As their first overseas assignment was coming to a close, Mike and Gena Bourgeois were eager to return to their home in laissez-faire Louisiana. Fate intervened, and their dreams of the Deep South were traded for stints in Shanghai and, again, Singapore. After nine years of condo life, the Bourgeoises were finally ready to find the perfect house in Singapore.
When Gena Bourgeois first ascended the regal marble staircase of this two-storey West Coast house, opened the ornately carved Chinese doors and peered inside, the first thought that swept through her mind was, “This place needs a lot of work!”
“This is the first house that we’ve lived in since moving to Asia, and it is a real treat,” Gena says. “But before we moved in, it needed to be repainted and renovated – practically every room had built-in shelves and cabinets that we wanted to remove. The kitchen needed to be completely redone, too. Thankfully, the owners were very accommodating with our requests.”
When Mike, Gena and their three sons first moved to Singapore in 1999, they lived in Aspen Heights on River Valley Road. They enjoyed the area, but were ready to move back to the US at the end of Mike’s three-year assignment with ExxonMobil. As they were preparing to return to Louisiana, ExxonMobil asked Mike if he would consider a move to Shanghai.
“We were mentally out the door and headed home. We had commissioned the most beautiful colonial furniture – three bedroom sets, a dining room set, and more – from Malacca Woodworks to take with us,” says Gena. “So it took me a while to undo my thinking. I talked to people that had been to Shanghai, and my middle son, Hunter, pointed out that, either way, it was inevitable that he would be attending a new school. So we decided to give Shanghai a go.”
As the Bourgeois family were coming to terms with their new plans, they discovered that their custom-made furniture was not invited.
“We couldn’t take to Shanghai it because of China’s import duty. So, as originally planned, all of our furniture was shipped to Louisiana – we just didn’t go with it! It has been in storage for nine years now.”
To Shanghai and Back
Gena picks her words carefully when describing her three years in Shanghai. “It was challenging. Every day was a different experience. Not knowing the language was a major problem. When my youngest son, Daniel, wanted a hamster, I printed a photo from the internet and took it around town to find one. It worked!”
As Mike’s Shanghai assignment was ending, the Bourgeoises discovered that their eagerness to return to the US had waned. They decided to return to Singapore largely because of their children’s education. “The school system back home just doesn’t compare to the education that my kids receive at the Singapore American School .”
They returned to Singapore and moved into Pin Tjoe Court on Ardmore Park, which was sold en bloc two years later. After nine years of living in a condo, Mike and Gena decided that they wanted to live in a house again. To find a home suitable for their belongings and budget, they looked outside the communities bordering Orchard Road.
Gena credits Mike’s keen computer-surfing skills for finding their home. She says her favourite aspects of the three-bedroom, four-bathroom house is the spacious interior and the backyard, prompting – as if on cue – a bevy of birds to sing in applause. “If I feel the need to go out, dig in the ground and pull a few weeds up, I can!” she laughs.
The home is perfect for entertaining, which is appropriate since Mike and Gena, both of Cajun-French descent, are known for throwing the best Mardi Gras party in town. “Last year we had almost 100 people,” Gena says, demonstrating how the glass doors leading to the second floor balcony slide discreetly into the living room walls.
Committed to Memories
With scores of antiques, cloisonné dishware and an estimated 30 hand-knotted carpets adorning her home, Gena says her most valued furnishings are those that evoke memories of family travels.
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