Find out why this couple moved from Singapore’s East to buy their gorgeous River Valley shophouse.
Who lives here: Belgians Jonathan Roelandts and Katrien Bollen, their 17-month old son Louis, and helper Rose.
Size and type of home: Four-storey, three-bedroom heritage house that they purchased three years ago.
Style of home: Contemporary combined with the original elements of a shophouse.
I ’d coveted this property many years ago, when I first arrived in Singapore. Our first two years here saw us live in a condo overlooking this particular row of shophouses – three of them to be exact, attached to a small condo just off Mohamed Sultan Road. Walking down the road with my little girl in her buggy, I’d slow down as we passed this house with its high gates, and I’d try to get a peek in to see what it looked like on the inside; now, finally, I get my chance.
Its owners, Jonathan Roelandts and Katrien Bollen, run Ethnicraft Online in Singapore, Jonathan as its managing director, and Katrien as its marketing director, alongside her other job, a full-time position with Google. The couple purchased the property three years ago, having lived in the East for the majority of their eight years here. “We’d always lived in condos,” explains Katrien, “and although you can have nice furniture in condo apartments, and try to dress them up in the way you want, they can miss the mark when it comes to adding your own character. We really like a modern touch on an authentic style, and we felt we could bring that to life here.”
“We’re far more used to living in houses than one storey units,” continues Jonathan, “and ultimately we always wanted to come back to a more central location.” Finding the house on Property Guru, the couple almost immediately fell in love with it. “We visited it out of curiosity at first, as it was a little over our budget, but once we’d seen it we decided to make an offer pretty much there and then,” says Jonathan.
The house was tenanted for the first two years following its purchase. “This was ideal, to be honest, as it gave us time to think about what we wanted to do with it. Then, when the lease was up, we had two months of renovation before we moved in,” says Katrien, who also happened to be seven months pregnant at the time.
As the house is a heritage building, there are plenty of retained elements such as the lattice-work above the windows and doors; however, the downstairs flooring, lighting, kitchen and all the bathrooms were completely renovated. “We actually met our contractor by chance, while we were shopping for tiles. He was good, very responsive, and went that extra mile for us. He was also very conscious that Katrien was pregnant so he made sure the works got done in time.”
The couple brought only one suitcase with them when they moved from Belgium in 2010, so all the furniture in this house has been purchased during their Singapore stay, much of it from Ethnicraft Online. “This house is different from our previous homes in that we used to have teak Ethnicraft pieces, but this space suits oak better as it’s lighter,” says Katrien. She points to the coffee table and sideboard in the living room as examples, and there are many more to be seen throughout the house.
For accessories, Katrien is a keen online shopper, favouring sites such as Etsy, Cluster-Cluster and 3LittlePicks. There are also plenty of pieces picked up from their travels, as well as soft furnishings from The Grey House and outdoor furniture from Fermob, two brands that Ethnicraft now stocks as well. “We bring these pieces in because we like them ourselves – we’re our own target market,” says Jonathan.
Aside from the property’s interior, the couple also love the exterior, including the amenities on its doorstep. “We rarely use the car as a family now, because everything can be done on foot. Louis’s preschool will be within walking distance, and we love going for coffee, brunch or dinner nearby,” says Katrien. “We have lots of friends in the area, and on the weekends we often sit out the front, and people walk by and say hi. Some look in, but we don’t mind,” she adds. (Having been one of those nosy people many years ago, I’m glad I’ve finally managed to get an official invite to see the place for myself!)
How the business began
The concept of an online furniture store was sparked when we found it challenging to find great-looking, high-end yet affordable furniture in Singapore that was immediately available when we moved here. It was brought to fruition with Ethnicraft, a reputed solid wood furniture manufacturer that produces sustainable, contemporary and high-quality furniture pieces. In 2012, Ethnicraft Online made its entrance into Singapore, as the first online branch of the international furniture brand. We offer functional, beautiful and eco-friendly solid wood furnishings, such as the contemporary teak and oak collection, the playful Universo Positivo series, vintage-inspired Mr Marius range and sophisticated Notre Monde collection.
“We love biking along the river to Kallang Riverside, walking in the Botanic Gardens or taking a short break to Bali.”
PHOTOGRAPHY BY KATIE MARTIN-SPERRY
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