This month, we chat with INGRID LIEW about the process of buying her one bedroom condo in Tanjong Pagar and her industrial style renovation. Plus, we get her recommendations for restaurants and bars in Tanjong Pagar and beyond!
Tell us about yourself!
I’m proudly Singaporean. I’ve lived here for most of my life – apart from stints in Sweden (a small university town called Lund) and South Korea (bustling Seoul) for university and work respectively. My partner is currently based in the UK, so I live alone in my cosy little condo or bachelorette pad in Tanjong Pagar (depending on which day of the week it is!).
What properties did you look at and why did you choose this one bedroom condo?
I looked at mostly one bedroom units in private condominiums. I knew location was going to be my number one consideration (you know what they say, in real estate it’s all about location, location, location!), so I looked at one bedroom condos in Tanjong Pagar, Outram Park, Marina Bay, Tiong Bahru, Dhoby Ghaut and Bugis.
Finally, I chose this Tanjong Pagar apartment because of precisely that. It’s near all the action, and I mean literally all the action. The hottest restaurants and bars in the Tanjong Pagar area are a five to 15 minute walk. (Think Tras Street, Keong Saik, Telok Ayer, Amoy Street, Ann Siang Hill.) And it’s also a stone’s throw from lots of yoga and exercise studios.
I can’t tell you how much time, hassle and Grab fares I’ve saved walking to and from dinners, bars and nights out with my friends in Tanjong Pagar. When they’re all trying so hard to get a car (think 10.30pm surge pricing during COVID times when we still had a curfew…), I simply give them a goodbye wave and hug, start walking, and I’m home in 15 minutes!
What renovations did you do?
I basically redid the entire one bedroom condo. When I bought the place, it looked so cookie-cutter and a bit devoid of soul. The place had, in my opinion, sterile (oops) white built-in shelves in the kitchen and bedroom, and marble flooring, which I’m not a big fan of.
I knew I wanted a place that channelled modern, industrial chic. It’s an aesthetic I felt would reflect my sensibilities as a modern Singaporean woman. The interior design firm that worked with me to help make my vision a reality was Hei Architects. The owner is the partner of a good friend of mine.
Talk us through some of the furniture and décor choices you made.
I wanted a modern, cool industrial vibe that was a bit gritty for my Tanjong Pagar condo, hence the grey, concrete walls in the living room and bathroom, and black walls in the bedroom.
The flooring is a mix of the original wood flooring (in the bedroom) and wooden vinyl flooring in the living room – the wood balances out the coolness of the wall tones, with some warmth.
I also wanted some “statement” features – for example, the contemporary, modern deco Italian tiles in the kitchen and bathroom, which are very striking. The other statement feature is my white SMEG fridge. With its classic retro stylings, it’s been a talking point with the guests I’ve had over. (People have even commented on it over Zoom, when I’m working from home!)
Because a SMEG fridge isn’t magnetic, I had my designer do up one of the walls of my electrical cabinet (which niftily doubles up as my shoe cabinet) as a sort of blackboard, where I could display magnets, photos and postcards from my travels.
To complete the industrial vibe in my one bedroom condo, there are filament Edison light bulbs in the bathroom, bedroom and over the bar counter/dining table.
What do you love about your one bedroom condo and the Tanjong Pagar neighbourhood?
I love the fact that, despite its relatively small size (527 square feet), there are so many nooks and crannies to hang out in. I can easily spend a whole day in here and forget that I haven’t been outside.
As for my ’hood, I love Tanjong Pagar because it’s such a mix of old and new, and a lovely juxtaposition between the modern and the traditional. The HDB estate and hawker centres here coexist right alongside ultramodern shopping malls with Grade A office space and luxury residences. (Hello, James Dyson and his record breaking ultra-luxe penthouse at Wallich Residences!)
Tanjong Pagar is never static or boring. There’s always something new popping up in this area to explore, whether it’s a café, restaurant, shop, studio or a new watering hole to add to the eclectic range of bars in Tanjong Pagar.
What have been your best furniture or home décor buys?
There are some furniture pieces I’m really happy with, like my stylish barstools from Nook & Cranny, and my leather sofa from Grey & Sanders, which is so comfortable that I’ve had guests literally become one with my sofa. But the things that make my home truly special for me are whimsical items that capture my love of art, music and poetry.
