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From law to home decor

It’s always interesting to see how different people can use the same kind of space to create something distinct yet equally striking. Expat Living showcased another apartment in this same building two years ago, so it was opportunity for us to see just that. This apartment belongs to Visha Nelson, owner of home décor shop The Cinnamon Room, where you can find cowhide rugs and cushions, artwork and home accessories – they also hold weekly meditation sessions for free. Here she talks about translating her own design influences into her family’s home.

Who lives here: Visha, of Sri Lankan origin but born in Singapore, British husband Richard, children Harry (12) and Lara (10), helper Marie and rescue dog Mango.

How long in Singapore: Eight years this time (Visha grew up here as a child).

Size and type of home: 360-square-metre, four-bedroom apartment off Lornie Road, which they bought three years ago

This isn’t the first time Visha has lived in Singapore. From there she travelled to London, where she lived for 17 years, then Hong Kong for two years and New York for one. Both she and Richard have a background in law – Visha previously worked as a capital markets lawyer, and Richard as an energy lawyer. When they moved to Singapore, Visha had given up her job, and they were moving with Richard’s position. The relocation options given to them were Moscow, Hong Kong and Singapore. “We’d lived in Hong Kong already and with young kids I just thought no, then when they started discussing bulletproof cars for the family we struck Moscow off the list too!”

So Singapore it was, albeit reluctantly, admits Visha. One thing she highly recommends, and which helped her come out of her initial funk, was finding work. “I found myself at way too many coffee mornings with people moaning about being bored, or their maids, so I started working at an art gallery, then trained to become a docent at the Singapore Art Museum; this is one of the best things I can recommend people do. It was a great way to meet like-minded people.”

Finding her feet

The family first settled on a huge house in Chancery Lane, but when this deteriorated beyond reasonable use they moved to another property on Chancery Hill. Ignoring the dud houses they were shown – including one with a urinal in the front yard! – Visha narrowed it down to this Arcadia condo. It’s an older build whose size and stability appealed to her, as well as the maintenance assistance – something you don’t get when you purchase a house.

Home away from home

Although she has a background in law, Visha’s passion is in design and décor. So, when she quit her profession to start a family, she also followed her heart and went to Chelsea Art College to take part in a handful of courses to learn the interior design trade. Once settled into Singapore, she struggled to find furniture and furnishings that fitted her budget and quality standards. Initially setting up sale events and attending fairs, she then became part of a design collective, which opened for a short while in PasarBella.

Master bedroom Home décor
Not able to get the bed she wanted, Visha designed her own, as well as the lampshades and ottoman

Visha decided to progress towards a design business rather than purely a shop, and she needed something that would also give her that crucial work life balance. She opened her Holland Village shop, The Cinnamon Room, towards the end of last year, and is clearly positive about the decision. The shop is also home to a regular meditation session, held every Thursday by Gladys Lee of Dawn of Gaia.

Inspiration and aspiration

For Visha, design influences are all around her, but particularly when she travels. She and Richard have just purchased a plot of land in Sri Lanka, ten minutes from Galle, which provides another inspirational hunting ground for Visha. “You can find these hidden places selling gorgeous old shutters or candle sticks; I love the discovery of it all. In fact, send me anywhere with a market and I love it. Take Morocco: there’s often a lot of tat, but then you’ll find a gem. Present me with a beautiful shop and of course I love it, but I really get my kicks out of rifling through somewhere and finding a little treasure.”

Balcony Home décor
Lush greenery seen from their outdoor living space

By: Amy Brook-Partridge
Photography: Michael Bernabe


Health & Leisure

The Body Temple (“for personal training, great group classes and programmes”)
75 Loewen Road
9100 8714 | bodytemple.com.sg

Gladys Lee of Dawn of Gaia (“for meditation sessions, retreats and workshops”)

Greenwood Avenue (“for a great enclave of fantastic restaurants, bakeries, a fishmonger and a butcher”)

Kinki (“for delicious Japanese with great views”)
#02-02 Customs House 70 Collyer Quay
6533 3471 | kinki.com.sg

Nutritious & Delicious (“Speak to Karin for great nutrition advice and workshops”)
9855 6643 | nutritiousndelicious.com

Open Farm Community Restaurant (“delicious locally grown menu with a healthy twist”)
130E Minden Road
6471 0306 | openfarmcommunity.com

Home Décor

Charlie’sAntiques (“for hidden treasures and antiques waiting to be revamped into pieces of beauty”)
2 Turf Club Road | 9791 2607

The Cinnamon Room (“for chic contemporary home décor, including hide rugs that can be customised to any size, plus artworks by Diana Francis, Elephant Parade Merchandise and lots of unique gift ideas”)
#02-74 Block 43, Jalan Merah Saga
9727 3051 | facebook.com/CinnamonRoomDesigns


Dulwich College Singapore (“a fantastic school providing an all-round excellent education that brings out the best in every child”)
71 Bukit Batok West Avenue 8
6890 1003 | dulwich-singapore.edu.sg

Friends of The Museum’s (“FOM”) Docent Training Programme
#02-06 Stamford Court
61 Stamford Road
6337 3685 | fom.sg


This is an extract from an article that first appeared in the March 2017 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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