MAY 2021

MAY 2021







EDITOR’SNOTE Not sure about you, but I have found that many movies and TV series these days are either pretty heavy or dark. I find myself holding my breath or clenching my teeth through them. Either that or they’re over-the-top sitcoms that make me embarrassed! We definitely need some humour in our lives, and some happy outcomes to stories to lift us up! So, my (adult) daughter and I took the plunge and got a new kid-friendly subscription – not mentioning any names. And we’re having a lovely time! One that we watched recently was the animated kids’ film Soul ; it’s really in line with my thinking on life, and it made me laugh out loud. All our problems are now solved – we’re just going to watch happily-ever-after movies and get some hope back into our lives. And, I might be a stuck record on this, but… breathing properly is so important, especially when we’re a bit down or flat like things are now. A couple of long breaths out every now and then gets rid of all the CO2 and other old stuff in us and allows the new stuff in! I’ve put a sticky note on my desktop to remind me. Although we’re still in limbo, I do feel a little more hopeful that the world may sort itself out. As long as I don’t listen to the news or read the papers I will be fine! We’ve got some great stuff in the mag this month including a fab rundown on what a “cruise to nowhere” is really like. And, speaking of boats, there’s also the chance to win a day out at sea with six friends!

REBECCA BISSET Editor-in-Chief

Happy (ever after) reading!

PS: Time for your school search? We hope you enjoy our international schools pullout in this issue – if it’s not relevant to you, please pass it to a friend or neighbour who can use it!

Fancy winning a day trip on this?



Editor-in-Chief REBECCA BISSET



CONTACT US General Enquiries: +65 6812 1780 | Advertising Sales: +65 6812 1781 | Subscription: +65 6812 1783 | Production: +65 6812 1787 | Editorial & Media Releases: Calendar of Events: Events: Websites: |

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Published by Expat Living Publications Pte Ltd 36 Carpenter Street, #02-01 Carpenter Haus, Singapore 059915

Josephine Byrne’s black-and-white home




NEWS 18 Calendar Updates:

What’s on in the coming months

22 EL Forum:

Our online antics and upcoming events

24 Readers’ Letters

HOME & PROPERTY 28 News 31 True or False: Sleep myths debunked! 32 Home Showcase:

An interior designer’s black-and- white

44 Bungalow Hunt:

32 A peek in this heritage home

Where to find Singapore’s colonial homes

50 Product Spotlight:

What’s in store at Emperor’s Attic?

52 Top Tips:

How to style your open-plan space

106 We talk

LIFE & FAMILY 76 News 80 School News: What’s new at SJII? 83 WIN! A day out at sea for six people 84 Wise Words: The motherly advice that stuck 86 Noticeboard: Baby births and bunny adoptions

54 Forever Furniture:

canvas and colour with Peter Watts

Pieces that stand the test of time

56 Great Outdoors:

7 picks for your alfresco space

58 Expert Advice:

Ideas for furnishing your outdoors

60 Buying Guide:

Sideboards, consoles and benches 62 Reader Recommendation: A relocation service review 68 Street Talk: What it’s like living in Kallang

88 Screen & Page:

Top TV and book recommendations

91 School’s Out:

Top holiday camps for kids

101 Money Matters:

Teaching young ones how to save

102 Business Boost:

An all-in-one management app 104 The Singapore Pages:

58 Top tips for decorating

Exploring the island, past and present

your outdoors

106 Artist Focus:

An Australian landscape artist shares his views




126 We chat with Foodpanda’s Director of Operations

WINE & DINE 118 News 122 At the Bar:

New and noteworthy spots for a tipple

124 Best of Brunch:

The latest on offer at Dempsey Hill

126 People Profile:

From Colombia to the Singapore food biz

128 Booze on Call:

Top websites for alcohol delivery

134 Recipe Corner: Meatless dumplings TRAVEL 138 News 140 All Aboard:

What to expect on a “cruise to nowhere”

146 Man with a Mission:

The triathlete sweating for a cause

140 The latest travel craze and why you’ll love it!




The latest in fashion news


STYLE & BEAUTY 152 Style News 154 Summer Looks: Resort-wear favourites 158 Beauty News 161 Fight the Frizz:

Home hair masks that work!

162 Tried & Tested:

Hydrating skincare products

164 Product Profile:

Inside medical-grade skincare

HEALTH & FITNESS 170 News 174 Mental Health Check: How are you really doing? 176 Sun & Skin: Protecting your skin from the elements 178 Fitness Focus: REGULARS 186 Horoscopes for May 188 Puzzle Pages 190 Numbers & Websites

Four women share the benefits of weightlifting

191 Advertiser List 192 Parting Shot:

When you miss working from the office …

154 Summer

threads that guarantee holiday vibes!


Our favourite hydrating potions!





European Union Film Festival (6-23 MAY) It was postponed in 2020 but the 30th edition of EUFF returns this year at a new venue, The Projector. The 23 contemporary films presented aim to bring the diverse culture of the 27 European Union Member States to Singapore. This year, the festival also partners with Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s School of Film & Media Studies to present 10 short student films. Get the full schedule and tickets from .

Singapore International Festival of Arts (14-31 MAY) One of the first international arts festivals to be held since the start of the pandemic, SIFA will present more than 300 performances and 60 shows in live, hybrid and digital formats. It’ll also feature first-time collaborations between major local arts companies such as Pangdemonium, Wild Rice and Singapore Repertory Theatre. Singapore artists will perform with talent from Australia, Japan, Lebanon, Malaysia, the Philippines, Switzerland and the US in dance, theatre and music concerts. SIFA 2021 is organised by Arts House Limited, commissioned by the National Arts Council, and part of the #SGCul tureAnywhere campaign. Head to for the full programme and tickets.

