Tucked away atop a steep hill just off Greenwood Avenue, Bukit Timah, there’s a simple white bungalow surrounded by greenery. This is the long-time home of Dutch couple Marijke Böhm and her husband Paul. They live here with their three children, Bo (9), Sara (6) and Faber (8 months), their helper Mary, and Yip, an excitable, sandy-coloured labradoodle. You can feel immediately this is a warm, carefree family home – carefully considered, yet not too manicured. We take a look at the eclectic but comfortably styled home that seems to reflect Marijke herself.
A digital artist and photographer, Marijke has lived with her family in Singapore for the past seven years. Excluding the first few months, when they lived on the East Coast, this house has been their base for the entire time.
“The outdoor area was really important,” explains Marijke. “We love to live outside – that’s one of the nicest things about Singapore.” With a lovely, large covered terrace and dining area and a good-sized garden, it was exactly what they wanted. “But it’s not quite so good if it rains!” she says with a laugh.
Home is where the heart is
The house is one of the older ones in the neighbourhood, many of which have been demolished and replaced with imposing, modern mansions that are a little at odds with the older homes. Having previously lived in Egypt and Tehran, the family had no qualms about living in a well-worn house.
Inside, the house is open-plan, the living space demarcated by a few pillars and arches. A brick wall hung with a striking red painting of a Vietnamese woman adds texture and interest to the cosy living room, and light floods in through the high windows and French doors.
Artist at home
An artist herself, Marijke has a constant flow of new pieces, and her colourful photographic collages are a highlight of her home. A keen photographer, Marijke started making these for herself when she arrived in Singapore. She first established it as a business in 2012, having discovered a demand from other expats looking for mementos of their time here, as well as from Singaporeans who appreciated her perspective of their homeland.
She has made her studio in the entrance hall, a large, light-filled space that’s ideal for the purpose. The walls are lined with various works that combine photographs and painting.
The human touch
Marijke hasn’t always worked as an artist. Her background is in law, and she has a special interest in human rights. In Egypt, she volunteered with an NGO that provided legal aid for refugees from Sudan and other African countries. In Iran, too, her work brought her into contact with asylum seekers, Christian groups, journalists and other persecuted communities. Finding similar work in Singapore was not easy, and so she began volunteering with HOME, an independent organisation dedicated to upholding the rights of migrant workers here. Marijke dealt mainly with domestic workers who had experienced injustice or abuse, and for two years she worked as a first point of contact for those seeking help.
These days, her main project is the HOME Sewing Team, a group that she established to help the women develop skills, serve as a distraction for them, and earn money for HOME at the same time. “There’s a lot of sitting and waiting,” she explains. “Some cases take so long to be settled. There are volunteers that run courses, yoga classes, arts and crafts workshops, and so on. I came up with the idea of making and selling fabric bunting; it’s been going well for five years now.”
They began offering the products at fairs, giving Marijke a boost to start her own business: “While I was selling the bunting, I thought that I should bring a few collages to see if other people liked them.” It turned out they did, and the rest is history!
By: Aimee Fordos
Photography: Michael Bernabe
HOME (“Personalised fabric bunting can be ordered at funkyfairtrade.org, with proceeds going to support HOME”)
Kinokuniya (“Favourite bookstore for browsing”)
#04-20 Takashimaya Shopping Centre
91 Orchard Road
MacRitchie Reservoir (“Lovely nature and away from the city – a run around the lake is a great way to get active”)
Marijke’s memory boards can be bought as is, or customised with your personal photos. For more details, visit facebook.com/Memoryboards.info.
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