Dutch expats Barbara Fritschy and Joost Bilkes recently made the move from city to suburb, from a condo in Orchard to their rented house in Pasir Panjang. Barbara talks me through their decision, and how her eye for style as owner of furniture and interior design store Make Room has fashioned their new home.
The winding South Buona Vista Road that runs past Kent Ridge Park and eventually leads to Barbara and Joost’s home is flanked by lush tropical greenery. This is clearly suburbia, and I’m intrigued to find out what prompted the family’s recent move from city-central Orchard to Pasir Panjang. I quickly discover why, as I’m ushered into the house by their helper Merry whilst Barbara puts the newest addition to the family, baby daughter Pippa, down for her nap.
When the family arrived in Singapore more than three years ago they had two children, and in the midst of setting up her business Barbara discovered she was pregnant with the third. “With three we needed more space,” she says. “When we lived in the Orchard area we had a smaller place, a ground-floor condo. This house is better priced and twice the size,” she says.
Their current 2,600 square feet, three-storey home has four bedrooms and a large, open-plan living, dining and outdoor area. ”Here the inside is connected to the outside, and we spend most of our time outside.”
But don’t they miss the ease and convenience of Orchard? No, is the simple answer.
“We’re much more involved in Singapore life here. There are some great parks nearby, the MRT is three minutes’ walk from us, and we have VivoCity and Sentosa close by.” The great outdoors on their doorstep provides some much-needed skateboarding and scootering space for the couple’s daughter Sam (5), and son Yop (3).
Parks and recreation
Pasir Panjang has a plethora of parks that offer activities for the whole family. West Coast Park is great for all ages, with a huge playground area, cycle track and go-karts for hire. Kent Ridge Park is popular amongst fitness fanatics, with 20 fitness stations throughout the park, as well as a 280-metre-long canopy walk that links Kent Ridge Park to the Reflections at Bukit Chandu museum. Nature lovers and history enthusiasts can enjoy the flora and fauna of Labrador Park, and its secret tunnels used by the British Army in World War II.
Eye on design
Given that Barbara owns furniture and accessories store Make Room, where she also offers her services as an interior stylist and designer, there was little doubt this house would be impeccably put together. “Our living area is trendy, with a natural palette of greens for outdoors. The kids’ room is a mix-and-match of colour, materials and patterns, and for the baby’s room I chose a natural and woody style.”
Many of the pieces came with them from the condo, which Barbara describes as “fairly colourful”. “The living room had a simple base, with some really bold statements like a blue wall, a blue rug and a bluish-green table.” Her thinking here was to go all-natural, particularly in the living room. “I wanted a basic, rustic and natural style, and my idea was to make it interesting with different fabrics such as linen, knitted pieces, leather and jute, and pops of colour.”
Barbara’s current career is the polar opposite of her previous position as a project manager for UBS. “I don’t regret my initial career path though, as it gave me the chance to travel extensively and get a solid grounding in business; and it’s how I met my husband,” she says. But she admits that she was never a banker at heart. “I always had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to start my own company.”
Although she had no specific creative influence within her own family, she does point out that her mother pays plenty of attention to colours and style. She also reminisces about a family party, when she started to realise just how strong her leanings towards interiors and design were. “I was eight years old, and an elderly uncle decided to give every child at the party 100 guilders. I remember saving them so I could buy a chair for my room. I mean, what eight-year-old does that kind of thing? I was always cutting things out of magazines, making mood boards, changing my room around, painting things and taking on little DIY projects.”
Owning your own shop must make furniture and accessories shopping pretty easy, I say. “Too easy,” says Barbara. “But it’s worth investing in good pieces to make a home; they have memories.”
Eye-catching wallpaper from ESTAhome in The Netherlands can be seen on three separate feature walls, one on each floor. The paper used behind the dining table serves to demarcate the dining and living spaces, while also adding cohesion by picking up the pattern of the dining table top and echoing the muted tones of the living room. On the second level is an open-plan study area, where wallpaper featuring stacks of newspapers enhances the industrial look Barbara wanted to achieve.
The kids’ bedroom, tucked away at the top of the house, is one of the few areas of bright colour, particularly in the wallpaper featuring Amsterdam houses in yellow. Downstairs are a few pops of pink in the hand-knitted pieces, such as plant-pot covers and poufs, that Barbara sells in her shop.
Most of the main pieces of furniture have moved with the family from house to house, some undergoing a makeover. The dining table, for example, which she bought from Originals, has been stripped down from a bluey-green to its raw state to fit in with the overall natural and rustic theme.
The silver trays, the green metal chairs from Madam Stoltz and a bookcase by Nordal are all available from Make Room. But she doesn’t shy away from the competition, freely admitting that she really likes Galanga Living and Originals. “I think we should all share the love,” she laughs.
Steal her Style
Want to put something up on the wall without having to drill holes? Grab an old wooden warehouse pallet, add some hanging pots from Make Room and plant herbs in them – basil, mint and rosemary fare well here. Eh voilà! A stylish and eye-catching take on a herb garden. (Or use the pallet to pin pictures or photos up instead if you’re not green-fingered.)
Think twice before you throw out cans, as there are plenty of ways to recycle them, says Barbara. Pierce holes in them and make a lantern, use them as vases, or attach them to the wall for storage. Easy and stylish.
For more information about Make Room, call 9113 1274, or visit make-room.net.
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