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Showcase: 1920s conversation shophouse on Cairnhill Road

Cairnhill Road
Cairnhill Road


When Latvian Alla Oberoi arrived in Singapore six months ago, she searched from coast to coast for a home with character, history and enough room to allow her antique Indian furniture and lovable pup, Bruno, to peacefully co-exist. After viewing no fewer than 50 places, her hopes began to fade. Then she walked into a 1920s conservation shophouse on Cairnhill Road …

Although Singapore has twice as many people as Alla Oberoi’s home country of Latvia, make no mistake – this is no small town girl. She’s spent much of her adult life in New York City and Bangalore and globetrotted to locations around the world with her husband, Chris. Fluent in Russian, Latvian and English – perfect English, I might add – her educational background is in economics, though she dabbles in event planning and is a certified yoga instructor (she studied under the tutelage of the world-renowned Pattabhi Jois family in India).


Alla has lived on more continents than many people have travelled to, and she welcomed her recent move to Singapore.

“I find Singapore extremely well managed. People are business-oriented, but they still find it important to be nice to one another, which is incredible. I can’t help but judge the urban planning – I read somewhere that if the entire world was planned like Singapore, the Earth’s population could fit inside the state of Texas!” she laughs.


Alla says her time in India was life-changing, yet she was excited to learn that she and Chris were Singapore-bound.


“I completely embraced my time in India. People there would joke that I must have been Indian in a former life, because I took it all in. I wore saris, celebrated all of the holidays and educated myself about the country’s history. I intend to do the same in Singapore.”


Before diving headfirst into Singapore’s colourful culture, Alla first wanted to establish a home, preferably something with character, charm and a story lurking behind every floor-tile design and chandelier.


“We have antique furniture from India that I just couldn’t see working in the brand new apartments in Singapore. The feel wasn’t right.”

Alla says the search for a home was akin to a full-time job; she worked the “9-to-5 shift” for weeks on end, first looking at apartments before setting her sights on landed properties. One day, her agent told her that a corner shophouse on Cairnhill Road had just hit the market.

“We had seen it when the previous tenant was still living here. We both loved it, but when I started to back away in order to negotiate on rent, my agent said: ‘This is a take it or leave situation.’ He had never said anything like that before, and I knew it was a very unique location. So, we jumped at the opportunity.”

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