So I would say my best buys are:
#1 My vintage black Royal Varsity typewriter (on display in my living room). I actually still use this sometimes to write original pieces of poetry. I got it on Carousell from an enterprising Singaporean university undergraduate, who would source these pieces from yard sales during his time studying in the US.
#2 The framed Banksy print in my bedroom. I absolutely adore Banksy – I think he is a genius.
#3 My twin Botero-esque sculptures in yoga positions, which I bought while on one of my favourite trips to Laos.
Tell us about your work life.
By day, I’m a recruiter at Google. By night, I model – I’m signed to a local modelling agency. I’m building up my social/Instagram following through my travel and lifestyle account (IG: @griddyy), so please follow me if, like me, you love exploring new places and destinations!
Name three of your best regional holidays and why they’re special.
OMG, I’m not being a drama queen, but this is one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in my life! (OK, I am definitely being a drama queen…) Here are my top three holidays in Southeast Asia:
#1 Luang Prabang, Laos
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the former capital of Laos, and you’ll see everything from golden-roofed temples to vestiges of colonial French architecture here.
For me, it was just incredibly serene and peaceful, and we stayed at the lovely Sofitel Luang Prabang, an absolute oasis with – get this – a resident pet rabbit who roams freely around the hotel’s vegetable patch, and likes to come to the restaurant during breakfast to interact with guests.
This holiday was also special to me because I almost didn’t make it into Laos – I had dropped my passport in the swimming pool a few days before, and the ink from the stamps had all run, leaving most pages indecipherable. The immigration in Laos almost sent me back on the plane, but they finally relented after much negotiation and proof that I had a place to stay while in Luang Prabang!
#2 Bagan, Myanmar
With more than 3,500 ancient Buddhist pagodas, temples, and other religious structures (most built between 800 to 1000 years ago), Bagan is impressive. I remember feeling almost like Lara Croft among all those temples. But this trip was special to me as I had won it as an incentive trip at work at one of my previous jobs; it was just such a feeling of validation and accomplishment.
#3 Koh Lipe, Thailand
I vividly remember this trip because I seriously wondered whether I was going to survive! My friend and I were caught in a huge storm en route to the island, in a small passenger boat, without any overhead shelter. The ride was so bumpy that there were times when we were sent flying off our little bench into the air, and we had to hold onto one another to make sure no one went overboard!
I survived to tell the tale, and we made friends with two other passengers who were from Israel – I still connect with them on Facebook. In this case, it was the storm before the calm, and the rest of our trip was great. It was on this trip, laying by the beach, that I finished reading The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald, which remains one of my favourite books of all time!
Furniture & Renovations
- Grey & Sanders Nook & Cranny Living
- IKEA (“good ol’ IKEA!”)
- Hei Architects (IG: @heiarchitects)
Doctors & Dentists
- Dermatologist: Dr Wong Soon Tee from Assurance Skin, Laser & Aesthetics (“he reminds me of an older uncle, cracking jokes and making hilarious analogies!”)
- Dr Ho Kok Sen, Specialist Dental Group (Mount Elizabeth Orchard)
- “I go to Nick at Act Point Salon (Midpoint Orchard mall) – he’s super humble and helpful!”
- “I buy most of my clothes online now”
- Cider Beam Bold (“a new discovery! Colourful resort wear, perfect for our tropical weather”)
Restaurants & Bars in Tanjong Pagar & Beyond
- Brunch: Five Oars Coffee Roasters Heritage (Tanjong Pagar Road), Chez Suzette (Keong Saik), The Food Peeps Coffee & Deli
- Hotpot (“a must-do for cold rainy days”): Hai Di Lao (various locations), GuoFu
- Korean barbecue: O.BBa Jjajang, Superstar K (Tanjong Pagar Road)
- For matcha lovers: Hvala (Craig Road)
- Bars: Jigger & Pony, Tippling Club, Native, Yen Bar (“on Club Street – for super cheap $10 cocktails!”)
Airlines & Hotels
- Singapore Airlines (“not biased at all”)
- Capella Singapore (“a class above – they usually include free workshops with each stay like bubble tea making and cocktail making”)
Walks & Things to Do
- Watch a play (Pangdemonium, Singapore Repertory Theatre and others)
- Catch a movie at the Projector
- Go for a spin class at Revolution and get an endorphin boost
- Float away those troubles at Palm Avenue Float Club
This article first appeared in the January 2023 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase the latest issue or subscribe, so you never miss a copy!
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Check out our list of the best bars in the Tanjong Pagar area and beyond – you’ll be spoilt for choice!