Charming Indian-born Suman Masciarelli, her American husband Jason and their two car-crazy sons, Arjun (8) and Marcus (10), have made their home in this family-friendly, three-level house in Upper Thompson. Katie Roberts dropped in for chai and a chat.
Having six bedrooms was a big draw-card for Suman and Jason when they inspected this house two years ago. The other was that it is within walking distance of Lower Peirce Reservoir, an unexpectedly serene place that the family enjoys visiting regularly, says Suman. “It’s a hidden gem; you don’t even realise you’re in the city. It’s cool at all times of the day because of the tree canopy, so I can go running anytime, and the boys love the park for bicycling. It’s so scenic: we frequently see wedding pictures being taken there.”
When they moved here from Boston in September 2008, their first home was a house near the Singapore American School in Woodlands. They value proximity to the school, so when they decided to buy a house they concentrated their search on the northern reaches of the island.
The house in Jalan Kuras was brand new when they bought it, a knock-down-and-rebuild in an established neighbourhood with shops and other conveniences. “We purchased it with bare white walls. There were no cupboards at all, but the kitchen had been fitted out,” explains Suman as we sit in the comfortable ground-floor living area. “In the words of my old neighbour in Boston, the house had ‘good bones’: space, an open floor-plan and six bedrooms.
“Jason and I both have large families and we enjoy lots of visitors. We wanted a large house so the families can all come to visit and they can stay a while. Last Christmas we had nine guests from Boston and India, who came to celebrate a special birthday with us.”
After two years in the house, Suman says its furnishing is now complete. Other than some initial help from Design Intervention with the boys’ rooms, the enterprising Suman managed the decorating and minor renovations herself, all while living there. Now, she says, she is ready to get involved in work again, drawing on her 15 years’ experience in running technology companies. After selling their US-based technology company, Jason has launched Acromobile, a start-up software company for mobile customer engagement in Singapore.
From the third-level landing, Suman and I gaze from the skylight down to the ground floor through a large, open light-well. Sunshine streams in and brightens the house, which is wedged between two adjoining houses.
“When we bought the house the skylight was open and the rain came in, which created a bit of a mess on the first floor. We made it bigger and enclosed it with glass,” explains Suman. A large frosted glass panel lets more light into the master bathroom.
The master bedroom is furnished mainly with furniture they owned before, including a large silk-on-silk rug from India that takes pride of place. Pictures re-framed in mirrored frames by a shop in Little India are a stunning contrast against the silver-toned wallpaper. Suman says she recently purchased the side tables from the Barbara Barry by Baker Furniture line at Proof Living in ION.
One of the projects for the carpenter was to convert a sloping roof void into a space-efficient walk-in wardrobe. The couple now have their clothes and personal belongings organised in style; as Suman says, it also “makes the most of dead space”.
Across the landing, her large office features one of her favourite pieces, a massive chair recently re-upholstered in a maroon Laura Ashley fabric.
“This is my sanctuary,” she confesses, “where I escape to do my work and also for quiet time.” The family uses the verandah that opens off this room for dinner and drinks; Suman says it catches the breeze from the reservoir. Equipped with a retractable awning and an outdoor speaker system, it’s ideal for entertaining their many guests. I do wonder who has to carry the food up three flights of stairs, though; it’s a long way down for an extra fork!
Guests, children and cars
We find Suman’s boys in their room on the second floor playing with electronic gadgets, and notice they have made their beds! The boys share a bedroom and use an adjoining room as a play area that houses their toys and car collection.
The spacious landing holds a large, comfortable sofa and doubles as a family area for watching television and playing computer games. Framed pictures by a British photographer, purchased from the Affordable Art Fair, reflect the boys’ love of cars. A large pop art painting of Angelina Jolie by Indonesian artist Sumantri hangs at the top of the stairs.
While the boys’ rooms are at the back of the house, the front has two large guest rooms, decorated in different styles. They share access to the “gold bathroom”, as they boys have mischievously dubbed it. The tiles are indeed gold and there is an enormous shower with dual showerheads. (If I were a guest, I’d take my time in here – it’s both stunning and practical.)
Travel memorabilia hangs in the stairwell. “When we travel we always buy something as a memento of where we have been,” she says, pointing to a print that they purchased during a road trip from Zurich to Paris. Elsewhere is an elaborately carved wooden hanging from Chiang Mai and pictures from a recent trip to Australia.
Living and entertaining
Suman changed a lot of the lighting in the living areas, using spotlights for dramatic effect. “The lighting has divided spaces and created focal points; we acted on the advice of a lighting consultant,” she explains. “The ceilings are high, maybe 15 feet, so in the dining room we hung the Italian chandelier which we brought from our house in the US.”
To the side of the dining table is a small alcove, which is the bottom of the now-enclosed light-well. This is a casual area for a cup of tea and reading a book. Suman had the large artwork made locally, using images from the US and matching tiles.
At the base of the stairs, which in so many houses becomes an area to hoard junk, Suman has cleverly created a bar area, with wallpaper and subtle backlighting.
The large living room has been split into two distinct areas by careful placement of furniture and spotlighting. “Half the room is a sitting area to relax in; there is no TV, deliberately. I took inspiration from US-based designer Barbara Barry for the panelling on the walls. Together with the caramel colour of the paint, it has softened the harshness of the big, blank walls,” says Suman.
She has recycled their furniture to good effect in this room, reupholstering the leather sofa in a neutral fabric. A local carpenter custom-made the two white side bureaus, taking design inspiration from the pattern on the back of the dining chairs.
As we finish talking, the boys grab my attention: Arjun driving his remote-control car under the sofa and Marcus performing a near-perfect rendition of Ode to Joy on the recorder before heading outside to play. It’s clear that Suman has achieved her goal of creating a comfortable home for easy, relaxed family living.
Goodrich Global (wallpaper and fabrics, plus installation)
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6787 8787 | goodrichglobal.com
Y. Shamul Hameed Glass and Frame Makers
57 Kerbau Road
6294 7687 | hameedglass.com.sg
Hong Ling Furniture (custom cabinetry, refinishing furniture)
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Art Xchange Gallery
6 Eu Tong Sen Street
#02-65 The Central
6224 9007 | artxchangegallery.com
World Farm Nursery (landscapers and nursery)
15 Bah Soon Pah Road
6752 0500 | worldfarm.com.sg
45 Minden Road
6475 6088 | jimthompson.com
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6471 3228 | www.dempseyhill.com
Level 55 ION Orchard
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Baja Fresh Mexican Grill
Rendezvous Hotel Gallery
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Garibaldi Italian Restaurant and Bar
36 Purvis Street
6837 1468 | garibaldi.com.sg
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