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Eclectic fantastic: Blair Road Shophouse

Thinking of buying property in Singapore, we talk to someone who bought a shophouse in Chinatown, and has never looked back.

It’s not uncommon for the son of an army chaplain to live away from home. David Powe is from the UK, but he called Cyprus, Malta, Germany and Japan home as a child, before attending boarding school. It’s no wonder that his style tastes lean heavily towards the eclectic.

Shophouses
David Powe with his bulldogs

 

How long in Singapore: David moved from Hong Kong 20 years ago.

Size of home: Three storey shophouse.

Personal style: Eclectic, which is also reflected in the house’s décor.

Favourite pieces: His Adam Neate artwork, and his collection of bulldog-themed accessories.

‘I can’t say there was any sitting down and thinking about what I was trying to create here,” says David of his Blair Road shophouse. Inherited family pieces are mixed with an impressive collection of artwork and Asian décor.

Then there are the bulldogs, which pop up all over the place, including his beloved pet Daisy who passed away and is pictured on a plate, and the figurine collection in the master bedroom. The whole house shouts fun, reflecting David’s personality. As we sit in the back courtyard area, David admits the house can be dark and a little gloomy. To combat this, the courtyard roof was reworked, creating a lighter area to have coffee in the morning and drinks in the evening, complete with fishpond. The front living room and dining room are mostly used for entertaining; it’s upstairs, in the second living room, where David spends much of his time.

A self-described history buff, David’s location in the Tanjong Pagar area means he’s well placed to indulge his interest.

“The area is known to have housed minor officials. The other end of the street was built in the 19th century, but the houses at this end were built in the 1920s, so this one isn’t even 100 years old. Having fallen into tough times, the street really only started to become gentrified in the 1970s.” Now, most of the houses on the street have benefited from extensive renovations, adding light and modern functionality.

Shop houses Singapore
The “Bulldog House”

 

Putting down roots
Arriving in Singapore from Hong Kong in 1996, David switched from a career in banking to setting up a financial services executive search company, a brave move in the midst of the Asian financial crisis. “I just didn’t want to be a manager, particularly when it came to firing people, and there was a lot of that at the time.”

As time went by and David realised that his company, Strategic Search Partners, was a viable business, he then had the confidence to look into buying a property. Initially, he considered a house on Keong Saik Road (“until a giant rat ran past the front door”).

He knew of Blair Road through a friend who lived there. “I went round and thought, wow! – if I could ever afford it I would love to live here.” Having bought at the lower end of the market, David says he’s never regretted it from a financial point of view.

“I’d highly recommend buying property here if you can do it – once you acquire something and commit to it, it becomes a real anchor to living in Singapore. It was a good decision and has definitely added to the quality of my life.”

 

It’s not just setting up his own business and purchasing property that have been sound decisions for David; he also has an eye for art, although he is at pains to say that he buys for love and not for investment. He began bolstering his collection in Hong Kong, with two particular paintings that have gone up significantly in value. However, when he moved to Singapore he didn’t realise just how much of an effect the climate would have on them, and he ended up selling one piece to save it from ruin.

Now the living room is home to some of the larger pieces in his collection and is consistently air-conditioned to protect them. The walls in Bulldog House, as David has named it, are covered with pictures, paintings and décor pieces. They range from paintings reminiscent of the Old Masters, to multimedia contemporary works and Asian-influenced accessories. Then there are the splashes of bright colour – bright pink in the downstairs living room, hot red upstairs and a bright mural in the courtyard outside. The house may have some dark nooks and crannies here and there, but with such amix of aesthetics David has managed to create a warm and exciting home that the word eclectic doesn’t quite cover.

Living rooms
The living room

 

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This article first appeared in the July 2016 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase a copy or subscribe so you never miss an issue!

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