Condo living suits UK expat TING SMITH and husband Martin – and when they found an apartment in Singapore with a balcony and open views, it was a huge bonus. They chose Buona Vista, a little further away from the CBD than they’d hoped, but with the perfect amount of space.
Home Fact File
Size & Type: 1,900-square-foot apartment with balcony
Bedrooms/Bathrooms: 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms
Location: The Rochester Residences, Buona Vista
Occupants: Ting and Martin, daughter Esme (6), helper Lyn, and two cats, Pumpkin and Truffle
Tell us a bit about yourself and your journey here.
We’re both from the UK; I’m from Manchester and Martin is from Richmond in London. I moved to Hong Kong in 2004 to rediscover and embrace my Chinese heritage; I met Martin there in 2008 and we’ve been married for 12 years with a six-year-old daughter.
In May 2019, Martin’s company, an investment bank, offered an opportunity to relocate to Singapore. While Hong Kong holds a very special place in our hearts, we were ready for a new adventure and we knew Singapore was able to offer just that, with a more family-friendly environment.
What kind of property were you looking for when you arrived?
We’re city people at heart, and we have lived in houses with a garden in the UK. But since moving to Hong Kong we’d grown fond of condo living, and while there was an option to move into a house, living in an apartment in Singapore suited our lifestyle.
When we first arrived, our first rental in Newton was a very spacious four-bedroom condo apartment, with floor-to-ceiling windows and a great view. The location was ideal, close to many places and great local amenities. When the two-year lease was up, it was a good time to buy, so we took the plunge into the property market.
What was buying an apartment in Singapore like?
We looked at a lot of properties but were instantly drawn to the place we’re in now. It was a little further from the CBD than we’d hoped, but with the default shifting to work from home with the pandemic, our priority wasn’t about being close to our offices, it was about having the space we wanted.
One key feature that instantly attracted us was the balcony and the open view. Every room in the apartment leads to the balcony. We realised in pandemic times how important it was for us to have a useable outdoor space. Also, we both still mostly work from home, so having two home offices was important. The open kitchen was another big seller, as we enjoy cooking and entertaining.
The location is great, and while the neighbourhood is quiet, it’s next door to Star Vista with all its restaurants and amenities, and only a stone’s throw from Buona Vista MRT. We also frequent Holland Village, which is a bus stop away, or an active 12-minute walk.
What are some of the other things you liked about the apartment in Buona Vista?
When we first saw this place, I could visualise how to organise the space to create distinct areas for family, work, relaxation and entertainment. We’d never considered living in a condo with a balcony, with two cats and a young child, until moving to Singapore. Here, though, we were introduced to invisible grilles and rain- and wind-proof electric balcony blinds that offer safety for the family and allow us to use the space even when it rains.
I’ve created the outdoor area into three defined areas – casual lounge seating, a dining area and a bar table with high stools. This space has truly given us the sense of outdoor living in Singapore, which was exactly what we wished for. We’ve created a usable living space for enjoying different aspects of our lifestyle – individually, as a couple, and with friends. Plus, our daughter loves to navigate around the balcony, from chilling in the chairs to watching planes with her binoculars at the bar table, or playing with Lego on the outdoor table.
As far as the two home offices go, mine is in a semi-open area, which is perfect – it serves as a place to work in the week, while over the weekends it’s a room I use to create paper art and crafts. Martin’s office is a separate zone from the rest of the house and somewhere he can retreat to. It’s adorned with his pride and joy, a wallfull of Hot Toys figures that he has been collecting over the past 12 years. Martin writes young adult spy novels in his spare time, and the figures help as inspiration. His first two books of the Heather Foxton series – The Secrets of Godolphin Park and The Hyderabad Siphon – were both written while we were in Hong Kong, and he’s keen to publish his third this year on Amazon.
How would you define your home style?
I’ve always been passionate about home décor and interiors, but it wasn’t a career I pursued. However, I found it hugely rewarding when I joined a global interior design and architectural company.
My home décor styling has evolved over the decades. When I owned my first home in Nottingham in the UK, my style was clean with simple lines – “safe”. I then began experimenting with contrasting colours and patterns, mixing modern with traditional.
I don’t practice feng shui but I’m interested in its foundations – it’s basically about common sense, and the flow of air in your home. I carefully consider how I place items around the home so they won’t obstruct or cause accidents, and I like to liven up a stagnant corner with a leafy plant.
I would now describe my style as deliberately eclectic; over the years, I’ve become bolder – I love combining bright and muted tones, patterns and textures. I also like pairing used furniture, from midcentury modern pieces to contemporary pieces. We decorate shelves and cabinets with items from different cultures and eras; and an Asian influence has crept in from the years we’ve spent here.
