Rosalind Boots explains the thinking behind her career change after 28 years in the corporate world, and her desire to live in a heritage home. The idea came to fruition when Rosalind and her family took on a four-bedroom, black-and-white in the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood in Singapore.
Who lives here: Singaporean Rosalind, Dutchman Onno Boots and their four Siberian huskies. Teenage daughter Layla studies in Holland and visits often.
How long have they lived here: Two years.
Size of house: Two-storey, four-bedroom black-and-white house.
Style of home: East meets West, drawing on their Dutch and Singaporean roots, with a warm, masculine edge.
Rosalind has very distinct memories of black-and-white houses from her youth. “When I was little, my grandfather worked as a chef for a colonial British family, and my grandmother would sometimes come along to take care of their children, and take me with her. I remember looking around at these big houses and thinking it was just so ‘jungle’, and wondering how someone could live here,” she laughs; it’s an ironic laugh, given that, as we speak, we are sitting in the heritage home she now rents in the jungle.
Growing up, Rosalind lived in Sembawang, then she and husband Onno moved to a house off Dunearn Road, within a cluster house complex.
“It was a lovely semi-detached, with a great community and all the facilities we needed, but after a while Onno felt it was too close to everything and we needed more space with our huskies.”
Scouting around, they stumbled across a black-and-white house that was part of a group of similar properties in Gymkhana Avenue, in the Mount Pleasant area. “It was in a very sorry state; these homes fall into disrepair very quickly, and you could see walls cracking, animals’ nests and droppings everywhere, but Onno was able to see through this.”
Taking the house on, they carried out some work (with SLA approval), including changing the kitchen and bathrooms, as well as the flooring. “We loved the space, and I loved being woken by the birds and wild chickens in the morning because they were making so much noise amongst the peace and quiet.”
Making a move
At this time, Rosalind had been working in logistics for the pharmaceutical and life sciences sector for 28 years, spending 50 percent of her time travelling for business. “Onno travels a lot as well, but it was what we were used to.” However, in 2013, the family relocated to Turkey as Onno was appointed group CEO of a global aviation company headquartered in Istanbul. Making the tough decision to leave her highly successful career, Rosalind jumped into a new life in Turkey with both feet. “You really need to speak the language, otherwise you feel lost, so I went on an intensive crash course, which meant I was able to go out bargaining in the markets. I busied myself visiting the old town and travelling to the nearby areas in the Balkans, I did some work with charity organisations, and was quickly involved in a few international women communities in Istanbul.”
Rosalind still felt “structureless”, and she knew she needed something else, having gone from being in the corporate world for 28 years, to this. So, she decided to study pottery, learning from two different ceramic artists in Turkey. “I was surprised that I could remain calm and stay focused making pottery.”
She quickly found her passion, and her influences were drawn from Chinese blue-and-white ceramics, and Dutch Delft pottery. “I started doing my own blue pieces, and I created my company, By Ros. It really just began with friends seeing the pieces and wanting me to make pottery for them too.”
After the first year, things became much more volatile in Turkey, with Rosalind and Onno living through a political uprising and coup (“it was the last straw”). She called Crown Relocations and managed to get a slot for them, their belongings and their dogs to be relocated from Turkey back to Singapore. “Having to get everything ready within those two weeks was a big challenge!”
Back to black-and-white
In view of their passion for living in heritage properties, it’s no surprise they were soon on the hunt for another black-and-white home. Rosalind carried out a recce, initially not looking for a two storey property. However, she found this house, and once her dad had given it his stamp of approval, she took it on.
Negotiating with the previous tenant, they agreed to keep the attap, some lights and the decking. Once they moved in, they renovated the kitchen and bathrooms, and reworked the decking area again.
Rosalind stresses the importance of promoting these heritage homes to locals, and feels it’s vital to educate people about their history and inherent value. After we meet, she’s scheduled to welcome a group from Jane’s Tours; she’s happy to open up her home to groups if it will help foster a more positive perception of these properties. “I’m a Buddhist, and I thought I would have a bad feeling about living here – there are connotations about it being spooky as it’s close to the cemetery; but I sleep very well!”
Since returning to Singapore, Rosalind has focused on her pottery business, and has converted one of the ground-floor rooms into a studio. Enrolling in a local pottery school to learn a different skill set, she then brought in her own clay, and now she works with a “glaze chemist”. Besides the commissioned work she receives from her regular customers, her pieces are now available in Bungalow 55 and Badger & Fox, and she is also about to supply a well-known bakery chain with her work. She shows me some of the pieces that are to be stocked at said bakery chain, and I can see that they are unique and bespoke.
Talking in her studio, it’s hard to imagine Rosalind the corporate high-flyer. And, when she begins talking about the peace and tranquillity of living here in “the jungle”, it’s clear she’s heading down a very happy, albeit different, path.
Merlin Frame Maker (various locations) merlin.com.sg
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