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Showcase: Snoop around the home and garden of local artist Helene Cox

Only minutes away from downtown Singapore lies Wessex Estate, a charming collection of black-and-whites that housed the British armed forces in the 1960s. With just a few roads, this beautiful, quiet area has attracted a collection of artists including painters, potters, printmakers, sculptors and performers who live and work here. We met up with resident painter Helene Cox at her cosy, two-bedroom home.


What made you choose Wessex Estate?

We’ve lived in black-and-whites since we first arrived in 1996, as I love to be surrounded by greenery and have lots of outdoor living space for my dogs and as inspiration for my work. A friend of mine was living in this area, so I got to know it quite well before we moved here in 2006.

The location is great as it’s only six minutes on the AYE into the centre of town and four minutes to Holland Village. And the neighbours are just lovely; we’re quite a large artistic community here and it’s a very homely and friendly neighbourhood where you feel you can pop round to your neighbour’s place any time.

Tell us about some of the furniture you’ve collected during your years in Singapore.
I love pieces that combine Western and Eastern influences, such as our antique dining chairs from Shanghai, which are crafted in the English style but have distinctively Asian carvings. I choose pieces that have special meaning to me.

One of my favourites is this Art Deco dresser; its elegant floral design reminds me of the flowers that I paint. Kirby Kwek of StewArts is Singapore’s best-kept secret; you must go there, as you can’t not find something beautiful in his shop. There’s something for every budget and, if you’re looking for something particular, Kirby can source it for you. He found me the perfect set of shelves to fit under the lounge windows.

Is there a lot of upkeep involved in staying in a black-and-white?

Yes, these places do require a lot of maintenance and you have to continually keep things in check, particularly the garden, to avoid having the jungle and unwanted wildlife encroaching on you.

When we first moved in, the garden was just a patch of grass, but whenever friends left Singapore, they would give me plants from their gardens which we transplanted here. Now, when I spend time outdoors, each plant reminds me of the person it came from so the garden is a very special place for me; full of lovely memories of the wonderful people who’ve come into my life.

Tell us about the personal touches added to the home?

I decided to redecorate the bathroom one weekend when I was supposed to be having a rest from painting.  Firstly, I layered the paint on the walls. Then I cut out shapes from rice paper to make the floral designs based on leaf and plant shapes found in the garden, and glued them onto the walls – a  sort of drawing with scissors.

The art in this house is both professional and personal. As a family, we don’t tend to give material presents; we prefer to exchange gifts that we’ve made such as letters, cards, drawings and paintings, so we have lots of sentimental artworks on the walls. It’s the art that makes this house a home for us, because we’ve moved so many times over the years, as many expats do.

I’ve noticed your paintings often have a botanic theme. What are you currently working on?

Professionally, I’ve always been associated with my “flower paintings”, but currently I’m working on a new series of paintings called “Memories” –the large piece hanging in my living room is one of them.

The flowers and plants in my memory gardens are all connected to places where I’ve lived or visited. So, for example, the foxgloves are reminiscent of when my grandfather and I used to go for country walks and we’d make finger puppets out of the foxgloves. Another memory garden might be inspired by the place I used to walk with my first love or by the beautiful gardens of Hampton Court, which I often visited with the children when they were younger.


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