One of Singapore’s first heritage towns, Joo Chiat has long been celebrated for its old-world charm and historic architecture. An enclave of famous eateries, eclectic boutiques and colourful rows of traditional Peranakan shophouses, this neighbourhood is, for many visitors, a case of love at first sight.
So it was for London-born CHLOÉ BATTESON one sunny afternoon in November 2018. On the hunt for a pretty postcode, Chloé had arranged a viewing at this Joo Chiat heritage house in the hope of finding a new home. As she arrived and peered through a dusky blue gate, awaiting the agent’s arrival, her mind was already made up. She knew right then that she had found “the one”.
We dropped in for a peek ourselves, to find out how Chloé has made it a home away from home.
Size of home: 1,600 square feet
Location: Joo Chiat
Who lives here: Chloé Batteson (@shophousegreen) and Singapore rescue cat Mimi
Tell us a bit about yourself and your journey here.
Originally from London, I moved to Singapore with my job five years ago with London real estate agent Johns&Co. This has been my first stint living abroad – it’s been wonderful and certainly won’t be my last!
Property and design is something that I’m truly passionate about and enjoy putting into practice in my own space. I’ve recently taken this a step further and am now studying Interior Design. The dream is to one day design for bars and restaurants.
What kind of property were you looking for when you arrived? What were some non-negotiables?
The number one priority for me was having outside space. I love to have a garden and sadly left behind a much-loved allotment in the UK. I knew I would need more than a balcony to support my plant addiction and be able to take advantage of the weather here. Secondly, having a property with character was very important to me. Not only are the heritage homes beautiful here, but I love to imagine the lives of the people that lived in them before me.
Then, finally, location. I knew very little about the East Coast when I arrived, but once I discovered it, I knew it was perfect and can’t imagine living anywhere else in Singapore. It’s actually changed a lot just in the time that I have been here; there are constantly new shops and restaurants opening.
Tell us about your move here.
My first home in Singapore was a colonial bungalow on Kuo Chuan Avenue. It was my introduction to the East Coast and it was really special, with original Peranakan tiles and black and white shutters. Unfortunately, when the owners decided to renovate the entire street, I was unable to renew my lease, which I was gutted about at the time.
By chance, months before I needed to find somewhere, I came across the listing for this shophouse. When I arrived, I instantly knew it was the one for me. Admittedly, the house is pretty big for one person, but I make the most of the entire space and have been incredibly lucky to have it during the pandemic. My previous kitchen was also very basic, so I was really excited about this huge kitchen space as I love to cook and to entertain!
Do you know the history of this Joo Chiat Shophouse?
I believe it was built in the 1930s. It’s in a row of seven shophouses that were owned by the Peranakan community. To the best of my knowledge, the property is still very close to its original layout.
How would you define your home style?
My style is quite eclectic. If I had to define it, I would say “mid-century meets tropical modernism”, but I’m not limited by a specific look or style. I’m a collector at heart and for me it’s just about bringing together the things that I love and am drawn to. I particularly like to buy second-hand and vintage pieces and feel like my home is a real reflection of me and the many things that I’m passionate about.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I find inspiration everywhere! Travel is of course a major source; I feel so lucky to have been able to visit several incredible places while living in Asia. Closer to home, it has to be the bars and restaurants; I’m obsessed with great F&B design and am constantly taking pictures when out and about. And, of course, books and art are an endless source of inspiration. One day, I hope to have my own library and extensive art collection.
What’s your favourite corner in the house and why?
It would have to be my chair in the garden. It’s the perfect spot for my morning coffee or to curl up with a book and a gin and tonic in the evening. I have lots of birds visiting the garden and it’s such a lovely spot to sit and watch them. During the Circuit Breaker, when it was really quiet, hornbills would come and rest across the road just before sunset. It was an amazing sight.
Where do you source your furniture and décor from?
A lot of my favourite pieces come from Junkie’s Corner – a great place for vintage furniture. I have also bought some beautiful pieces from Journey East and Originals. I collect a lot when I travel; I really like to have memories around me of all of the places that I’ve been. I’ve also found a few gems on HotLotz, Carousell and even Gumtree, including my muchloved pink Smeg fridge!
What three items would you save in a fire (god forbid!)?
Presuming that Mimi has saved herself, it would have to be my two favourite pieces of art and my Malay men’s wedding outfit (a Junkie’s Corner treasure but sadly too delicate to wear).
Favourite thing about Singapore and the region?
Coming from London, I would have to say the weather and the tropical plants. I have the doors and the shutters open all day and I love to be outside. I knew very little about tropical plants when I moved here and now I’m hooked for life. I love to visit the Botanic Gardens and am really in love with the natural landscape of this part of the world.
After now living here for five years, what would your advice to newcomers be?
I think it would be to fully embrace living here and to not live with a temporary mindset. I only expected to be here for two years, but I threw myself into building a home and a life here. It has been such an incredible experience.
Chloe’s Singapore Recommendations
Cafés, Restaurants & Bars
Brawn & Brains (“my favourite spot for coffee!”) brawnandbrains.sg
The Cheese Shop cheeseshop.sg
Barbary Coast (“I love the maximalist interiors here and the cocktails are delicious too!”) barbarycoastsg.com
Catfish (“a beautiful restaurant with attention to every detail”) catfish.sg
Home Décor & Art
TheAC (“for beautiful furniture and accessories”) theac.net
Junkie’s Corner (“my favourite place to find one-off treasures!”) junkiescorner.com
Tan Boon Liat Building (“a perfect starting place for interior shopping regardless of your style”) tanboonliat.com
Gillman Barracks (“I love to visit the galleries here and really enjoy the Art After Dark events; I also discovered local artist Ben Loong here – his work is stunning and I hope to own a piece by him one day”) gillmanbarracks.com
Gajah Gallery (“this gallery introduced me to the work of local artist Mahalashmi Kannappan and Indonesian artist Yunizar – both are also on my wishlist!”) gajahgallery.com
Sifr Aromatics (“amazing candles, and I’m in love with the perfume oils here too”) sifr.sg
This article first appeared in the October 2021 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase the latest issue or subscribe, so you never miss a copy!
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