British interior designer Elliot Barratt opened the door to his compact Balmoral Road condo and showed us round his gorgeous apartment, which oozes masculine elegance and style.
Moving abroad without a job is not for the faint-hearted. But when the destination has a thriving economy and growing population like Singapore, it’s a calculated risk for any hard working entrepreneur; especially one with a will to succeed.
Elliot, 30, and his girlfriend Natalie, 26, took the leap of faith last June, packed up their suitcases and dreams, and left London for tropical climes. Elliot says his twin brother, who lived the expat dream in Hong Kong for four years, inspired him to move outside his comfort zone. “In Singapore I can satisfy my travel bug and work at the same time, so it’s the ideal place to set up a new company,” he said.
Brimming with fresh ideas, Elliot’s apartment shows he is clearly enthusiastic about adding an eclectic Asian twist to the classic British interiors of his homeland. One sunny afternoon, he showed me through his apartment, and amiably answered my questions in his chirpy South East London accent.
Why did you choose this apartment in Balmoral Road?
I looked at more than 20 condos, with a list of criteria from Natalie, who was back in the UK at the time. We’d already spent a week here together on a scoping trip for the business, so she knew what to expect. In the end, the decision was clinched by the open plan layout, the open kitchen and the views. It’s a bonus that our friends live nearby and there’s good public transport.
How have you found settling in, in the first 12 months?
Natalie landed on her feet and got a job easily with a creative agency, so she has happily followed her UK career. I moved here to launch my business, Elliot James, which I ran part-time for about five years alongside my job as head of design at The Daily Telegraph. It came to a point where I decided to follow my passion for interior design, and created the opportunity for change.
The business offers a full interior design and consultancy service; everything from concept design through to turnkey project management. One of the projects currently underway is the fit-out and furnishing of a new five-bedroom penthouse. It’s been a learning curve working with local contractors, suppliers and government regulatory authorities. We’ve done some innovative things like building beds into the wide window ledges to create more room space, and custom-designing storage furniture.
This combined living, dining and kitchen area works well with chrome, black and neutral shades the dominant palate. It’s quite masculine; did your girlfriend have any input?
Natalie likes an understated style and we bought a lot of these pieces together. The TV and cabinet, black chest and Eames chair came with us from the UK and we’ve supplemented the room with other pieces purchased here such as the sofa from John Erdos. We felt the wooden frame and the neutral upholstery had a colonial Asian feel and fits nicely with our other pieces.
We made the pictures above the TV ourselves; they are snaps taken in London and are a nice touch of home. The Chinese drum stools are from Taylor B, which is one of my numerous hunting grounds for furniture. We decided on them, instead of one large coffee table which would have taken up a lot of space. They are interesting, practical and add an Asian accent to most interiors.
We got the chrome bar stools here; they are very simple but useful in the open-plan dry kitchen. It feels a bit like a bar because the wet kitchen is tucked away out of eyesight. Entertaining is easy and fun, and even though the apartment is only 1,100 square feet we can still squeeze in eight to 10 people.
The dining table was sourced from online site Gumtree, and has turned out to be a good find. Black, big and bold it’s what I call a statement piece, but in this room it’s not offensive. We wanted bench-style seating as it’s unobtrusive, but useful for large groups. Sometimes we use the Chinese drums for extra seats.
The master bedroom has two full walls of glass windows and three sliding doors. This is an interesting design challenge and there are many condos with bedrooms like this. How did you design this room?
The feature wall is between the two sliding doors so it’s the only logical place for the bed. We like the room because it is bright and airy with floor-to-ceiling windows. There’s a reflective filter film on windows so no one can see in. I deliberately didn’t put anything in front of the windows, because the room needs to be minimally furnished. There’s a walk-in wardrobe and ensuite so the only furniture is our bed and a standing lamp. With two prints on the walls, it’s simple but effective.
The second bedroom is tiny, how have you turned it into a cute office?
Because I work from home we’ve chosen to use this room as a workspace rather than offering a bed for visitors. The hide-covered cube was made as a prototype for a furniture seating system that I designed quite a few years back. I had the built-in desk made-up. It’s just a standard laminate top customised made to fit the shape of the room and propped on two A-frames from IKEA. It was economical, but effective.
A lot of expats buy Asian-style furniture here but wonder how to integrate it with their Western-style furniture and in their home when they eventually move on. Do you have any suggestions?
It’s possible to base a room around one piece of furniture without overpowering it. If it’s a strong colour then use that as a base and use complementary shades in other furniture and accessories. That’s great when you want a pop of colour and have one statement piece to work with. Such pieces don’t have to look out of place.
But if you are going for a light touch of Asia, go for a piece in a muted colour that can blend into your existing style, rather than being the first thing you see when walking into a room.
Elliot’s tips for small spaces
- Don’t be intimidated by a small room. Be bold and use big furniture as it actually shows off the space better.
- Try not to clutter the area; stick to a few big pieces.
- White walls always make a small room appear bigger. Use feature walls for colour.
- I like black frames on white walls as it creates a striking gallery effect.
- Use the shelf windowsills to make a customised bed by building a platform for the mattress and a headboard into the sill.
- Use rugs to zone areas, creating a division between the living and dining areas and adding warmth.
- Use lots of different levels of lighting including pendant lights which are good for dining. Use lamps of different heights and recessed spotlights for variety.
501 Bukit Timah Road
#01-05A Cluny Court
6463 3831 | thebungalow55.com
Block 14-C Dempsey Road
8223 1275 | curio-home.com
8499 8885 | elliotjames.com
7A & 7B Dempsey Road
6735 3307 | johnerdos.com.sg
43 Keppel Road, levels 1, 2 & 4; and
1557 Keppel Road, #01-02
9561 0700 | 9177 0004 (by appointment only)
896 Dunearn Road
#02-02C Sime Darby Centre
9026 7061 | verandah-living.com