If you lived in a beautiful four-storey shophouse with the services of a dream cook, why would you ever want to go out? Patrick Dalton and Rob Loannou prefer to do their entertaining at home.
From the moment Patrick opens the front gate to let me in, closely followed by two small and friendly dogs, Rupert and Benny, it’s obvious that he likes visitors. He’s so welcoming that after five minutes I feel like I’ve known him for years – and the chocolate-chip muffins that “household manager” Anna brings straight from the oven also play their part.
“She is such an amazing cook that we hardly ever eat out anymore,” says Patrick.
Originally from Australia, he moved to Singapore from Brighton in the UK 18 months ago – a year behind Rob. “I spent that year commuting between the two countries,” he says, but adds that he was in Singapore to help Rob clinch the shophouse deal from another couple also eager to sign the lease. “We beat them to it!” declares Patrick triumphantly.
The tropical front garden, facing Emerald Hill Road, is shaded by a couple of untamed frangipani trees, whose flowers release their intoxicating perfume only at night.
Lois Lam, interior designer at The Shophouse, calls this lush space the Frangipani Café, because of the many dinner parties and daytime get-togethers held here. “The house just lends itself to entertaining,” says Patrick. Despite his initial concern that it would be too big for just the two of them, he has grown accustomed to having a lot of space.
Patrick tells me that the two slightly intimidating, Chinese stone lions that flank the front door are named Minnie and Minyak, “after Rob’s own childhood pets”; and suddenly they don’t seem so fierce. I’m then introduced to Cindy and Mindy – a pair of antique Chinese court ladies dating back to circa 300AD. I’m realising that although thee guys are serious antique collectors, they do have a sense of humour. “We don’t like to be too serious,” says Patrick.
The ladies live among their fellow artefacts in an enormous open-plan living area, which on first glance looks like an art gallery and furniture store, but which also manages to be cosy and homey.
Everything in it is a well-thought out mix of timeless Asian beauty with contemporary and retro European design. “I love to mix things up,” says Patrick, who has a penchant for interior design, despite his highly technical role at Deutsche Bank.
He confesses that he’s often considered retraining as an interior designer. In fact, this is not the first time that a home of his and Rob’s has appeared in a magazine, as he demonstrates by whipping out a UK design publication to reveal gorgeous images of their former home in Brighton.
Less is More
Despite his own firm grasp of design Patrick admits that he can be over-enthusiastic, so he often relies on Lois Lam to keep him in check. “She reminds me that less is more and when I want to buy three of something she will only let me buy one,” he says with a laugh, pointing to a solitary Designer’s Guild cushion, which provides a brilliant accent on the sofa.
Bar its view of Orchard Central, the roof terrace is reminiscent of a five-star Balinese resort with its fully stocked bar, large whirlpool, outdoor shower and sun loungers garnished with neatly folded towels. “We encourage our guests to use this area when they come to stay,” says Patrick and I can’t imagine why anyone would decline this offer. Only the surrounding construction threatens the ambience, but like many of us, Patrick has become used to the noise.
The “the multipurpose room” is probably my favourite with its sharp retro design and functional furniture including two red leather chairs, which are surely every man’s dream. These reclining cocoons with their built in cup-holders are perfect for viewing films on the huge projector screen. As a nod to the movie theme, one wall features a funky collage of Chinese film stills – a Framing Angie creation – and Patrick plans on hanging a giant still from the 1958 classic Attack of the 50 Foot Woman.
Life in a Shophouse
Patrick, who works from home, admits that he often misses the company and banter of an office environment, but feels that living and working in this lovely home makes up for it. He and Rob would love to own their own shophouse one day, he adds; but for now they are happy to lease one.
When I ask him if there are any downsides to living in a shophouse, he ponders for a while before answering: “Mould! These houses are total mould traps,” and points out a piece silk wall hanging that has become slightly mottled in places.
Later, as I recline in a low-slung chair in the front garden with another chocolate muffin, the shadows lengthen and the faint scent of frangipani begins to fill the air, I decide that a bit of mould probably isn’t the worst thing in the world.
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