When Londoner Fiona Pentney‘s career in finance brought her to Singapore in 2008 for “a short time”, little did she think she’d still be here seven years later, the happy owner of a light-filled quayside apartment that enjoys glorious views of the Singapore River.
Light is a huge issue for Fiona, she tells me. “When I first started working in London, I lived above a shop in student digs that had no light whatsoever; it was at the end of the Northern Line. That made a big impact on me; ever since, the one thing I’ve looked for in a home is lots of light!”
Her Rivergate condo is “a nice space, with a good feel,” she says. “I love the surrounding greenery, and the river views are an added bonus.” Though she was initially a bit worried about living so high off the ground – 20 floors up! – she’s become used to it.
Two unusually big balconies, one off the living room, the other off the master bedroom, seem to “ease you into the height”, she says, lessening the potential for high anxiety.
Fiona can walk to her office near Raffles Place, or into Orchard. Good restaurants abound at nearby Robertson Quay, and she says that she loves being able to pop over the road to the new PS Café that’s just opened.
After six years of renting, says Fiona, she’d had enough of white walls. Moving into a place of her own was a welcome opportunity to change all that.
“Having decided I wanted to do something with colour, I realised that a novice like me with absolutely no idea about interior design would need some help. I came across your Expat Living showcase article on the home of Elizabeth Acland of E&A Interiors, so I went along to speak to her and her partner, Chloe Elkerton.
“They were very pleasant and amenable – and to my relief, they didn’t expect me to articulate what I wanted right off. Instead, they let me browse through the décor options on their own website, asking me to ‘like’ the ones that appealed to me and, if I could, to tell them why.”
As is quite usual, the designers had to work with and around Fiona’s existing possessions; especially items that were important to her, such as two old wing-backed armchairs that had belonged to her grandparents.
“They were Marks & Spencer beige,” she says, “and now they’ve been reupholstered in a lovely greenish-blue fabric. My beloved old chairs have been given a new lease on life.”
Also important to Fiona is her eclectic collection of artwork from all around the world. “Travelling is my big thing,” she explains, “and I always like to bring something back.”
In the corridor, two wonderfully detailed pen-and-ink drawings of baobabs catch the eye; Fiona explains that she bought them in Plettenberg Bay during a trip to South Africa, because they reminded her of a previous trip to Botswana.
“In the guest bedroom, the picture of Tower Bridge takes me home. In the sitting room, the painting of sunflowers brings back memories of the year I spent in France as a student. The silk-embroidered teapots remind me of more recent travels in China; and the sand painting of monks is from Burma, as is the lacquered cabinet in the living room.”
What does Fiona like most about what E&A Interiors has done for her?
“Just everything!” she enthuses. “I especially love snuggling into the cushions on my huge new L-shaped sofa. I guess the real beauty lies in all the details, too – the lighting, the curtains, the blinds and so on.
“And the kitchen’s fantastic! I’m not much of a cook, so it’ll probably stay new for a long time.”
Q&A with Elizabeth from E&A Interiors
What was Fiona’s design brief to you?
She told us she needed new furniture, and also asked for help with space-planning and colours. It was a fairly extensive renovation, which included ripping out and replacing the tired-looking kitchen and master bathroom.
Tell us about the new kitchen.
For the floor, grey-blue, natural stone-effect tiles were cut down and laid in a herringbone design. The white-gloss carpentry and clamshell-coloured Caesarstone countertops give a fresh, Hampton-esque appeal, as does the blue-and-white bamboo-patterned blind. All the appliances are Bosch.
What did you do for the main living area?
We built a new shoe cupboard in the entrance hall with a nice marble top, and, above that, shelving for knickknacks.
The L-shaped sofa was custom-made for this space, and the cushions feature fabrics from our extensive library. The whole place needed new lighting, which we selected from the beautiful, top-quality Vaughan Designs range that you can find in our showroom.
Also custom-made, the new living-room cabinet features antique mirroring and fretwork with a distressed paint finish. On the sofa console, new lampshades in an embroidery pattern add texture and interest.
To spruce up Fiona’s existing dining table and chairs, we sprayed the formerly orangey wood black – “ebonising” it – and reupholstered the chairs. Pendant lighting over the dining table gives a cosier feel.
One of our Indian dhurrie rugs is under the dining table; for the living room, we chose one of the Moroccan-style Berber rugs that we’re known for. We love these rugs: you can custom-order the colour, and though they have a shaggy pile, they’re made from 100-percent natural wool that’s just perfect for this climate.
What about the bedrooms?
For the master bedroom, we custom-made all new furniture, including the base, the headboard, the blanket box and the pink-patterned slipper chair in the corner. The original orangey parquet has benefitted from a dark walnut stain; it contrasts beautifully with the silky-soft, custom-made white rug.
Fiona’s study features whitewashed carpentry for the new cupboards and built-in desk, complete with a pin-board that runs the length of the desktop.
What sets E&A Interiors apart?
For one thing, we don’t have a house style; instead, we try to get a vision of what the client would like and do our best to deliver that vision.
What’s more, we’re passionate about fabrics and we have a fantastic fabric library! Having worked for a number of years with some amazing designers and companies in Europe and America, I’m lucky to have great contacts with dozens of brands – we represent about 35 of them here – many of which are quite artisanal, husband-and-wife teams or small groups of craftspeople who use hand-woven material and labour-intensive techniques such as hand-blocking. The result is fantastic quality that will last forever.
Charlotte Puxley Flowers (for bespoke floristry)
76 Guan Chan Street, #01-04
E&A Interiors Showroom
#04-24 The Herencia
46 Kim Yam Road
Teak & Mahogany (for outdoor furniture)
#02-02 Century Warehouse
100E Pasir Panjang Road
Vaughan Designs (for lighting)
This story first appeared in Expat Living’s April 2015 issue.
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