The moment Jackie Stoll tells me her plan to empty the family shoe cabinet and replace the footwear with bottles of wine, I know I am going to like her.
The dark wood cabinet greets visitors when they emerge from the private lift into the Stolls’ Ardmore Park apartment. That and a horse-like sculpture bought from China Collection, which they have fondly christened “Ardmore”.
The parents of three from Chicago moved to Singapore in January last year after Jackie’s husband, Mark, was transferred by his employer. “We were very excited about the prospect of moving to Asia,” Jackie says enthusiastically. Their two elder children Megan (19) and Mark (17) are studying in the US, and younger son Ryan (15) lives with them here.
After choosing Ardmore Park for its central location and extensive facilities, Jackie then had the task of furnishing the apartment from scratch. She recalls being clueless about where to buy furniture and what style to choose, until a friend recommended Gallery 278. There she met owner Felicia Koh, who quickly became the couple’s design guru.
“Felicia is passionate about her craft, which makes her thoroughly enjoyable to work with,” Jackie says, adding that Felicia helped them choose the initial colour scheme (inspired by a framed Balinese batik), the furnishings, the accessories and even the plants, which they bought from a garden centre.
Almost every piece of furniture in the Stolls’ four-bedroom apartment is leased-to-own from Gallery 278. This gives them the option of purchasing it outright when they leave – for a nominal fee. “It gives us the flexibility of choosing what to take with us and what to leave behind,” Jackie says.
One of Felicia’s specialities is sourcing carvings made of recycled wood, which she incorporates into her custom-made furniture. “We chose the carvings we liked from photos that Felicia emailed us,” Jackie says while showing me their four-poster bed, a stunning example of Felicia’s handiwork.
Although the carvings are mainly decorative, they sometimes take a more functional role: “We had one placed at the bottom of our television cabinet to let warm air from the electrical equipment escape when the doors are closed.”
Odds and Ends
A multitude of beautiful ornaments is displayed in a cabinet that backs onto what looks like the world’s biggest sofa. “The cabinets are big enough to house our collection, but they also do a great job of hiding the back of the sofa,” says Jackie.
I spot an alarmingly familiar object sitting on the coffee table, which is inlaid with another of Felicia’s magnificent carvings. I recognise the wooden tray as having come from the Cu Chi war tunnels in Vietnam; I have the same tray in my kitchen. No doubt Jackie and I were both, up until that point, under the illusion that our respective Vietnamese trays were the only ones in existence. Still, we both agree that the tunnels are a must-see. Jackie recalls witnessing one particular incident during her visit to Cu Chi, involving a rather large lady and a small tunnel – apparently it was some time before the tour guides were able to extract her.
Next to the tray are some beautiful opium pipes, also from Vietnam, which almost landed Jackie in trouble as she entered Singapore with them. “The customs officer eyed us suspiciously and asked what the pipes were for,” she recalls with a laugh. “Fortunately, his colleague recognised that they were for display purposes.”
The opium pipes weren’t the only items to cause controversy at Changi Airport. Two beautifully carved swords had customs in a tizzy until Jackie pointed out that they were in fact made of wood and couldn’t cut an apple. The incidents have not deterred her, though. “The whole family gets a real kick out of shopping abroad,” she says, pointing out other ornaments, paintings and fabrics and accessories, acquired from all over the region.
Taking Felicia’s advice, Jackie has draped fabrics over furniture and smaller items. An enormous grey jug, acquired at a John Erdos warehouse sale, is filled with bamboo and draped with Cambodian Tabitha silk. An up-light placed inside creates a dramatic effect.
The Rug Bug
As is usually the case with collectors of Oriental carpets, the rug-bug creeps up slowly. It starts with just one innocent carpet, and then another, and before they know it they have a whole houseful. This is certainly the case for the Stolls, who have rugs in almost every room.
“The carpets are mostly from Hassan’s,” she says. It was Felicia’s idea to bring in some carpets, though it was Hassan’s who taught the Stolls to appreciate the art of hand-knotting. “We didn’t have a clue about Oriental carpets before we moved to Singapore, but now we look at them the way some people look at beautiful paintings.”
Jackie is not just fit, she is triathlon-fit. A member of the Australia and New Zealand Association (ANZA) Bus Bait cycle team, she pedals at least 100 kilometres every week, plays tennis with other members of the American Women’s Association, and regularly jogs around the Botanical Gardens. “Cycling was a little tricky here at first,” she admits. “Other road users, especially the bus drivers, show little consideration for cyclists.”
However, these activities have done wonders for Jackie’s social life, and have prepared her for the Bintan Triathlon in May, in which she and Mark are participating. “This will be my first triathlon since moving to Singapore, but I have taken part in several back home.”
Ryan, following in his parents’ athletic footsteps, teaches lacrosse to fellow schoolmates at the Singapore American School, and participates in semi-pro paintball competitions around the region. Although I’m unable to fathom why one would put oneself in the firing line of a rock-solid ball of paint, I take my hat off to him
Pearls of Wisdom
An American lady whom Jackie met soon after her arrival in Singapore imparted these words of wisdom shortly before moving back to the US: “See, do and travel as much as possible while you are here. Enjoy the differences and the experiences because, even though you know you will be moving someday, that day will come around all too quickly.”
Jackie happily adheres to the advice. “We are truly enjoying getting the most out of our Asian experience.”
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