US native Jenny George explains how she mixes her own warm and modern style within her central Singapore apartment, and why she called on some expert help.
Meeting friendly, open Jenny, it’s surprising to find out that she classes herself as something of a recluse. For example, although she’s a keen runner, she prefers it as a solitary activity rather than something she would join a club to do. “I’ve had to force myself to be more sociable; running, though, is time to myself. I find that if I don’t run for a few days I get very cranky.”
The family of five moved from Tokyo to Singapore in July 2013, and Jenny cites running as one of the driving reasons they picked this Ardmore Park condo. “My husband Travis and I are both runners and we love the Botanic Gardens, so we wanted to be within a short distance of it. We also knew we wanted to live in an area where we could get to restaurants and coffee shops on foot, and, although I don’t shop that often, Orchard Road is conveniently close.”
Originally they had their eyes on a condo in River Valley, but being a family of five along with a dog, they needed something more sizeable. “A lot of these modern apartments are gorgeous inside, but the space can be tiny.” Here, in their four-bedroom home, they have plenty of room for daughters Ainsley and Addison, son Gavin and rescue dog Ginger, which they adopted when they lived in Japan.
The family’s first expat move from Chicago to Tokyo in 2010 was initially a daunting prospect. “I’d been to Japan when I was in college and I couldn’t wrap my thoughts around living in such a different country, so when we were first asked if we would consider relocating there I said no,” explains Jenny. But after reassurance from others who had experience of living in Japan, she felt more comfortable with the move. “I was told the expat community is really tight, and that we would find friends easily. It was sensory overload when we first arrived – completely overwhelming – but we came to love it.”
The Georges had only been in Tokyo for a short time when disaster struck the country, including a massive earthquake hitting the capital city. At that time, the children were off school on a conference day, being cared for by the babysitter, while Jenny was in her car in the city. “At first it felt like the subway was vibrating underneath. Then all the traffic stopped and I suddenly realised this must be an earthquake, as people came out of the buildings, crying. It lasted for a couple of minutes, and I thought everything would start falling in on me; I felt completely helpless and at the mercy of the earth. I was gripping the wheel so hard – and then it just stopped.”
Within a day or two of the resulting tsunami and Fukushima nuclear disaster, many expats started leaving Japan. “But we didn’t really know what to do. It was only when the grocery stores started running out of food and there was no gas at the stations that we decided to leave, and we ended up coming to Singapore for a couple of weeks.” After much assurance from an uncle of Jenny’s, coincidentally a nuclear physicist, who said they would be safe in Tokyo, the family returned.
Despite this unfortunate early experience, Jenny says they loved their time in Tokyo, although she admits that their apartment never quite felt like home. “When we arrived in Singapore, I wanted to make this place feel like our home, and for that I knew I’d have to hire a stylist as that is just not my area of talent.”
She found interior decorator and stylist Caroline Chin Geyler from Arete Culture, via a well-known Facebook forum. “Her name kept coming up, and I liked her website, as well as the pictures of her past projects.”
Jenny got in touch with her in March 2014, and within a month the apartment had been restyled. Caroline carried out a consultation, which took around an hour and a half and included quizzing Jenny about her style, and taking plenty of photos of their home. “I told her we definitely needed to redo the living space, and possibly the kids’ bedrooms, but she guided me away from the latter. She explained that their tastes would change, and as it’s their space I should let them do what they like with it.”
Caroline put together a plan, arrived with a handyman on the allotted day, and transformed the apartment within eight hours. “What I love about Caroline did is that she used almost everything that was already here, just supplementing with a few other items and using the space in a better way. She didn’t come in and say I had to get rid of everything; instead, she accessorised what I had. She was very cognisant of the fact that I didn’t want to remodel anything. This will not be our home forever, but I needed it to be comfortable and for it to reflect our style.”
Therapy Boutique (women’s clothing)
Momentum Bootcamps (fitness)
Botanic Gardens (running)
1 Cluny Road
Tiong Bahru Bakery (coffee and bakery)
56 Eng Hoon Street, #01-70
Sasha’s Fine Foods (fresh meat)
Siripanna Villa Resort and Spa, Chiang Mai, Thailand (family holiday)
Four Seasons Resort Kuda Huraa, Maldives (couples-only holiday)
#03-01 Wheelock Place
Bar Canary (girls’ night out)
Level 4, Grand Park Orchard, 270 Orchard Road
W Singapore – Sentosa Cove (staycation)
21 Ocean Way
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