By: Katie Roberts; photography by Michael Bernabe
Before American Beth Whitten says goodbye to Singapore for the third and last time, she graciously shows us through her gorgeous, Asian-inspired apartment at Keppel Bay and shares her insights on expat life.
Though she may have lived the expatriate life since the age of just seven, Beth Whitten still feels strongly that her home is Houston, where most of her family lives. “It’s my base, and the only place I really feel tied to,” she says in a soft Texan accent that’s tempered by her years abroad.
Beth ponders the pros and cons of expat life as she prepares to relocate back to Houston for good in September. It’s a city she has lived in for only two or so of the past 11 years. “As expats, you do get used to the nomadic lifestyle and it can be difficult to stay in one place for long. You become accustomed to knowing people in similar situations, with similar life experiences, and you know it will be harder to integrate back home,” she says. Beth has her parents to look to; they are now settled in Houston, after living for years in the Middle East, Singapore and London.
This last six-year stint has been her longest in Singapore. “I was here as a teenager in 1984 and 1985, studying at the Singapore American School where my father was posted,” she says. To her surprise, the Leonie Hill condo where they lived back then remains standing even after 30 years. “Then, in 2003, I came back to do a two-year contract here,” she adds.
“Singapore seems so different every time I come back; I can’t imagine how it will look in another 10 years,” she says. “Not only is it changing physically, but Singaporeans are changing too. Sadly, a number of unique places are being lost in the rush to transform the island, as some of my Singaporean friends will agree.”
With just herself to consider, Beth chose proximity to work as the main factor in deciding where to live. She works in the complex offshore floating production sector of oil and gas, and her office is within walking distance of her condo.
Having lived previously in an apartment off Pasir Panjang, she wanted to stay in the area, but hoped to avoid construction noise. “I had seen Reflections being built and thought it would be far removed from future construction projects. When I visited the apartment complex I liked its great views of the marina, Sentosa, the walking trails and nearby parks. Some of the Towers have oddly shaped living spaces that can be difficult to fit furniture into, so I requested to look at the low-rise units. The second one I saw had an amazing balcony and view.”
Beth did the interior styling herself. With her great knowledge of local shops, she would be an asset on any shopping trip. She has a nose for a bargain and reveals an instinct for furnishing economically, but for maximum effect. “You have to look around to find good bargains and great pieces. There are stores that I have returned to regularly, particularly Far East Inspirations in Chinatown. The owner has nice, quality things, and reasonable prices if you’re willing to do a little bargaining.”
“I like all kinds of décor, but while living here at Keppel Bay I’ve focused on an Asian style. Framing Angie framed all the artwork, and she came with her team to suggest where to hang the various pieces. She was great to work with, presenting options in a computerised picture to give you a sense of what the final framed piece would look like. I like her style.”
As Beth contemplates the onerous packing and unpacking of the three-bedroom apartment, she feels sure that everything should fit into her Houston home, which will seem a luxury after apartment-living.
Now counting down the months, she feels sad about leaving Singapore, but says she will go with good memories. Having recently squeezed in a trip to Bhutan and Laos, she has crossed almost every Asian country off her to-do list.
“I’ll miss the people I’ve met, the food and the greenery of this city. It’s one of the better international assignments: safe and convenient, easy to meet people, and well located for travelling to other places in Asia. I’m not looking forward to unpacking when I get home, but it’s nice to know I’m going home to stay. It has been a long time.”
Furniture and accessories
Al-Rehmat Trading (“For rugs”)
45 Arab Street
Far East Inspirations (“Ask for Dave”)
33/33A Pagoda Street
Framing Angie Art Gallery
211 Holland Avenue, #03-02 Holland Road Shopping Centre
7A/7B Dempsey Road (about to relocate)
Lim’s Arts and Living
Holland Road Shopping Centre, #02-01 (plus other outlets)
Only Zest Living (“Pillows in master bedroom”)
2 Boon Leat Terrace, #01-02 Habourside, Building 2
43 Keppel Road, #04-02
Teak and Mahogany (“Patio furniture”)
100E Pasir Pajang Road, #07-04 Century Warehouse
Thow Kwang Industry (“or ‘Pottery Jungle’ – for blue-and-white pottery, Peranakan tiles and dinnerware, old signs, vintage items”)
85 Lorong Tawas via Clean Tech View
Wynn Furnishing (“For unique rugs”)
The Furniture Mall
10 Toh Guan Road, #01-38
Woody Antique House
Block 13, #01-05 Dempsey Road
Wood Farm Lifestyle
Block 13, #01-03 Dempsey Road
Restaurants and Bars
99 Buona Vista Kitchen (“Good Asian food”)
22 South Buona Vista
B28 (“Bar and jazz club with live music”)
Basement, 28 Ann Siang Road, The Club Hotel
IMM, 2 Jurong East Street 21, #01-21
Donna Carmela (“Italian – great pizza and pasta”)
2 Greenwood Avenue, Hillcrest Park
PS Café (“Great alfresco rooftop patio”)
Ann Siang Hill
The Training Shed (“Open-air bar and food”)
8 Port Road, near Labrador Nature Reserve
Want more home inspiration? See our home decor section!