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The Height of Style

By: Amy Brook-Partridge

Laura Robinson and her family of five live in a two-storey four-bedroom house in Braddell Heights, which is not only close to her husband’s work and their children’s school (one and the same), but also eminently adordable.

homes and furniture in singapore
The family of 5 behind their two-storey, four-bedroom house in Braddell Heights.


Who lives here:

Laura Robinson, husband Nick Jolly, and children Felix (7), Maggie (5) and Florence (1).

Where they’re from:
Australia.

Time spent in Singapore:
Three years.

Size of home:
Two storeys, four bedrooms, 2,600 sq. ft

Rent or own:
Rent

Renovations:
They knocked down one wall, put up two, renovated the kitchen, and added new light fittings and taps.

Personal style:
Laura loves Scandinavian design – a monochromatic, classic and simple look. She’s keen on keeping original features to retain character, and isn’t interested in stock-standard project-style homes.

Style of home:
Classic Singapore with a modern feel, which more or less reflects Laura’s personal style.

I bumped into Laura at the opening event for the new Cluny Court retail space, The Fishwives, a gourmet food emporium. We had that classic “I’ve seen you before” moment you so often have in Singapore, before finally remembering we met at bootcamp quite some time ago. Since then, Laura has had her third child, Florence, who’s just turned one, and she’s joined forces with New Zealand expat Annie Kefford to form interior architecture and design firm Kefford & Robinson; The Fishwives is their first project together. As we caught up on each other’s news, she told me that she and her family had recently moved from their condo in Bishan into a house in the Braddell Heights area.

Husband Nick is a history teacher and works as the Higher School Certificate (HSC) Curriculum Coordinator at the Australian International School (AIS), a mere five-minute bicycle ride from the house. With their two eldest children attending the school, a move into the vicinity made perfect sense. “It has great road links, the MRT station is close, there’s a good little park and restaurants across the road and, importantly, it’s affordable; if you’re here to save money there are some really good properties in this area as long as you can look beyond the surface.” When Nick and Laura first viewed the house there was so much stuff inside that they could barely walk through the door. “It was hard for Nick to see beyond this, but you have to have that vision. Even the landlord can’t believe the transformation, still coming by occasionally to take a look at what we’ve done to the property. We’re lucky to have such a great landlord.”

Laura and Nick agreed to the $3,600 rent, with the proviso that the landlord contributed to some specific renovations within the house. They knew they were up for another $550 per month for pool rental, but the all-in amount of $4,150 was still less than the rental for their condo apartment – and now they have twice the space and their own lawn to run around on. “The previous tenants had not cared well for the property, and as this was the house the landlord had grown up in, he was keen for it to be restored.” Working with a budget of $5,000, they knocked out the kitchen, installed the IKEA cabinets, added the black granite worktop purchased from a supplier of Laura’s, and bought new lighting and taps. “We don’t have overhead cupboards; everything is hanging and on display, giving it an eclectic look and making it more of a cook’s kitchen.” They knocked down a wall in the utility area and added another one to enclose the sink, and created a small office space downstairs. Outside, they installed black-and-white blinds. “I bought two sets of natural chick blinds and spent two weeks painting them, but when I went to hang one set it fell apart as the paint had rotted the string. I was not happy!”

homes and furniture in singapore
Laura’s “cook’s kitchen”, which she renovated, including installing the IKEA cabinets and adding the black granite worktop.

Work-life Balance

Laura and Nick had always wanted to live overseas, initially considering Hong Kong before the job at AIS came up. They felt it was the perfect opportunity, particularly as they love to travel and Singapore is an ideal springboard to so many other destinations. After getting the family settled over those first few months, Laura then found a job with Australian based interior design firm Geyer, where she was a senior designer for 18 months, working on large workplace projects for companies such as Capitaland and American Express.

She then went on maternity leave – pregnant with Florence – taking a year out before returning to work. She is still a consultant for Geyer on workplace projects, but for retail, residential and hospitality design she now works with Annie Kefford, as Kefford & Robinson. She joined forces with Annie (who she coincidentally worked with in London 12 years ago), a fellow AIS mum, in June, working initially on the Fishwives project; they’re now designing the AIS café and have some small office spaces in the pipeline too.

In between working, Nick, Laura and the family are ticking off their top destinations to visit, one by one. “Sri Lanka is amazing, a huge eye-opener; there’s so much to explore with its beaches and culture – it’s like India without the intensity,” says Laura. They also love Thailand and Bali, and recommend Nusa Lembongan for those who don’t fancy the longer trip to Lombok. “It’s a 40-minute boat ride, very chilled out and beautiful.” They also have plans to go to the Philippines next Easter and then hope to visit Europe later in the year. Saying goodbye, Laura mentions she will try to come along to another bootcamp soon. With everything else she has on her plate right now, however, I won’t be holding her to it!

RECOMMENDATIONS

Plain Vanilla – “for amazing cakes and tarts”

Yoga Movement – “for some seriously good hot yoga”

Restaurants & Bars

Kilo – “love the atmosphere and wish I could get my hand on a space like this to design”

PS Café Dempsey – “for food, yes, but the fit-out is gorgeous too”

Esquina – “amazing food, though the portion sizes are getting a bit lean”

Fashion

Bimba y Lola – “without a doubt the best clothing shop in Singapore”

Design Stores

Pomelo – “for amazingly crafted dining tables which make great work surfaces too”

Grafunkt – “fantastic range of brands”

BW Furniture – “their Anglepoise lighting is ideal for any space and they carry some great brands”

Where should you live? Look at our neighborhood guides

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