Choosing a home during lockdown was a bit nerve-wracking, but in the end HEATHER HANSEN got just what her family were looking for – a modern home with interior styling and plenty of outdoor living space. We find out about their different homes in Singapore and their journey here that first started back in 2006. To start the tour of this West Coast house, I am welcomed at the door by Daisy, the cute family dog!
Tell us a bit about your family and your journey here.
I’m originally from California, my husband Peter is from Denmark, and our daughters Stella and Victoria were born in Singapore and attend the Canadian International School. I run a communication, consulting and training firm called Global Speech Academy, and Peter is a Regional Director of Operations for a Danish engineering company. We first arrived in Singapore in 2006, and have lived here for around 10 years over two stints.
Where have you lived on the island?
When we first came in 2006, pre-kids, we lived in Bukit Timah for two years in a really family-friendly condo. We were living right by the pool, and it was awful. So we moved out the minute we could renew the lease – I was around eight months pregnant. Then we moved to a house in the Springwood Height area, staying there a few years, and then to The Peak @ Balmeg, which was brand new at the time.
In 2014, we moved back to Denmark and had four years there. About a year and half in, we could see it wasn’t going to work. We gave it a good shot, but we knew we didn’t want to stay in Denmark; we wanted to head back to Singapore, as we had built a life in Asia.
Peter received a Singapore contract in May 2018. It was like “boom, boom, boom” – everything happened really fast. It was a six-month process of discussions, and then a sudden two-week move, just in time for the kids to start school in August.
Why did you feel so rooted in Singapore?
Peter and I did our whole “growing up” here. We had our friendship networks here, as well as our business networks, and both our kids were born here. So our family and friend circles really developed in Singapore. It had become our home, providing us with a kind of “multicultural family”. We felt it was neutral ground, away from the US where I grew up, and Denmark where Peter is from. We built our world together here, separate from the influences of either family.
Let’s talk about your lovely home; tell us why you chose to live here?
We like the West Coast area a lot and it’s near the kids’ school; Peter’s office is close by, too. I also have a lot of clients at International Business Park nearby. Previously, we were living just down the street, but we had issues with the landlord to be very honest. So we decided not to renew our lease and we moved out during the Circuit Breaker.
What was it like moving home at that time?
We were in the middle of the COVID lockdown and our end-of-lease was coming up. We really didn’t want to stay another two years in the previous house; I found it difficult to settle there. We wanted to find a home we could live in for at least 10 years, until the girls are done with school and we decide the next steps. It was a tricky time to be relocating as there wasn’t a great selection of homes being advertised due to the Circuit Breaker. Eventually, we came to terms with the idea that we may just have to extend our existing lease and stay put. So we began preparing the paperwork to sign an extension. Then, our agent suddenly called to tell us about our current house, which had just come onto the market, though it was above our budget.
We couldn’t view the house in person because of the restrictions, so we had to make our decision based on a prerecorded video sent via WhatsApp by the previous tenants. We sat there watching it over and over. Then we took the dog for a walk and peeked through the fence. The next day we put an offer in, and the landlord accepted it.
What was it that sealed the deal?
Most definitely the outdoor space was the big winner. This house has a very different layout and flow than our previous one, plus we have more open areas. The pool is double the size of our old pool. When we saw the kitchen, the maid’s room and bathroom, we were like, “This is perfect.” There’s a better “flow” with this house, from the kitchen to the outdoors.
We spend most of our time in the outdoor area – it’s so private. Sometimes we’ll spend all weekend just sitting out there. The kids will be in the pool, which gets them away from devices too, and we have barbecues and eat our dinners mostly outdoors. And I’ve never been so in love with landscaping. Every now and then, we get little squirrels who visit, and some beautiful birds.
Let’s talk interiors; did you have to buy any specific pieces for the house?
We were so happy to get the outdoor sofa setup from the previous tenant, because we didn’t have that before. I bought some original artwork from a US gallery for this house and some rugs from irug.com.sg. We also bought a beautiful Chinese cabinet, bookcases and an entire bedroom set.
What are your favourite furniture items?
I think it’s my new bed and my reading chair. I also can’t live without my “up and down” desk in my office; and I like the pink armchair in my bedroom and our recent Chinese cabinet purchase from Lims.
Your office setup looks great for home-based working.
I had to redo my office furniture and layout, as this house has nice walls that I wanted to make use of. I wanted to use the walls as a professional-looking backdrop for video. If I’m being filmed on one side, I have the office with a map behind me. Or, I can be filmed on the other side of the office, and have a “library” look. So I can switch back and forth between backgrounds.
I also placed my reading chair in the office, which is one of my favourite spots to hang out.
What’s the neighbourhood like?
It’s a really “neighbourly” place. We have lovely neighbours who have been here for many years – there’s an interesting mix of locals and expats. We also joined the Republic of Singapore Yacht Club, which is also very close.
What do you love about Singapore?
My favourite thing is how “international” it is here. I just love that! We could have a dinner party and have a dozen different countries represented. Also, since I’m from California, I do love the climate here. The Danish winters were not easy for me at all – darkness and cold is not my thing. I love that I can go swimming every day here.
Finally, what’s on your bucket list for travel?
Well, I already have a trip to the Maldives booked! We would also love to head back to Ho Chi Minh City. We just love it there and would even head there just for the weekend to go for dinner.
Restaurant – Alati Coffee place Baker & Cook (Faber Heights)
Breakfast place – Super Loco
Hairdresser – Calvin Gan at Hairloom
Furniture store – Taylor B
Touristy thing to do Singapore – River Cruise
Go-to doctors – Dr Shiv Gill at My Health Partners Dr Gary Tho at ChiroWorks
Clothing shop – Style Theory (online clothing rental)
Bar – Beacon Bar at Republic of Singapore Yacht Club
Hike – VivoCity to Henderson Waves and Kent Ridge
This article first appeared in the February 2021 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase the latest issue or subscribe, so you never miss a copy!
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