in Asia, I was keen to weave in a few oriental accents, hence my bookshelves and turquoise and blue cabinets, which are some of my most treasured pieces.
Is there a place in the house that you find yourself gravitating towards?
The patio off the living room wins hands down! Really, it’s an extension of the house, and functions as an extra room. It’s where we spend most of our time, relaxing, napping, entertaining, playing games, painting and dining.
My favourite inside space is my bedroom, with its beautiful views from both windows that soak up the morning and evening light. Doors open onto a little balcony, which is the perfect spot for sundowners. If you ask my kids where they like to hang out, it would be a circuit of the Funky Monkey Bars (which we imported from Australia), the trampoline and the pool!
Where will we find you scouting for furniture and home décor?
Tan Boon Liat Building – I love taking time to explore all the wonderful furniture and homeware stores level by level. I’ve lost count of the number of special things I’ve collected over the years. It didn’t help matters that I lived across the road from there for almost a decade! For vintage Asian pieces, I can’t go past Lee’s Antiques and Lims Legacy.
Your walls are a riot of colour! Talk us through your art.
The kids’ art is not only bright and wonderful, but so sentimental. I frame it, often in just simple wooden frames, and I have lined our staircase with pieces – now known as “The Gallery”. Their paintings fill shelves and walls all over the house, but I never tire of them. And you’d be surprised how often people ask me where I get my art from!
What is it about Singapore that keeps you here so long?
We adore the amazing global community in Singapore – with so many interesting experiences, ideas and life recommendations. The variety of cultures is so refreshing, and the opportunity to explore so many of these on our doorstep is another huge bonus.
Restaurants & Cafés
Blu Kouzina | blukouzina.com
Margarita’s | margaritasrestaurante.com
Tamarind Hill | tamarindrestaurants.com
An Açai Affair (“Yes, my kids and I have been sucked into the latest health food fad… but they are delicious! We head to the Bukit Timah branch”) | anacaiaffair.com
Cluny Court (“A great little mix of boutique shops and cafés right on my doorstep”) | clunycourt.com
Tan Boon Liat Building | tanboonliat.com
Lee’s Antiques | leesantiques.sg
Lims Legacy | limslegacy.com
Singapore Polo Club (“a great, newly renovated club for family time”) | singaporepoloclub.org
Singapore Cricket Club (“we’ve celebrated milestone events at SCC including our wedding and my 40th birthday bash”) scc.org.sg
ONE°15 Marina (“for a swim overlooking luxury boats on the Marina”) | one15marina.com
Outdoor places to escape the hustle
Singapore Botanic Gardens (“the Evolution Garden is my favourite area”) | nparks.gov.sg
Gardens by the Bay (“such a wonderful place for exploring – we love the Far East Organization Children’s Garden and waterplay fountains”) | gardensbythebay.com.sg
Bukit Batok Brown Cemetery (“like you’ve stepped into another time and place”) | bukitbrown.com
MacRitchie Reservoir (“so natural, spacious and peaceful”) visitsingapore.com
Mount Faber (“for a nature hike with the kids”) | nparks.gov.sg
Boardwalk between Keppel Bay and Labrador Nature Reserve
Athletics Tracks (“being an athlete some years ago, I have a sentimental pull to tracks – there’s a good one next to the Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden”)
Dempsey Hill (“who doesn’t love Dempsey?”) | dempseyhill.com
Haji Lane and the Arab Quarter
Robertson Quay (“after a decade living in the Quay and walking babies and toddlers along the river, it will always be a special place for me!”) | robertsonquay.com
Sentosa (“I never tire of a beach vibe, especially for a weekend escape”) | sentosa.com.sg
This article first appeared in the May 2023 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase the latest issue or subscribe, so you never miss a copy!
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