Gregarious Australian Kylie Hawker is halfway through a three-year stint in Singapore. Katie Roberts called in for a chat about her apartment, her Asian adventures and her hot pink Buddha.
Three things catch my eye when Kylie greets me at the door of her River Valley apartment. The first is her friendly smile; the second, a pair of stunning jewelled stilettos; and the third, an enormous, hot pink ceramic Buddha on the ledge behind her. It’s an entrance that unmistakably signals a woman’s touch. “They are my happy shoes,” laughs Kylie when asked about the shoes’ prominence at the entrance to her apartment. “I like to have them on display,” she adds.
This hard-working marketing and communications manager enthusiastically took the opportunity to relocate from Sydney 18 months ago. When the global ingredient company that she has worked with for 13 years offered her a new role, she thought it too good a chance to pass up. “I am really happy that I did it. This has been a great move, even though I had the usual nerves,” she says. Kylie, who moved alone, saw Singapore as a chance for a fresh start.
Having lived in Sydney for 25 years, Kylie said goodbye to the water views of her Kirribilli apartment, just a stone’s throw from the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge, and found herself in the hands of a Singapore real estate agent. Like so many expats, she admits to having been flabbergasted by the task of choosing a condo.
“It’s hard work schlepping around looking at places, especially when you don’t know where you are, and there is no context for what is around. I looked at nine or ten apartments before deciding on The Cosmopolitan,” she says. “Because I travel so much, its proximity to Great World City was the deciding factor. I wanted to have a supermarket, shops and restaurants close by to make it easy when I’m here.”
A helping hand
“I brought some furniture from Australia with me to make it feel like home, and I also wanted to add some Asian pieces. But of course I didn’t know where to start shopping!” By chance she saw an advertisement for interior decorator Mandy Riggir in Expat Living and gave her a call.
“I was looking for someone to work with what furniture I already had, but bolster that with local knowledge of reputable shops.” The collaboration between Mandy and Kylie has transformed an unremarkable and very white two-bedroom apartment into a stylish, classy and functional home.
Sourced from Journey East, the hot pink Buddha statue sits at the front door and watches the comings and goings with an enigmatic smile. From there, a narrow entrance hall furnished with a slim, mirrored table opens into an open-plan living, kitchen and dining area.
Two enormous modern prints from luxury brands Bally and Chanel, the handiwork of Framing Angie, hang on one wall. Kylie does not know precisely how big they are, but at a guess they are well over two metres tall. She laughs when explaining how she ordered them online from a supplier in Chicago, admitting she mixed up the US imperial measurements with Australia’s metric ones. “I was surprised when they arrived – they were just so big!”
Colour and form
Lime green, hot pink and chocolate form a strong colour scheme for a bright open space that has floor-to-ceiling windows. “The apartment is stark white, the perfect canvas for all this colour,” says Kylie.
She shipped her chocolate leather sofa from Sydney and dressed it up with bright cushions in funky fabrics from Carlmey Interiors. That company also made the three bright fabric stools at the front door. “Michael left the fabric books with me for a weekend and I spent hours playing around and choosing fabrics. It was really difficult, but the result is fabulous.”
The distinctive textured rug is from the iconic Dinosaur Designs in Sydney. After much searching, she says, Kylie picked up the inexpensive, plain white TV console from IKEA. “I looked at all the high-end shops and in the end this was the perfect find. Plus they assembled it for me!”
When the gorgeous pink stilettos are not on display at her front door, they live in a white reproduction antique shoe cabinet from FairPrice Antique which lines one wall of the room. “Mandy came and helped me choose it. They let you try all the furniture at home, which is helpful if you are undecided,” says Kylie. “It’s a versatile piece, considering there’s not much useful storage in the apartment.” On top of it, a seated Buddha statue and an old painted shutter – also from FairPrice Antique – lend a touch of Asia to the room.
The enormous framed mirror is from Taylor B, and the white marble-topped dining table and lime-green chairs came from a shop in the heartlands called Comfort that Mandy knows. The balcony, where Kylie entertains visitors, is furnished with an outdoor dining table and chairs, perfect for evening drinks and watching the lights over Marina Bay Sands.
Off the dining area is a guest bedroom with a double bed for her frequent visitors. “I used Carlmey Interiors again to make a bedhead to brighten up the room, and chose a fresh, lime green textured fabric to suit the bed linen,” says Kylie. Although it’s in a plain, square style, the bedhead makes a statement in the small space.
The master bedroom has been decorated with accents of dazzling aqua blue. There’s another enormous framed Chanel print on the wall, and Kylie brought the bed and bedside tables with her from Australia. She has jazzed the room up with lamps and the large mirror above the bed from Taylor B. In this room, too, Carlmey Interiors added its touch with a padded seat and cushions on the window ledge. It’s a great perch from which to watch the comings and goings on Kim Seng Road below, and Kylie confesses she enjoys reading here on rainy afternoons.
Just outside the bedroom is a train destination sign made by Christine Adair at C + S Prints and Posters. It shows the locations where Kylie has lived, starting with Braeside, the family farm outside Coonabarabran in country New South Wales, where she grew up. In January this year, she made a very quick dash back there after devastating bushfires tore through the area. Her brother and his family now run the property and live in the old homestead that has been in the family for four generations.
“I wore a path through the living room the night they called and said fire crews were battling to save the house. It was an anxious wait for news,” she says. Despite the house being surrounded, the fire miraculously stopped at the garden fence. “You can see how close it came. Thousands of hectares were burnt out in the district, so my family were very lucky.”
Kylie says it’s been easy to meet people in Singapore and she enjoys friendships with not only fellow Australians but an eclectic mix of nationalities including American and French.
“I was initially worried about meeting people, but it has been very easy. Even easier than moving within Australia, I think. People are super-friendly here.” Outside her busy work schedule, which takes her to Johor Bahru and Penang regularly, she can be found on Saturday mornings volunteering at Riding for the Disabled. “After growing up on a farm, I enjoy the horses, the green space and watching the children make progress.”
She’s also started writing a monthly food column for the Australia & New Zealand Association magazine, and relishes shopping at local wet markets like Tiong Bahru and Little India’s Tekka for ingredients that weren’t so accessible at home.
“On long weekend visits, I love the Penang wet markets too. It’s quite old fashioned; they are still killing chickens out the back, and that’s interesting.” Further afield in Malaysia, she also enjoyed Bon Ton Resort in Langkawi and more recently a new resort called Batu Batu off Mersing. “Malaysia is a hidden secret, with friendly people and good food,” she says. No doubt Kylie, with her adventurous spirit, will squeeze in a couple more trips to that country while she lives in Singapore.
Where is River Valley?
River Valley Road has been so named since the 1840s, and the area is one of the most central residential addresses in Singapore. River Valley is convenient for the CBD, a stone’s throw from numerous dining options on Robertson Quay and close to excellent shopping at Great World City. The area offers a wide choice of condos with many more currently under construction. Somerset MRT is the closest station and there are plenty of buses.