By: Verne Maree; Photography by Hart Tan
For Australian Fiona Waddell (Fibi) and her husband Dean, Christmas is a time to celebrate their “miracle children” – Somerset (11), Kingsley (6) and four-year-old twins India and James. And if it’s all a bit over the top, so much the better!Tour Fibi’s wonderfully decked out home in the gallery above
What brought you to Singapore and this house in Oriole Crescent?
The house hadn’t been lived in for years and was very run down, piled so high with boxes, magazines and other junk that you couldn’t see that the living room had these full-length windows on to the garden. But I loved its proportions, and I could tell it would have plenty of light.
How important is Christmas to you?
Christmas is beautiful, and it’s a glorious way of marking the transition from one year to the next. As long-term expats regularly moving around Asia, we are a very close family and Christmas is a time where we get to celebrate our journey.
Having children did not come easily for us and after many cycles of IVF the last three arrived with a rush, so we are very grateful that we have four healthy, rambunctious kids with vastly different personalities. It’s a time to celebrate, but also to reflect on how fortunate we are.
Where does your eclectic Christmas décor come from?
The English vintage toys and boxes – including the matchmaker (toy soldier), the fire truck and the arcade ride – are things I’ve picked up over the years. My business, Fibi Bespoke, lets me indulge my passion for interiors, and I’m always on the lookout for interesting pieces.
Those gorgeous iron statues of deer belong to our landlord; I brought them in from the pool area and oiled them. Coco Chanel had similar deer around her apartment above her famous shop at 31 Rue Cabon in Paris. I don’t know how I’m going to live without them when we move one day.
I fill the pendant candelabras with festive balls and give my gold Buddha statue a Christmas hat for the occasion; I think the fire truck looks fantastic on top of the Chinese wedding cabinet. The effect is a romantic fusion – Asian with traditional English.
How does your family spend Christmas Day?
We alternate between Melbourne and Singapore; this year, it’s Singapore. It’s a little tougher to shop for Christmas food in Singapore than in Australia. You can never find everything you need in one place; I shop everywhere, but mainly at Marketplace and Cold Storage.
Like other families with children, we are usually up before the sun to unwrap all the gifts. If any of our friends are also in Singapore for Christmas, we’ll invite them over, too. The more, the merrier!
After the gifts, we’ll have a late breakfast of bacon and eggs and then the children put on a Christmas pantomime. After that, they’ll play with their toys and might get to watch a movie. For the main meal, we do the cooking together – usually roast lamb followed by a pavlova. We all love to cook.
Your home is furnished with remarkable flair. What’s your background?
I was a fashion designer back in Melbourne, with my own shop, but I only occasionally make dresses now.
I’m a Virgo, with a keen eye for detail, colour and balance; and as I tend to get bored with how things look, I like to move them around. Luckily, I’m one of those people who never run out of energy to do what they want to do. I love the saying: “Plenty of time to rest when you’re dead.”
Over the years I have often redecorated my friends’ houses for them – then done the same for friends of friends, and so on. I find that many people have great taste, and their homes are filled with examples of it, but they simply lack the skills to put things together in a stylish, balanced way. They hang pictures and mirrors too high, and not in the best places; they hang something on every wall; they push couches and chairs up against walls instead of allowing the space to flow around them.
Because I so love helping people with their homes, I launched Fibi Bespoke earlier this year – once the twins had begun full-time school. Through this business, I design and make hats as well, and I do shop merchandising for The Singapore Trading Post, which I adore. The name Fibi Bespoke worked because it seemed to cover a range of things.
Being creative in this way gives me a peace, fulfillment and sense of achievement.
Where do your furnishings come from?
Although I do have a lot of furniture and accessories, I don’t spend much money on them; my husband doesn’t allow me to, sensibly, as we move every few years. Instead, I haunt second-hand websites, flea markets and auctions for interesting, old and antique pieces.
For instance, the baby grand piano came from Expat Auctions. I’d always wanted one, and even if I have to sell it when we leave, I can now tick it off my bucket list. (But if I have my way, she’s a keeper!)
Why such an exotic scullery, complete with a classical column, a Grecian urn and a Roman bust?
I’m dreaming of having a big French country house one day, and I love French furniture. We’ve been expats for 15 years, and I want somewhere that’s big enough so that everyone can come to stay. I have more friends in that part of the world than Down Under now, and houses in France are surprisingly affordable if managed well.
Tell us about your amazing wardrobe of clothes and accessories – especially the hats you’re busy making,
I’m currently creating a few dozen headpieces for Melbourne Cup events, not only here and in Australia, but also in New Zealand and Korea; and I’m also working on a collection of hats for a showing at a shop called Mythology in Club Street.
Somerset’s room is exquisitely, elegantly old-fashioned. Does she share her mother’s love for old things?
All her girlfriends have modern rooms, but I’m glad to say she loves her antique brass bed and all the rest of it, including the dressing table discarded outside a house. You’ll see the contrasting pop of modernity in the Perspex alligator-skin chairs; I like the whole hip-chic effect.
The glass-fronted cabinet holds a collection of outfits I’ve hand-made for her over the years, one each year, starting with her christening gown and moving on to hand-beaded party dresses. Dresses like these take as much work as a wedding dress.
How would you sum up your home design philosophy?
We all spend a great deal of time in our homes, so they should be somewhere we feel comfortable in and are proud of. I strongly believe that anyone who feels frustrated with their home décor should call on someone like me who can help them pull it all together. There is no shame in this – everybody has their own unique talents, and not everyone’s lie in this area.
102F Pasir Panjang Road
#01-01 and #02-04 Citilink Warehouse
The Singapore Trading Post
102F Pasir Panjang Road
#02-04 Citilink Warehouse
Far East Plaza (for couture)
14 Scotts Road
Mustafa Shopping Centre (for birthday party tiaras and everything else)
145 Syed Alwi Road
Where should you live? Look at our neighborhood guides
Get some more major home envy at our Homes section.