After eyeing the sign on the gate warning visitors to “Beware of the Guard Dog”, I enter the driveway of the four-bedroom Tanjong Katong house with caution. However, the lolloping bundle of fur that greets me is no more terrifying than a goldfish. Frankly, there is more danger of me being licked to death than eaten alive.
The house where Nongna the longhaired German shepherd lives with her owners, Eleanor and Channa Munasinghe, and their three daughters, Mikela and Elana (6), and Maya (4), was purchased last year by the couple following a sharp increase in rent for their nearby black-and-white.
Eleanor admits that October wasn’t the best time to buy property, but she doesn’t regret making the purchase. “The black-and-white only had one storey, and we much prefer having two levels with a staircase.”
A wonderful smell wafts from the large kitchen, where Eleanor and her assistant chef Mikela have been busy baking a quiche. When I compliment Mikela on her achievement, she is bashful and buries her face in her favourite soft toy, Marshmallow.
Meanwhile, Nongna is the very antithesis of shy, appearing thrilled to have visitors. Alternating between each of us for pats on the head, she follows Bud, the photographer, around the living room while he sets up his lighting equipment, clearly angling for a pawtrait.
One major advantage of owning a property, other than the obvious investment benefit, is that you can do pretty much anything you want to it.
“The house was a little gaudy when we bought it,” Eleanor says. This is difficult to imagine now, seeing its neutral walls, elegant furnishings and beautiful Oriental carpets.
Pointing to a dark, narrow storeroom adjacent to the kitchen, she explains that the windowless space was initially intended as a maid’s bedroom. As it was barely big enough for Nongna, let alone a human being, the Munasinghes had WK Renovation and Trading build a more spacious room – with windows – for their helper, Marissa.
The same firm made various other alterations to the house, and Eleanor’s testimonial is glowing. “They were extremely professional and reliable. We didn’t have to call them back once to fix anything they’d done.”
The high level of professionalism demonstrated by Singapore’s building contractors never ceases to amaze me. It is certainly in stark contrast to England’s multitude of tea-guzzling cowboys, who are deemed to be doing a good job by simply turning up.
Love at First Bite
Eleanor is half-Japanese, half-Dutch, and grew up in Thailand, but spent some of her schooling years in England. Channa is originally from Sri Lanka, but grew up with his family in the UK. Eleanor comments: “We are like the United Nations in this house!”
Eleanor was working at the Blue Canyon Golf Club in Thailand when she met Channa. “He was a member there, and I thought he was an obnoxious fellow,” she says with a nostalgic chuckle. “He wore me down, though, and I eventually agreed to have dinner with him. I was determined not to let him pay, and without letting him know, I dealt with the cheque. I got the shock of my life when the bill came to more than my monthly salary! Channa was so touched; he says he knew right away I was the one.” His affection was soon reciprocated.
The couple moved to Singapore from Thailand in 1998 with very few possessions, but have emerged as a great success story. Channa, who moved here with his oil industry employers, now owns his own oil tanker brokerage. Eleanor helps out with the business, between looking after their three daughters.
“We struggled when we first moved here, and we could only afford the rent on a tiny apartment in Siglap,” Eleanor recalls. Now a home owner, Eleanor is a strong advocate of property investment, predicting that the third quarter of this year will be a good time to start buying again.
Weave and Wood
The couple have several exquisite rugs purchased from Samad Oriental Carpets, whose two owners – Abdul Raheem and Raj – visited the Munasinghes, bringing with them about 30 carpets to look at.
“Although there wasn’t any pressure to buy, their passion was infectious,” Eleanor says, adding that Raj has been in the carpet business since he was twelve years old.
The duo provided underlay for each of their carpets, and did a superb job of matching the colour of the rugs to the rest of the furniture. The living area displays a wonderful honeycomb-coloured carpet chosen to complement a sofa-set in the same colour.
Persian silk has a chameleon-like quality that causes it to change colour when viewed from different angles. The couple’s custom-built walk-in wardrobe houses a beautiful example. Viewed straight-on, the carpet appears dark in colour, but when viewed through the adjacent mirror it is much lighter.
Much of the Munasinghe’s furniture was purchased in Singapore from Leyon Collections and The Furniture Mall. Several pieces were also purchased in Sri Lanka from Villa Saffron.
The Sri Lankan chairs in the living area and the long seat in the reception hall have a distinctly colonial feel, and Eleanor is in the process of setting up her own business to import these types of pieces into Singapore.
The dining table, also from Villa Saffron, is made from one solid piece of timber, which makes it less susceptible to cracks. Eleanor mentions that they don’t have a centrepiece on the table because the grain of the timber is beautiful enough to hold its own.
I don’t usually pay much attention to a stranger’s toilet – or anyone else’s for that matter – but both Bud and I were excited by this one.
If you’ve been to Japan, you will have experienced the thrill of heated toilet-seats, water-jets and blasts of hot air that pamper your bottom to within an inch of its life. I’ve never seen one of these “super-loos” outside of Japan until now. “We call it ‘the throne’,” says Eleanor, adding that they bought it from the Toto store in Bukit Timah, along with the rest of the bathroom fittings.
An Educated Decision
The decision to send Mikela and Elena to a local school was based on the high level of education it provides. “Children who have been through the Singaporean education system are looked on favourably by respected institutions, including Oxford and Cambridge universities in the UK,” Eleanor says, also noting that the girls are happy at Tanjong Katong Primary, and get on well with their fellow students.
Shrubs and Slippers
Although the house backs onto a noisy main road, it is completely shielded by the dense flora that fringes the border of the garden. The whoosh of traffic can be heard outside, but it is inaudible in the house thanks to the newly installed double-glazed windows.
The ample garden with its half-grown trees and shrubs is a work-in-progress, Eleanor explains. Despite this, several residents are already in bloom, including a frangipani tree, papaya tree and jasmine plant. Even an incongruous-looking sweet-corn plant, planted by Elana, is beginning to bear fruit.
With a slight frown, Eleanor points to some freshly dug holes in the grass and, shooting her dog a mock-angry glance, says: “I’m not the only one who likes gardening. Nongna also likes to get her paws dirty – by burying my slippers.”
Nongna, the picture of innocence, wags her tail in agreement and looks rather pleased with herself.
Samad Oriental Carpets
#02-01 Tanglin Shopping Centre
(+65) 6737 5040
57/59 Upper East Coast Road
(+65) 6441 1826
The Furniture Mall
7500D Beach Road, The Plaza
behind Hotel Plaza Park Royal
WK Renovation & Trading (Gerald Mark)
Block 57 Geylang Bahru, #01-3501
Tanjong Katong School
10 Seraya Road
Rang Mahal Indian Restaurant
Pan Pacific Hotel
(+65) 6333 1788
The Mango Tree Indian Restaurant
1000 East Coast Parkway B23
One Degree 15 Marina Club , Sentosa
Kallang Leisure Park
for ice-skating, bowling and other family entertainment
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