We find out how Claire Warren has translated her fashion background into a passion for interiors, and why she and her family love living in a jungle setting.
Who lives here: Claire and Digby Warren, originally from the UK, and children Mia (6) and Sebastian (4).
How long in Singapore: Seven years; they moved into this house in September 2015.
Claire’s favourite room: Although the house is relatively small, she says, its selling point was the deck looking over the pool and to the greenery beyond. “We fell in love with the uninterrupted view of the jungle with magical light streaming through. It’s hard to believe you’re in the centre of a bustling city.”
The Warren home, a black-and-white bungalow in Adam Drive, is naturally stunning (like Claire herself), with a warm and welcoming feel that comes from her knack of combining natural materials in neutral colours, with plenty of cushions and rugs from her company, The Grey House, thrown in for good measure. Moving into the house in September last year, coupled with setting up her home styling and furniture business in the early part of this year, have meant it’s been a busy time for Claire, and she’s now going full-steam ahead finalising the online retail arm of her company. Her aim is for the website to be used as a kind of “look book” with an option to buy, and for now her home serves as her showroom.
London to Singapore
Digby’s job in banking brought them from London to Singapore in 2009, while Claire was pregnant with Mia. They first lived in a condo in Holland Village: “A gorgeous little place with Balinese-inspired grounds; we loved it for just the two of us.” Then Mia arrived and, as Claire puts it, “the plastic fantastic started to get out of control. Digby and I both agree that toys don’t belong in the living areas and so we started looking for somewhere with more space.” There followed a 3,000-square-foot duplex on Kheam Hock Road, overlooking the jungle. Four years later and, with the arrival of Sebastian, they decided to move again. “The real reason we moved was for more outside space – boys need room to kick a football and run around, and Sebby is always exploring; so that was our main motivation to move to a home with a garden.” Claire wasn’t originally sold on this particular black-and-white; it was Digby who pushed it, she says. “It felt small, being a bungalow, but now we absolutely love it. The kids are normally outdoors, running around and doing what they do – trampolining, swimming or scooting.” Add in the fact that two of Claire’s close friends live down the road, one of whom she lived with at university, and the house was an easy choice.
Having spent eight years working for Chanel in London, as well as for InStyle magazine, Claire’s experience within the fashion world stood her in good stead for similarly desirable positions here. These included working at Singapore fashion giant, Club 21, and heading up Lulu Bare, the fashion brand she ran with her Dubai-based sister Louise.
At the same time, Claire was always on the lookout for unique, wallet-friendly furniture for her home. “While visiting a friend in India, I found a rug supplier and purchased some pieces from them. Then my friend Milly saw them and wanted quite a few, so I bought them for her as well.” When they moved to their current house, Claire needed furniture for the terrace, and knowing Bali well from visits to Digby’s mother’s home, she found a custom-made furniture supplier; the end products are the leather and rattan chairs you see dotted inside and outside the home. Her range now encompasses sofas, sideboards, lampshades and hand-carved chairs, and she’ll source most other furnishings on request.
Her styling ethos is that you don’t have to spend a fortune creating a new look for your home. “You need to be able to utilise what you have already. Who’s going to buy everything from scratch every time they move house? It’s unrealistic. Sometimes it’s just a case of revisualising, re-covering, removing or refreshing.”
Look around her home and it quickly becomes clear that Claire loves a neutral palette. “Grey is my favourite colour, hence the name The Grey House, but Digby forces me to include colour in the home.” She says that he also has a hand in their home’s aesthetics, and definitely has an eye for working things out spatially.
“When we moved, we had a drinks cabinet that didn’t quite fit into the space I had earmarked. He knew that by removing some tiles from the wall on either side the cabinet would fit – it looks so much better now.” Digby has also taken on the garden as his pet project, says Claire. “Every weekend he goes to the garden centre, and he always comes back with something. I think he finds it really therapeutic.”
Eventually, the couple would like to return to the UK for the children’s secondary schooling. With both Digby and Claire coming from expat families, they understand how moving from place to place can affect a child. Both attended boarding school, giving them some kind of grounding, and Claire is keen to ensure their children have a similar foundation. “I like the idea of a family home, having a little nest, so yes, eventually we will go back.”
For now, however, their life is in Singapore, particularly with Digby’s mother currently sharing her time between Bali and the UK, making it easier to have that close-knit family contact that is often missing from expat life. “Our life here is brilliant, and we have amazing friends, so we’re not going home anytime soon,” Claire says.
A trip to Raja Ampat, Indonesia (“Lightfoot Travel organised five magical nights on board theAlila Purnama for us: breathtaking scenery and a million underwater secret gardens – a must-do for divers and anyone who appreciates true tranquillity”) lightfoottravel.com
Maalifushi by Como, The Maldives (“We went on a family holiday last year for Digby’s birthday – five days of utter bliss for just the four of us; amazing interiors, wonderful facilities and the most scrumptious food”) comohotels.com/maalifushi
Kilo Kitchen (“One of my favourite restaurants for delicious food that’s perfect for sharing with the best of friends!”)
Edit Lifestyle (“A wonderfully curated selection of resort wear and lifestyle pieces by the talented Florence Lim; my shopping heaven!”)
Tudor Court, 137-139 Tanglin Road
6836 5686 | editlifestyle.com
Aquariva (“The perfect Singapore wardrobe; stunning prints and easy-to-wear silhouettes that keep an eye on fashion, so you don’t feel like you are slipping into a time warp”)
Club 21 (“Lust-worthy international designers; I love their British representation – Christopher Kane, Roksanda, Peter Pilotto and more”)
Boutiques Fair (“Definitely the best shopping event in Singapore and The Grey House will be joining in November with some new brands”)
The Pit Building,1 Republic Boulevard
Interiors & Art
Walter G (“The Grey House stocks their beautiful cushions, and I can’t stop piling them on every sofa, chair and bed in my house”)
Leo Poloniecki (“If you are looking for colourful, contemporary art that won’t break the bank, then definitely pay him a visit”) poloniecki.com 1st Dibs (“Slightly ambitious in terms of price and shipping restrictions, but the most inspirational collection of interiors”)
House of Hackney (“Exquisite fashion and interiors in breathtaking prints; I’m earmarking some of their wallpapers for my forever home”)
Sole House (“At-home massages are the best, and they now also have a mani-pedi service that I mean to try out”)
This is an article that first appeared in the September 2016 edition of Expat Living. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue!
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