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Home showcase: Africa, Asia and Art Nouveau

When Nevena and her family moved to Singapore three years ago, they were looking for a place that had its own garden and was close to the MRT system. Instead, they found themselves in a Bukit Timah cluster house, tucked away at the far end of Greenwood Avenue. They may not have their own garden, but with the newly extended Downtown Line, they do now have the MRT. She explains how the home turned out to be just the right fit.

Nevena and Nala
Nevena and Nala

Who lives here: Nevena and Daniel Hammer, five-year-old son Noa, eight-year old cocker spaniel Nala and helper Rosalie

Time in Singapore: Three years

Type of home: Three-level cluster house with three bedrooms, an office, a helper’s room and a basement

Style of home: An eclectic mix of personal memorabilia and natural elements

Swiss-born Nevena is no stranger to living away from her home country. She grew up as an expat child in Algiers, where she lived with her parents for 15 years, and since she met her husband, Daniel, the pair have also lived in South Africa and France. After three years in the north of France, they were ready for a new adventure, and when the call came to move to Singapore, they jumped at the chance.

Settling in Singapore

Although they’d originally hoped to be close to an MRT station, their son goes to the Swiss School, and so Bukit Timah was a natural choice. Their other criterion, a garden, was as much for their dog Nala as it was for them; but with so much greenery in the area and both the Botanic Gardens and MacRitchie Reservoir Park nearby, Greenwood turned out to be perfect.

living room, home decor
“It reflects our history: where we’ve travelled, but also where we come from, and where we live now.”

As Nevena shows me around her home, it’s clear that her creative eye is inspired by their family and the places where they’ve lived. Her deep love for nature is another key element in the décor, with beaded animal statues from Africa lining the stairs, and a beautifully stylised protea print (the national flower of South Africa) adorning the sofa.

The open kitchen, dining room and living room form the heart of the house. A colour scheme of orange, beige and green gives a warm, comfortable feeling and the walls and surfaces are chock-full of personal touches, artworks and trinkets, each with its own story to tell. There are quirky teapots, old Nestlé ads, a didgeridoo, an ornate gilt mirror. It’s a varied collection, yet it comes together seamlessly. The trick, it seems, is finding the right place for things. “When I buy something now,” explains Nevena, “I first try to imagine where I can put it.”

Art Nouveau from Algiers

A set of beautiful Gallé lamps inherited from her mother, are, unsurprisingly, Nevena’s most prized possessions. Considered one of Art Nouveau’s most influential artists, Emile Gallé’s elegant glassware is distinctive for its delicate etchings of nature inspired scenes. The lamps glow blue and orange, emblazoned with dancing dragonflies and flowers. Nevena remembers her mother buying them over the years in various antique markets and curio shops, some in Switzerland and others in Algiers.

Galle lamps, home decor
Beautiful Art Nouveau Gallé lamps

Africa is also present in more obvious ways. Kabyle jewellery from Tuareg and Algiers decorates one wall and a collection of pots bought on a trip to the Atlas Mountains sits at the bottom of the stairs. An African bead game has been repurposed as decoration, with more Kabyle pendants artfully lain amongst the beads. “Noa is always sneaking coins and things into it, so I had to check before you came,” Nevena says with a laugh.

Setting sail

In Noa’s room are yet more reminders of Nevena’s youth, these with a nautical twist. “My mother made that for me when I was a teenager,” she says, pointing to a small chest of drawers, papered with pictures of boats sailing the high seas. “She used pictures from an old calendar.” A lighthouse lamp and even the curtains are old keepsakes, passed on to a new generation.

maritime theme, room, home decor
Noa’s room has a maritime theme, with his mum’s furniture and knick-knacks

So where’s next for Nevena and her family? “Who knows?” she says. “For me, anywhere would be fine! Though now I have Noa, I would like to be somewhere that is safe.”

Nevena’s Recommendations

Bollywood Veggies (“for nature walks, an educational farm, dog walks and lunch”)
100 Neo Tiew Road
6898 5001 | bollywoodveggies.com

Thow Kwang Pottery & Dragon Kiln
85 Lorong Tawas (via Clean Tech View)
6265 5808 | thowkwang.com.sg

Furniture shops

Taylor B Fine Designs
43 Keppel Road
9420 4000

Dempsey Hill (“for antique shops”)

Tan Boon Liat Building
315 Outram Road
6589 8494


Halia (“for dining outside in the Botanic Gardens”)
1 Cluny Road, Singapore Botanic Garden
8444 1148 | thehalia.com

Balanced Living (“for healthy, gluten-free food”)
779 Bukit Timah Road
6762 8029 | balancedlivingasia.com

Riders Café (“for horse-riding for kids, a playground, and breakfast or lunch”)
51 Fairways Drive
6466 9819 | riderscafe.sg

Children’s entertainment

The Little Company at KC Arts Centre – Home of SRT
20 Merbau Road
6221 5585 | srt.com.sg

This is an article that first appeared in the August 2016 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase a copy for the full article, or Subscribe now so you never miss an issue!

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