Christmas is a time for family, and what better place to spend it than in the comfort of your own nest? Laura and Richard Norris have found the perfect haven for themselves, their two gorgeous children … and Isca, the soppy-eyed black Labrador.
With its dark-tiled floors and high, pitched wooden ceilings, this Berrima Road house has – most unusually for Singapore – the feel of a Swiss chalet. If you turned the air-conditioning up really cold, turned your back to the greenery outdoors and squinted through the silver-frosted Christmas tree, you could almost imagine you were in Europe.
This was not what Laura initially had in mind, she says. What she really wanted was a colonial black-and-white house, but when the Norrises decided to move here in August 2008, she discovered how difficult it had become to get one of these.
“We love colonial architecture,” says Laura. “In Hong Kong, we stayed in a beautiful colonial apartment on the sea. During my initial recce to Singapore, I saw about 20 houses here, and was wowed by many of them. I used just one agent, whom I found on the internet. When I couldn’t get a black-and-white, I thought I would find a house that I could at least furnish to look like one!”
Having level, green lawns surrounding the house and a back patio large enough for an outdoor dining and lounge area was a good start; installing black-and-white striped chick-blinds at the patio edge enhanced the effect.
The Way Here
Richard is “fully English”, says Laura, as she is “fully Italian”. Having attended boarding school in England from the age of 11, though, she sounds completely English. Her father’s career with Shell took the family all around the world.
Laura and Richard met at college in London. After completing her degree, she was always in PR, she says, “for Crabtree & Evelyn, Elizabeth Arden and then Harvey Nicks”. It was Richard’s investment banking career that sent them to Hong Kong, where both Sebastian (now 6½) and Luisa (3½) were born.
“I loved Hong Kong,” says Laura, “and we had seven great years there. But I was ready to move on, and now we really love Singapore – the space, the greenery, the quality of the air.”
Most important to the couple is that the children are delighted with their school, Tanglin Trust. “I’ve never seen children so happy to go off to school each day,” says their mother. “They’ve made great friends, and so have we.”
Getting the Look
A pair of zebra portraits, which Laura painted herself, dominates the living room. Having put down her brushes after doing art in her A-Levels, she picked them up again in Hong Kong when she decided, in her own words, to “create art for our house, rather than going out and buying it”; her colourful floral and other art from that predominantly turquoise period is mainly in the family room.
“I love interiors and I love art,” she muses. “It might be possible for me to combine these two passions in some kind of venture.” It’s true, as she points out, that in order to paint you ideally need a space of your own, one that you can close the door on rather than having to put everything away.
This is an admirably practical woman, the kind who would rescue two ugly cane chairs dumped on a pavement down the road from her house, take them home and give them a new lease of life. The adopted twins, now painted white and boasting comfortable cushions, look great in the living room: “I was covered in paint for three days!” she admits with a grin.
Much of their furniture, including the dining table and chairs, came with the Norrises from Hong Kong. The coffee table was from Woodfarm, which has since moved from Dempsey. Many odds and ends such as the white bench in the entrance area, various cushions, glassware and candles were found at Inside Living at Cluny Court, and the white pots are from Pottery Jungle.
Beautiful portraits of Luisa and Sebastian, commissioned from Tamsin Scott, beam from one wall. “Tamsin is a friend of mine,” explains Laura, “and she takes commissions for portraiture; she sends off your photographs to have them done.”
Up the spiral stairway from the family room is a beautiful guest room with strikingly Asian décor, perfect for visitors from abroad. I admire an intricately tucked and pleated quilt, but alas, it’s from Inside, one of Laura’ favourite Hong Kong shops.
The children’s room is a vision of pink and blue gingham, including the cutest stuffed and mounted animal heads – also gingham – on the wall. These were found at the Children’s Showcase at Loewen Gardens.
A whitewashed teak bed from Originals in the master bedroom is flanked by French provincial-style bedside tables from Danovel and made inviting by a collection of pillows. The prettily monogrammed ones are from Ikea, as is the white bench against one of the walls, and the lamps are Harvey Norman. We spend a couple of minutes agreeing that you can find some incredible designs at both of these megastores if you keep an open mind and are able to look beyond the fluorescent lighting.
“I’m keen on pottering about,” Laura explains, “so I’m still slowly discovering Singapore in my own way. I believe there’s a lot of good shopping to be found here.”
“Both Richard and I enjoy cooking and entertaining, and I think the design of this house is perfect for that. Though spacious, it’s also cosy. I get many of my herbs and other ingredients at the wet markets, especially the one at Farrer Road.
“My favourite restaurant, though – and I’m speaking as an Italian here! – is Oso. We spend a lot of time in Dempsey, one way or another, and I love Hacienda, especially for drinks. For a family meal out, we like to go to Picotin, as it’s great for the kids. We’re members of the Polo Club, so we go there often, and the kids love it there too.”
This lovely family house has been given a stylish but subtle festive touch for the Christmas season with the help of my colleague Lara Sage. She found the two striking trees – one black, the other silver – for $550 each at Lim’s; the baubles on the one that is inside are also from Lim’s, and the baubles on the patio tree are Laura Norris’s own.
Especially important during the festive season is the dining table, the heart of the home. I think Laura has created the perfect setting for her family and friends this Christmas. Compliments of the season to her and her family, and to all our readers!
Farrer Road Wet Market
Inside Living by Ziegler
Lim’s Arts & Living
7 Lock Road
+65 9670 3423
Tanglin Trust School
85 Lorong Tawas
+65 6265 5808
+65 9727 3812
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