Why did Katrina and Tim Egan choose a home that needed so much doing to it? Well, rental houses with gardens and pools are like hen’s teeth in Singapore, and Katrina could see this one’s potential under the grime and neglect. Being “a sweetie”, her husband overcame his initial misgivings and backed her all the way. They invited Verne Maree to Victoria Park Road and told her all about it.
She’s from Perth, he’s from New York, and the two of them met in London. Tim’s banking career took them to Hong Kong for three years, where their eldest son, Bailey (now 6) was born.
“Hong Kong is a very intense and happening city, and we loved our time there,” says Tim. Nevertheless, when Benjamin (now 3) was on the way, it was an easy decision to move to relatively laid-back, family-friendly, unpolluted Singapore. Did they miss the buzz of Hong Kong?
“Actually, we were pleasantly surprised to discover when we moved here almost four years ago that there was more to do than we’d thought: Botanic Gardens, the zoo, the water parks and so on.”
A penthouse at The Seaview, a Katong (East Coast) condo with endless expanses of swimming pool, was their first Singapore home. It was convenient for Tim’s work in the city, but Katrina found herself doing too much driving into and back from town for kid-centric activities such as play dates, she says. And with two growing boys and Sierra (now 18 months old) on the way, she wanted space for the children to run around.
Bailey is at SJI (St Joseph’s Institute) and Benjamin is at the Tanglin branch of Wee Care preschool. “We’re so happy with both of them,” says Tim. “One thing we’re going to miss when we leave Singapore is its great schools.”
Katrina concurs. “The SJI principal is out and about all the time, and knows each child by name. It’s such a lovely environment and they involve the parents, too.”
House & Garden
Singapore is not the easiest place to find – or afford – a traditional family home where children can run around in a private garden. But for many parents who grew up that way, it remains the ideal; and I suspect that Katrina is something of a perfectionist.
After a nine-month search, Katrina found this Victoria Park bungalow. Unfortunately, she says, it had been standing vacant for a while and looked terribly neglected. Once she’d managed to convince Tim that it would be worth doing up, they set about making the place liveable.
Strings dangled from ugly ceiling lights; they replaced them all with wall-switches, and bought lovely chandeliers for the living room and nursery and track lights for the kitchen. Rusty or dysfunctional door-handles and bathroom fittings were replaced, tiles acid-washed and blackened tile-grouting cleaned up. Details like these can make a huge difference.
“Nicole from Taylor B. gave me a lot of useful advice,” says Katrina. Her first recommendation was to remove the horrible black grilles from the sliding doors between the living room and terrace to open up a charming view of greenery. Burglar guards in the dining room proved impossible to remove, though, being too well cemented in.
A new pool replaced the old above-ground one, and they installed decking to cover the exposed drains outside the kitchen.
“We did a lot to the garden, including a lot of planting,” says Katrina. She chose tropical flowering plants to bring in some colour, but hasn’t had much success with the actual flowering aspect – perhaps there’s too much shade.
Home & Décor
She furnished the boys’ room mainly in Singapore, says Katrina. “I could just possibly be the one person who has spent the most at Motherswork. We got that feeling when they started giving us free birthday parties at the shop!”
But the gorgeous bedding is from Pottery Barn Kids, brought back in boxes during the course of a number of holiday trips to the US. “Luckily, when you’re travelling with a helper and three kids they don’t always bother to weigh everything.”
Altfield in Hong Kong upholstered the living room sofas; but it was The Shophouse here in Singapore who did the exquisite ottoman. Altfield also supplied much of the Chinese artwork throughout the house, plus the American lamps.
I have to ask: how do young children and cream furniture co-exist in the same house? “It’s really easy,” says Katrina. “They eat at the table or in the kitchen.” Tim chimes in here, generously taking sole blame for any stains on his favourite sofa.
A rustic dining room table,an English china cabinet and a wine-storage unit in dark wood are the last reminders of Tim’s single London days. “I still like the table,” he ventures, “but there’s a bit of an issue here.”
Katrina’s eyes darken. “I hate it,” she declares, “and I can’t wait for it to go.” (Perfectly tasteful as the despised table is, I wouldn’t put money on its chances of surviving their next move.)
Behind the master bedroom’s gorgeously Willow Pattern-upholstered bed-head – an American design called Shangri-La – clever curtaining conceals a large window. The Shophouse provided matching bed cushions in various textures and patterns. As for the chest of drawers, it was custom-made for them at Altfield in Hong Kong.
Beyond the kitchen is a guest room; its lower ceiling suggests that it’s a later addition to the original house. The Ralph Lauren side tables come from Taylor B; Katrina had them refinished in a different colour by Michael Tan from Carlmey; he also does upholstery, she says, and his workmanship is both good and reasonably priced.
Expat Living first heard about the Egans from photographer Hart Tan, whom they have used several times and have the highest praise for. What’s more, says Tim, Hart’s prices are very reasonable for someone who produces such wonderful work.
By the time you read this, the five Egans will be settling into their new life in Sydney. “It’s kind of an end game for us,” Tim explains. “We’ve loved living in Asia, but being part of the Australian culture is important to Katrina, and we promised ourselves that we’d put some permanent roots down once Bailey started school.”
While Katrina is excited about her future home – a big old house in Sydney’s Neutral Bay – she admits to having a few qualms about leaving this house, especially as they’ve lived in it for just two years after spending a great deal of time, effort and money on the place.
After all, though, that’s the expat condition: we don’t always know how long we’ll have in a particular posting. There’s always a risk that our time might cut short for one or another reason.
As they leave, here’s wishing the Egans the best of luck – and the same to the lucky family who’ll be moving into the house they have so lovingly restored.
Carlmey Interior Furnishing (Michael Tan) for upholstery
Blk 3016 Bedok North Ave 4
#02-28 Eastech Singapore 489947
carlmey.com.sg | 6742 6656
Taylor B. Fine Design Group (by appointment)
43 Keppel Road #04-01/2
taylorbdesign.com | 9177 0004
Tomato Photo (Hart Tan)
tomato.sg | 9147 5123
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