Suzanne and Jeremy Smith have had five homes in as many years. Their Pandan Valley apartment is the third one they have bought and renovated, and surely won’t be the last!
“When I asked the estate agent to find me an older property for renovation, I told her: ‘Anywhere but Pandan Valley’ – built 34 years ago, they’re the oldest freehold flats in Singapore. But she said, ‘A couple of units are for sale, so let’s just have a look anyway.’”
That was at the end of 2010. It’s certainly not a glossy development, but the price was right; and after looking at 21 different properties, Suzanne felt that it offered the best value. In her words, it ticked the most boxes.
Suzanne is from South Philippines, and worked for Cathay Pacific for almost 14 years. She and Jeremy, a Brit who now works for Citibank, met in Hong Kong in 1992. All three of their gorgeous sons – Marcus (12), Tomas (10) and Luke (8) – were born in Manila, after she’d hung up her wings.
Having replaced flying with motherhood, Suzanne was soon casting around for a new career, so in 2002 she studied at Toni & Guy’s and became a hairstylist: something she could do anywhere and at any age, she figured.
But when they bought their first Singapore property – a condo in Maplewoods, Bukit Timah Road – they had no plan to sell it on, says Suzanne. “Actually, when I sold Maplewoods, I cried. But I so loved the design and renovation process that I got bored when it came to an end, and I wanted to do it all over again. I also found I loved the excitement of buying and selling. Jeremy doesn’t meddle with what I do: he’s just the finance!
“Within a week of the sale, while he was in India, I found and bought another property in Hume Road and then renovated it for us. It was a bigger, five-bedroom apartment with an office, where I was able to set up my hair salon.“
The Big Question
Is it worth the upheaval? Is it worth the major discomfort of living in a place while it’s being renovated? Suzanne so loves the sense of achievement she gets from the renovation process, that she thinks it is.
“Moving from Maplewoods to Hume Avenue, we had to put a lot of our profit back into the property because the bank valuation was so low. But it was one of only two penthouses, it had a great layout, and we had to do relatively little to it for it to sell easily.”
This Pandan Valley apartment was another story: there was plenty to be done. As Suzanne says, it’s most important to have a good contractor, someone you get along with. And Jeremy, who has kindly popped in for the photo-session, takes up the tale.
“All the toilets and bathrooms were redone. Downstairs, we opened up the kitchen to the living area, hacked up the old quarry tiles and laid new, pale ones to bring in more light. The great slab of wood that forms the kitchen counter top is from one tree; it came from Java.
“We also stripped back everything we could, including dark built-in cupboards, to open up the space as much as possible. We took the carpeting off the stairs up to the main living area and laid a wooden floor there; it goes well with the timber furniture we already had. There we also lifted the ceiling for a more spacious, light and airy feeling.
“A good layout was important for us, especially as we were moving from a bigger home to a smaller one; at around 2,400 square feet, this is about half the size of our last place. Though we all spend most of our time downstairs – it’s where we cook, eat, watch TV and hang out – with three boys, we wanted a separate living area where we could be quiet if we wanted to.”
This was a massive job; how could they possibly have lived on the premises while it was happening? “Luckily, it wasn’t for too long,” he explains. “We delayed completion of the Hume Road sale, which gave us a month; and we spent part of the second month in a hotel. We got the contractors to complete the upper level first and lived there for two or three weeks while they completed the rest. We ate a lot of takeaways!”
ID Home Plus, 200 Turf Club Road, #01-38 Turf City (Nancy)
United World College of Southeast Asia (UWCSEA)
Karo Teak Furniture
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#02-31 WCEGA Plaza
Omar Shariff Indian Restaurant
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