Before Nicole, her husband James and their 11-year-old daughter, Taylor, moved into this house in July 2009, it had been renovated to within an inch of its foundations. The floors and walls had been revitalised, a brand new spiral staircase added, and the kitchens and bathrooms fitted with the latest mod cons. But its original façade is intact, and despite its fresh appearance it still retains a touch of history.
Expat Living discovered this beautiful home when the American Women’s Association (AWA) invited us on one of their Home Tours last year. Nicole opened up her home to interested visitors, and with our curiosity suitably satisfied, we decided to share our findings with you.
Originally from Missouri in the US, the family began their tour of Asia with a move to Shanghai in 2006. “We hadn’t lived outside the US before and wanted to try something different,” says Nicole.
For many years prior to their relocation, Nicole had a burning passion for interior design. She says that she occupied her time in the US with buying homes, doing them up and then selling them on. When she opened Taylor B – a furniture, arts and home décor retailer – shortly after moving to Shanghai, it was like a dream come true. “This job isn’t like work at all; it’s more of a hobby,” she says.
After three years in Shanghai, the couple set their sights on Singapore, and James flew here with the intention of finding a new school for Taylor. “He went to Singapore American School (SAS), but the waiting list was really long. He was told that Taylor would only be accepted the following year, if she could see out the remainder of the current school year. This meant that we had to move to Singapore right away,” says Nicole.
The family flew to Singapore for a one-month trial, and lived in a serviced apartment on Orchard Road. “Taylor was getting up at 5.30am every day to go to school but she didn’t once complain; in fact, she loved it, so we decided to make our stay here permanent,” says Nicole.
Because Taylor was diagnosed with Diabetes Type 1 when she was three years old, the high standard of medical care available in Singapore was another huge incentive for them to relocate. I ask Taylor if she minds the injections, and she shrugs, saying, “No, not really. I have to do at least four every day, but I don’t mind.” This brave young lady is also a budding writer, and has already penned several articles for the school newspaper.
Although Taylor had the opportunity to learn fluent Mandarin in Shanghai, and despite them having enjoyed their time there, Nicole admits that the expatriate community is more sociable in Singapore. “The AWA has been amazing. Through them I’ve met so many great people,” she says.
The master bedroom, with its navy blue walls, crisp white bed linen and British colonial furniture, most of which came from Paul Maitland-Smith in the US, is very Ralph Lauren in feeling. Some of the pieces are from the Taylor B collection, including a distressed mirror-screen in the bathroom; this had originally been intended for Nicole’s warehouse. “There was a mix-up with the delivery and it ended up here,” says Nicole, who is now glad it did.
In contrast, the guest room features rich, luxurious reds to complement the antique Chinese furniture and artworks from Taylor B. Having gathered many of her design ideas while living in Shanghai, Nicole says her inspiration for this room was “old China”.
But Chinese antiques are just the tip of the iceberg for Taylor B, and Nicole explains that she enjoys mixing things up. “I like to blend the old with the new,” she says, and she scours the region looking for antique and modern wares to add to her collection.
Nicole is regularly out of the country, and spends so much time in Vietnam that the family has bought a house in Hanoi. James, although officially retired, is heavily involved in the running of Taylor B and accompanies Nicole on her business trips – as does Taylor when she isn’t at school. In fact, just a few days prior to our visit they had returned from India and Nepal, where they had been sourcing a new collection.
Outside Taylor’s third-floor bedroom, which she calls “my loft”, she has put up a sign saying “Welcome Expat Living” – a lovely touch. The room is a veritable princess’s palace, with pale pink walls and white-washed furniture from Taylor B, including a gorgeous four-poster bed. The room is immaculate, without a pop idol poster in sight. Further inspection, however, reveals a large storage room with a healthy collection of posters, from which the faces of Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus beam out at us.
On the Roof
Unexpectedly, Nicole leads me up another flight of stairs and out onto a spacious roof terrace. A construction site is within spitting distance, but the sight of cranes and the pounding of concrete is par for the course in Singapore. I’m far more interested in the gorgeous porcelain table and stools, flanked by two enormous vases, that dominate the space. Nicole tells me that she bought them from Jingdezhen in China, and explains that this area was the birthplace of hand-painted, blue-and-white porcelain.
Peanut Butter and Puppies
We descend to the ground floor, where three tiny Maltese dogs (Mum, Dad and baby) are scampering around the kitchen. Nicole must sense that I’m a bit peckish, because she hands me a glass filled with a frozen, brown goo. “It’s peanut butter and chocolate,” she says. I eye the glass with trepidation, painfully aware of my post-festive bulge. “It’s okay,” says Nicole, “it’s low fat and low calorie.” Excellent! I spoon the contents greedily and ask for the recipe – ice, skimmed milk, two sachets of sugar-free Swiss Mist chocolate powder, and two large spoonfuls of reduced fat Skippy peanut butter. Whiz it all together in the blender and voila! Bud soon abandons his lighting equipment to join us for this wonderfully refreshing snack.
I ask Nicole if she has any more foodie tips and she does: “We used to love microwave popcorn, but after a friend warned us that it contains harmful chemicals we bought a popcorn machine from the DIY store in Tanglin Mall. Now we make our own,” she says.
• Din Tai Fung – #B1-03 Paragon Shopping Centre. Call +65 6836 8336.
• Yami low-fat frozen yoghurt – #B4-72 ION Orchard.
• Chilli’s – #02-23 Tanglin Mall. Call +65 6733 3317.
• Marche – #03-14 Vivocity. Call +65 6376 8226.
Clubs and Membership
• American Women’s Association (AWA) – you don’t have to be American to join.
American Club, 10 Claymore Road. Call +65 6734 4895.
Dr Warren Lee’s Paediatrics, Growth and Diabetes Centre – #02-06 Camden Medical Centre.
Call +65 6235 3678.
Singapore American School – 40 Woodlands Street 41. Call +65 6363 3403. www.sas.edu.sg
Home Décor and Furniture
Taylor B Fine Design Group at 43 Keppel Road, #03-01. Call +65 9177 0004 for an appointment.
Want more home inspiration? See our home decor section!