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Living in an HDB: Culture Fusion in Toa Payoh

We didn’t need to be asked twice when The British Club’s charming general manager Sean Boyle invited us over to his Toa Payoh HDB apartment, which he shares with partner TK. We popped in to chat about what he’s done with the club over the last five years and why, after 20 years of living in Singapore, he’s contemplating his return to the UK, to spend more time with his two daughters Marie and Emma and his grandchildren.

home owners, homes, decor
Sean and TK

Who lives here: Sean Boyle, originally from the UK, and Singaporean partner Tuan Khong Lee (TK)

Size and type of home: Three-bedroom, two-bathroom HDB apartment

Rent or own: Purchased in 2010, and subsequently fully renovated

Style of home: Traditional and colourful with Asian influences and paintings collected on the couple’s travels

living room, homes, home decor
“I’m with my partner who I can’t imagine life without, and it’s our place together. It’s different living in an HDB, and it did take me a little while to adjust, but it’s the same for the neighbours..

 

If you’ve been to The British Club in Bukit Timah you may well have spotted Sean Boyle meeting and greeting club members, or keeping a subtle but steely eye on the running of things behind the scenes. It’s been five years since he took on the role of general manager. Drawing on 30 years of hospitality industry experience, he’s driven membership growth within the club and put into place the annual Best of British event, now in its fourth and most successful year to date. During his first year, the club celebrated the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding; then there was the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the London 2012 Olympics, the following year; and, in 2013, with a lull in high-profile British events to commemorate, Sean created the Best of British celebrations.

HDB living

Arriving in Singapore on holiday 20 years ago, Sean liked it so much he decided to stay. “I found myself a job as food-and-beverage director at the Royal Plaza on Scotts, which at that time was the Royal Holiday Inn. The rest is history.”

dining room, home decor
The dining area features artwork the couple have collected during their travels

 

Having lived in a variety of locations in Singapore, Sean and TK decided to purchase this Toa Payoh HDB apartment five-and-a-half years ago. The three-bedroom unit is on the 35th floor, and boasts clear views across to the Singapore Polo Club and even a glimpse of The British Club from the kitchen window.

The couple renovated the apartment, including ripping out false ceilings, putting in new flooring, upgrading the kitchen and the bathroom, and adding wardrobes. “I’ve lived in some really nice places but here we’ve got everything – the only thing we don’t have is the pool, but of course we have the British Club. The apartment is a good size for us, and only two minutes from the MRT. I’ve never driven in Singapore; I just get the train to Newton and then hop on the Club bus.”

hallway, artwork, photos
The hallway serves as a mini hall of fame, with photos and mementos on the wall, including four plates commemorating Her Majesty the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

 

Of all the places Sean’s lived in Singapore, he says he is happiest here. “I’m with my partner who I can’t imagine life without, and it’s our place together. It’s different living in an HDB, and it did take me a little while to adjust, but it’s the same for the neighbours – they need to get used to the ang moh living here too!” Sean’s friendly and outgoing nature means he has quickly made friends, with his neighbours even cooking meals for the couple when they first moved in.

When their diaries allow, Sean and TK enjoy being homebodies, and they love to entertain. “I’ll take the day off and spend some time doing the table up, and I’m not a bad cook either – I’ve been in the food and beverage game long enough!”

Homeward bound

After two decades in Singapore, Sean is planning his journey back to the UK, where he aims to purchase and run a pubslash-B&B, or a boutique hotel. When asked if he wants to take his foot off the pedal a little and retire, Sean laughs: “When you’re in hospitality it’s in your blood. My parents were Irish immigrants arriving in England, and they worked for almost their entire lives – their work ethic was incredibly strong.” This has certainly influenced Sean, who has no intention of slowing down anytime soon.

Sean’s Recommendations

Food & Drinks

Ming Kitchen Blk 79C, Toa Payoh Central

Aura Restaurant 1 St. Andrews Road, #06-02 National Gallery Singapore

Leisure & Networking

The British Club (“Without a doubt you should consider joining!”)

73 Bukit Tinggi Road

6410 1100 | britishclub.org.sg

Travel

Nirwana Gardens, Bintan (“We love going there for theweekend; they have beautiful villas”)

nirwanagardens.com

 

This is an extract of an article that first appeared in the September 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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