“Lucky buggers” is one of the first things that pops into my head as I enter the lobby of the Marina Bay Residences to visit British expat Harry and his Slovakian girlfriend Veronika. As I reach the 20-something couple’s four-bedroom apartment that overlooks the entire Marina Bay area, the lift door pings open straight into the living room, and their modern, stylish and comfortable lifestyle is immediately apparent.
It’s also clear that luck has nothing to do with their success; rather, it’s the result of plenty of hard graft. Harry made his professional mark within the mobile advertising industry, selling the company he co-founded to SingTel-owned Amobee in 2010 for an undisclosed sum. Veronika left Slovakia at the age of 17 to attend high school in Arkansas in the US, and hasn’t looked back. She’s since spent seven years in China, working for an investment company while studying finance and Chinese (she speaks fluent Mandarin); she also lived and worked for four years in Australia.
Work and play
Both are now investing time in their company, Victor York, which offers casual and formal tailoring, primarily for men; they’re looking at branching out into women’s wear, too. “When we invested in it, Victor York was very old-school, with lots of manual processes,” says Harry. “We now have a full e-commerce offering, plus a boutique shop in Boat Quay.”
Customers’ measurements are stored for life, so it’s easy to reorder items, either in the store or online. Their clients are loyal, says Harry, and sometimes order up to ten shirts in one go – “a very male buying habit,” he laughs.
Chatting to the smartly dressed couple (they’re wearing Victor York, of course), I find out that they like to work hard and play hard too. The conversation turns from diet (they’re following the paleo diet – mainly proteins and no refined foods) to brewing beer for the weekend, and Harry’s first meetings with Veronika’s family in Slovakia. Her family is involved in alcohol brand St Nicolaus, which produces all the most popular traditional spirits, including slivovitz. “It’s almost like a schnapps, and you don’t mix it with anything,” explains Harry. “When I first met everyone, they wanted to give me shots to welcome me, so I was drinking about 20 a day. Luckily it’s calmed down since then!”
They love to host parties at home, citing Harry’s cooking skills as a big draw. “We entertain at least once a week, and our friends love coming here as they always know they’re going to be well fed,” says Veronika. “We have well-stocked wine fridges and our beer-making machine, and at the end of the night the slivovitz comes out.”
When Harry met Veronika
Harry and Veronika arrived separately in Singapore in early 2012. Their companies shared office space and, says Harry, it was lucky that they met. “It took about three weeks of ‘eye meeting’; we didn’t really talk to each other, but then we bumped into each other in a nightclub and that was it!”
Veronika lived in a condo in River Valley; Harry was staying at the St. Regis. They first moved into The Sail, before relocating to their current home in the Marina Bay Residences two months later.
Harry grew up in a small village in the UK, and jokes that he was brought up on a building site. “My family bought a cinema and converted it into a house, so we lived in a caravan for quite a while. My dad finished the house after 18 years, and almost immediately sold it – he now lives in the Cotswolds. It was interesting growing up in that environment.” Interesting, and also in stark contrast to the contemporary high-floor apartment they reside in now.
Veronika says that her family home in Slovakia is quite “designed”. “My parents love art and design, and would buy paintings before buying furniture or a television when I was young. My classmates would ask if I’d seen the latest show, and of course I hadn’t; I could only stare at the art piled up against the walls! As a child I didn’t appreciate this ‘art education’, but I’m so thankful now.”
For someone who describes her style as modern, colourful and minimalist, and who loves light, this apartment is perfect. She agrees. “We love this condo; the facilities and its services are fantastic, and we wouldn’t move anywhere else.”
225 Outram Road
“This is where we go to shop for our barbecues and dinner parties; great quality and prices.”
Great Wall Gallery
11 Lorong 24A
“This is a friend’s art dealership, with mostly Southeast Asian artists. This is where our ‘smiling girl’ came from.”
36 Purvis Street, #01-03
“This is our favorite restaurant – it has fantastic food and service. Save it for special occasions. Chef Gunther often comes out of the kitchen to talk to his customers and make sure they are satisfied.”
11 Craig Road, Tanjong Pagar
“Good value, honest Italian grub in a family-owned restaurant.”
403 Guillemard Road
“A one-of-a-kind, relaxed bar in Geylang with a great selection of beers and good food.”
The Williams Warn Personal Brewery
“What would we do without our beer machine? It even makes cider!”
Wine Exchange Asia
“You get great service from Robert at Wine Exchange Asia; there’s a good selection, from everyday wine to fine wine, and it’s great value (especially for Singapore!).”
40b Boat Quay
2 Marina Boulevard
“For those in Marina Bay, this is the best for Japanese takeaway or delivery.”
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