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Singapore showcase: Look around this spectacular Joo Chiat shophouse


Having been to Anna and Oliver’s house before (Anna is a colleague and friend), there’s no chance of my getting lost this time round. I follow the communal pathway from the back of Luke and Lydia’s house to Anna and Oliver’s doorstep.

The back door is open, and there’s much excitement from Charlie (5) and Scarlett (3) about the impending photo shoot. Later on, though, Anna discovers that Scarlett has walked into a neighbour’s house and promptly fallen asleep on their sofa, another sign of the warm and welcoming community aspect of the Lotus shophouses.

Anna and Oliver moved into the area 11 months ago, following in the Janssens’ footsteps. In fact, they stayed in number 91 for a month while Luke and Lydia visited family in the UK, giving Anna and Oliver a head start with house hunting. “But we just didn’t find anything with the same space as here, and it’s fantastic for children. What I like about Joo Chiat is that you can walk to such a variety of places. It has a strong community and character,” says Anna.

Explaining what they liked about the Lotus development in particular, Anna points to its sympathetic restoration. “All the houses are spacious and solid; the Lotus owners have clearly respected the traditional craftsmanship of these Peranakan shophouses.” In their uniformity they have also created a blank canvas, and, although they are structurally the same, each home can look very different depending on the style and belongings of the residents.

Sydney to Singapore

The family moved from Sydney to Singapore so that Oliver could join Luke in developing Tigerspike’s product and innovation division, and for a change of scenery. Some of their larger items were shipped, such as the recycled teak daybed in the living area, which Anna had commissioned from a company in Byron Bay. “My friend had two in her living room that we slept on for a week; they’re very comfortable. I love the fact that, if you get bored, you can just re-cover it, meaning you can keep it forever.”

Although she doesn’t favour a particular style, Anna says their home reflects the places they’ve lived in and visited. “I love earthy colours and finding beauty in nature, and it’s important to us to have a feeling of space and natural light,” she says.

The Lotus management has lent Anna and Oliver some basic furniture such as cupboards, a dining table and their master bed, as they have with the Janssens. Other than that, the house is brimming with unique finds from around the world, as well as pieces that Anna has foraged for in Singapore. This includes the Union Jack table, which the children use daily, and the antique Chinese school chairs that surround it, all from Like That One. “It’s a great place to pick up recycled treasures,” she says.

Replica colonial gas lamps sit in the spare bedroom at the top of the house, and I’m told that, just before my arrival, there was another standing lamp in the living area, which broke when Anna tried to clean it. “They are all hand-blown originals from a family business in Java; they used to be kerosene lamps but have been turned into electric lamps.” The broken lamp is already being fixed back at the store Anna bought it from, Bangku Bangku on Joo Chiat Road.

Items from more familiar retailers also make an appearance, such as the Originals cast iron bed in the spare room, and old packing-case side tables from Journey East. The eye-catching Taylor B half-canoe in the living room houses a variety of pieces collected on their travels, including an ostrich egg from Africa, bottles dug up in Anna’s old family garden in England, and a plastic toy dinosaur added by the kids.

Shutters from Mozambique, a birdcage Anna rescued from a London pavement and then spray-painted gold, tablecloths and doorstops from Sri Lanka, and drawers from Thailand, are just some of the pieces they’ve picked up along their journey.

Art appreciation

It’s clear that Anna has an eye for art, although when asked if she herself is artistic she’s non-committal, just saying she took art classes at school and that her grandfather was an artist so he encouraged her when she was younger.

There are some intriguing paintings in the living room, including a large Christian Palmer canvas of Ella the family dog, who passed away while they were still in Sydney. “I used to see the artist’s paintings in a café close to where we lived and I always liked them. When we came to Singapore I found him through REDSEA Gallery and commissioned this painting.” Apparently, his trademark is painting animals and words, and when I ask about the wording “Come back to the middle” in the picture, Anna says it has two meanings: “Superficially it’s because Ella’s gaze is off centre, but it also refers to centring yourself.” She’s keen to meet the artist himself at his REDSEA Gallery exhibition in October. Then there’s the canvas that Oliver bought for Anna’s 30th birthday by Sydney street artist Bruno Dutot. “His trademark is twenties style with a cat, and he paints everything with his index finger,” says Oliver.

Anna points out one of Oliver’s favourite pieces of art, located in the living area by the children’s table. At first glance it appears to be a frame of green paint with small figures at the bottom, but on closer inspection it depicts a cricket match, complete with players, pitch and a tiny cricket ball near the boundaries. “There’s a whole series of them, and I wanted to get more but the (unknown) artist died and the gallery closed down before I had a chance to get them,” says Oliver.

Upstairs hangs a Tim Wakefield Soundwave picture of an Eric Clapton song from Icon Gallery, and towards the children’s room are two pictures picked up in Hawaii. “I love the wording on the pictures.”


Anna and Oliver’s Recommendations

East Coast Furniture and Toys
Bangku Bangku
317 Joo Chiat Road
8153 0292

112 East Coast Road
6636 3368 | zero-six.com

East Coast Food
The Bread Project (artisan breads)
174 Joo Chiat Road
6440 9228 | thebreadproject.com.sg

FairPrice Finest (fantastic organic and health food section)
6 Marine Parade Central
6348 0826 | fairprice.com.sg

Smokey’s BBQ
73 Joo Chiat Place
6345 6914 | smokeysbbq.com.sg

467 Joo Chiat Road
8511 7322 | immigrants-gastrobar.com

East Coast Leisure
Updog Yoga Studio
902 East Coast Parkway, Block B #02-05A Big Splash
6440 0282 | updogstudio.com