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Cool Kew renovation: Peek inside this semi-detached family house on the East Coast

By: Verne Maree; photography by Ken Tan

PROPERTY TYPE: Semi-detached
SIZE: Well over 4,000 square feet
FEATURES: Three storeys, six bedrooms, multiple terraces and a spacious garden
NEIGHBOURHOOD: Kew, Upper East Coast

 

Veronika Ronzani is Swedish, Louis Dijkshoorn is Dutch, a practical kind of couple that you’d expect to stick to budgets. So, how did Veronika talk Louis into investing in a large, landed property that was well above the sum they’d agreed upon? She told him she could see their children playing in the garden. She kept her side of the bargain; they moved into the house in April 2011, baby Isabel was born 364 days later, and a second baby is well on the way.

This resourceful woman had more than one trick up her sleeve, however. She’s also managed to keep down the considerable costs of renovation and furnishing by doing much of her shopping online – from British skirting boards to Danish B&O speakers.

From Stockholm to Kew Crescent
Louis and Veronika met in Sweden 11 years ago while they were working in the same office of a telecoms company, and the couple ended up relocating to Jakarta together.

After two years, Veronika was transferred to Singapore, and Louis joined her here a year later. They both still work for the same telecoms company; Veronika now in project management, and Louis in sales.

Why this house?
“We loved the terraced house that friends of ours had bought in the Kew area,” Veronika explains, “so we starting looking at similar ones in the area. Just as we were about to put in an offer on one of them, I had ‘a quick look’ at this semi-detached corner property and simply knew it was the one.”

First, there was the garden. Situated on the corner of a crescent, the house has an unusually large outdoor area, more like that of a corner plot. What’s more, the house is substantially bigger than its neighbours, with two extra bedrooms, an extra guest bathroom plus an upstairs terrace.

At around $2 million, however, it was out of their budget. Louis liked it, but felt it was too much.

“He’s very Dutch, and very black-and-white about things like budgets,” Veronika reveals. “But that night, over dinner at La Forchetta in Dempsey, I pulled out all the stops. At the end of my hour-long sales pitch, I said: ‘I can see our children playing in the garden.’ That worked.”

Online shopping
Veronika confesses that she’s “totally into lamps”. Italian designer light fittings make a series of statements throughout the house, especially the Foscarini and Caboche pendant lamps in the living room, another above the dining table (Nemo Cassina), and a strikingly retro Fortuny by Pallucco floor lamp in the master bedroom.

Most were bought online for about half the price she would have paid to a retailer, says Veronika, including shipping costs. Buying online is especially cost-effective for purchases over a thousand dollars, but not only then. Not only are prices generally lower, but you can often score on not having to pay the sales taxes chargeable in the country of purchase; in France, for example, VAT runs at 20 percent.

That doesn’t apply only to the light fittings; it’s the same throughout the house. The birds on the master bedroom terrace are from one of a string of bird shops in Serangoon Road, but their cage is from a US website.

Louis himself changed all the light switches and power sockets to ones with a cleaner, more contemporary look. The two of them also sanded, installed and painted skirting boards ordered from the UK – “not because it was a cheap deal,” explains Veronika, “but because I wanted something with more of a finished look than anything I could find here.”

Tour this brilliantly-renovated six-bed house on the East Coast
Tour this brilliantly-renovated six-bed house on the East Coast

 

Space by Space
The kitchen
was originally separate from the living area. The couple opened up the space, lowered the ceilings and installed a massive island to create a cool, white culinary haven that bristles with Smeg appliances. I’m hugely impressed by the Elica downdraught extractor fan, which rises neatly from the countertop behind the Smeg hob and drops into a recess when not needed.

It’s a cook’s dream – but neither Veronika nor Louis cooks. “I hate cooking,” she confesses. And when their helper Rowena cooks, she prefers to use the separate wet kitchen, largely leaving this one for glorious show apart from the well-used built-in coffee machine.

Ordering the sleek Contempo living room sofa from UK store Mac & Mac Interiors (which has since closed down) involved quite a bit of liaison, but meant paying 30 percent less than the going price at Park Mall. Similarly, they saved a whopping 40 percent by ordering the B&O speakers – one for downstairs, two for upstairs – from a shop in Sweden.

Housing the TV area on the second level keeps the downstairs living room a calm and pleasant place for socialising. To one side of the TV room is a guest room; to the other, Louis’ office.

On the top floor is two-year-old Isabel’s room, gorgeously decorated with Swedish wallpaper featuring animals and letters of the alphabet; pity you have to understand Swedish to use the site it was ordered from! A commissioned artwork by Bettina Johansson from Sweden features the little girl’s name, family and year of birth: 2012. The ensuite bathroom has been nicely renovated and a toddler-appropriate bathtub installed.

In the good-sized master bedroom, they bricked up the original door and replaced much of the wall with high glass doors that give onto an expansive terrace. The round sun-lounger was a good deal from Expat Auctions, I’m told.

The creamy, small-squared cow-skin carpet was ordered online from Argentina and customised for Veronika, she says – for about $500 instead of the multiple thousands you see them for here.

Ripping out the bathtub from the master ensuite has made it wonderfully spacious; but I tell her that for a committed soaker like me that’s heresy. Normal people, she replies, only feel the need to soak in a hot tub when they’re in a cold country. Like Sweden.

 

Veronika’s recommendations for life in Singapore

Websites
ambiente.com for a wide range of designer lamps
nostraforma.com for a smaller range of lamps but better service
dmlights.com for a massive range of outdoor lights, pond lights and so on
naturemadehides.com for customised cowhide rugs

Other
Cloud 9 Living (Cedric Cheong) for renovation and décor
12 Boon Teck Road
6259 0733

Expat Auctions
102F Pasir Panjang Road
#01-01 / #02-04 Citilink Warehous
6278 0511

Teo Choon Han for reasonable gardening services
9692 6515

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