The core of styling a home for me is combining functionality and aesthetics.
We spend so much time at home nowadays so designing a place that offers comfort, homeliness and practicality is a priority. Our home décor truly reflects our personalities. Martin’s contributions are dotted around our home, and reflect his love for science fiction – there are recognisable film props, like Darth Vader’s helmet, plus fun items like Thor’s hammer and Captain America’s shield. Martin also has an interest in military equipment and is a keen history buff; you can see those influences too.
One of my favourite features is the living room gallery wall. Each artwork on it has a story to tell – from our travels, to creations by friends and ourselves. Martin is a great artist, and I love decoupage and making handicrafts; many pieces in our daughter’s room are our creations.
We like to support local artists and when we choose art we tend to work with a palette of reds and yellows. They are fabulous colours that go with everything, while also symbolising my Chinese heritage.
Given that the main living area is colourful and bright, I purposely designed the master bedroom in muted greys and whites, with a bespoke ornate wallpaper of large peonies from Wallhub.
Our designated home offices were designed to incorporate both our personal passions and interests. For my office, I designed a space I could use outside of work hours without it feeling like I’m in an office. The teal birds and floral wallpaper from Wallhub are a feature.
I’ve also become a plant lover – my collection has grown from 22 to over 60 potted plants since we moved in last June!
Where do you source your furniture and décor from?
We love snapping up a preloved bargain and mixing it with mainstream and bespoke furniture. For second-hand furniture, Facebook and Carousell are the best places to find little gems and bargains. For new items, I love spending hours lost in the Tan Boon Liat Building and trawling through Etsy. I try to find pieces of furniture that can easily be relocated to a different place to create a different look.
We have also refurbished our extra-large Chinese wooden chair from brown to a bright yellow colour, which is now a key feature in our dining area. I recommend Retro Dec, a local furniture painting and restoration company, who carried out the work beautifully.
What are some of your favourite pieces?
We have a set of four cushions designed by an Icelandic London-based artist Kristjana S Williams, which are colourful and beautiful creations inspired by nature.
The reclaimed white-washed Indonesian cabinet, which we endearingly call “Narnia”, was purchased from dear friends. It’s an ornate piece that adds an extra eclectic-ness to our living room, and more importantly it houses our whisky and gin collection!
Martin’s assorted high-end action figures are another draw with visitors. Regardless of age, people often find themselves perusing the multiple shelves of these, reminiscing about old films or TV programmes whose characters they spot amongst the collection.
What’s some advice you’d give newcomers about finding a home in Singapore?
Venture out to different districts across the island and get a feel of different neighbourhoods. They really do vary, even between neighbouring districts. Review what your living habits are; if you entertain regularly, ensure there are multiple food stores easily accessible. If you have kids, think about a pool, play area, nearby playground and parks. If you spend a lot of time working at home or have a home business, look at suitable and adaptable working spaces.
There are so many choices in Singapore, you can opt for a house, which will give you the space but maybe not the community feel; so you might consider a cluster house. Choosing an apartment in Singapore usually give you more facilities, with a sense of community, too, while still providing the privacy you may seek from time to time.
Safety for the family is very important, and while Singapore is one of the safest places in the world, there are specific concerns to consider closer to home when it comes to kids and pets, from pool access and gates to locks on windows and safety guards on balconies on high floors. Some landlords are willing to negotiate on additional safety guards as part of the lease agreement.
Favourite place to get out and about in Singapore?
We love the easy access to parks like the Botanic Gardens and lovely walks around MacRitchie and the Green Corridor, which is at our doorstep. We also enjoy heading out to Sentosa for its resort feel. Our recent discovery is Lazarus Island, a great place for a picnic on the beach and only a short ferry ride away.
Home & Décor
House of AnLi | houseofanli.com
Firefly Boutique | firefly-boutique.com
Elements Concept | elementsconcept.com.sg
Island Living | islandliving.sg
Etsy | etsy.com/sg-en
Second Charm | secondcharmhome.com
Retro Dec | retro-dec.com
Rooma | rooma.com
Food & Drinks
Redman (baking supplies) | redmanshop.com
Nakhon Kitchen | nakhonkitchen.com
Pietrasanta | ristorante-pietrasanta.com
Orange and Teal | orangeandteal.sg
Canton Paradise | paradisegp.com/brand-canton-paradise
Myeong Ryun Jinsa Galbi Korea| facebook.com/jinsagalbisg
Picotin Brewhaus / Beerfest Brewery | beerfest-singapore.business.site
Fitness & Relaxation
Yoga Inc | yogainc.sg
My Gym for Kids | mygym.com.sg
Swaga Gymnastic | swagagym.com
This article first appeared in the February 2022 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase the latest issue or subscribe, so you never miss a copy!