Hari Raya Light Up & Online Ramadan Bazaar (UNTIL 23 MAY & 31 MAY)

The annual Hari Raya festive light-up returns to Geylang, with the theme of Celebrating Our Kampung Spirit. Stretching from Paya Lebar Quarter to Sims Avenue as well as roads in Changi and Geylang, it’ll have 40 installations, from representations of a golden mosque and crescent moon to multicoloured blooms that symbolise hope, new beginnings and abundance. Lights remain on from 7pm to midnight daily, with extended hours until 6am on 12 May, the eve of Hari Raya Aidilfitri. Meanwhile, the annual Geylang Serai Ramadan Bazaar will be held online this year at until the end of the month. Browse over 100 retail merchants offering festive goodies and merchandise, with same-day delivery available on orders. You ’ l l a l so f ind 30 onl ine programmes covering music performances, comedy and baking tutorials.

Singapore International Festival of Arts





Changi Chapel Museum Guided Tours (22 & 23 MAY) The Changi Chapel Museumcommemorates significant events of the Japanese Occupation of Singapore, in particular in the Changi area. The revamped site reopens to the public on 19 May; the day will be marked with specially curated guided tours on both 22 and 23 May. Visitors get to tour the gallery, the Changi Prison Wall and the Eurasian Heritage Gallery. Docents will share stories alongside recorded orchestral performances based on the experiences of prisoners of war. Free admission for all visitors on the opening weekend only. 9.30am to 5.30pm. 1000 Upper Changi Road North. Paw-verbs on the Lawn (UNTIL 30 MAY) Known as kucing in the Malay language, cats are celebrated in this exhibition between the Malay Heritage Centre and Japanese artist Juno. Open to the public from 10am to 6pm on the lawns of MHC, the 30 cat illustration standees pay tribute to the feline’s place in Malay literary culture through accompanying Malay proverbs. This is the first time that Juno’s work has been displayed in Southeast Asia.

The Sea Show

NKF Charity Golf (10 JUNE)

The Sea Show (UNTIL 13 JULY)

For the first time in its history, the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) is organising a charity golf event, Swing for Hope. The event will be held at the Tanah Merah Country Club (Tampines Course) where golfers will tee off between 12.30pm to 2.30pm, with the hope of raising $500,000 through golf flight purchases, cash donations and prize sponsorships. The money goes towards providing subsidised treatment and holistic care to support over 5,000 needy patients and beneficiaries. In Singapore, an average of 5.5 individuals are diagnosed with kidney failure every day. Head to to show your support. The exhibition displays close to 200 original items from the extensive Lucas Museum of Narrative Art archive, exploring the science of identity through Star Wars characters. These include authentic props, models, costumes and artwork from original films. Visitors will go on a customised and interactive identity quest to learn more about Star Wars characters while discovering their own identities. ArtScience Museum Star Wars Identities: The Exhibition (UNTIL 13 JUN)

T h i s m u l t i m e d i a exhibi t ion about the ocean aims to provide visual stimulation and provoke thoughts among chi ldren and adul t s a l ike . The colour ful artworks, animations and installations bring visitors on a journey that explores important social topics such as marine environment protection, ocean exploration and marine life in general. Yo un g v i s i t o r s a r e given a complimentary activity booklet where they can find clues and answers to puzzles and quizzes hidden within the exhibition. Held at the Singapore Maritime Ga l l e r y, 31 Ma r i na Coastal Drive, it’s open from Tuesday to Sunday, f rom 9 am t o 6pm.



Don’tmissourmonthly events! Register at 8 & 9 MAY Mother’sDay Pampering day out with mum at The Salon by VIVA 11 MAY How to create a strategy for backing up your files on M ac by Tekkie Help Robust Data BackupWorkshop

20 MAY 14 MAY 28 MAY

Kids Money and Help Your Child Master Good Money Habits — for Life, by Revolut

Do You Need to Re-Brand? A hands-on session with Marielle from The EMMS BRAND HEALTH CHECK-UP

Content Marketing Strategy – How to get it right Content Marketing Workshop with Digital Direction

Discover new trails, meet people and enjoy the outdoors! EL Walking Club Out and about with




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23 MAY2021


BEST LETTER We want to hear from you! Send us your thoughts on the magazine, or on any subject

under the sun. The writer of our best letter receives a Bamboo Candle and Diffuser set, worth $168 from Temple Candles ( ).

Quarantine Rescue Dear Expat Living editors, thank you for making this newcomer’s quarantine a little easier! When I read on a Facebook group that anyone on Stay-Home Notice was entitled to a free copy of Expat Living, I decided to sign up. A few days later, the March issue arrived, and I spent my evenings after work browsing the pages. I felt so inspired by the many wonderful things that I’ll hopefully get the chance to do in this brand new city of Singapore! Island day-trips? Didn’t know they were possible! Top-tier restaurants? I’ve been well fed during my quarantine, but a little cuisine treat wouldn’t hurt. Pilates? Never tried, but I might now! And did I mention the cat adoption page? I’ve been so animal-deprived during quarantine (missing my family pets back home!), this page made me feel all warm and fuzzy. It’s the little things that made a difference, and your magazine surely did. – Anisa 128 MARCH2021 To feel like you ’ re on holiday, we suggest a day-trip off the coast! Here ’ s a look at eight of Singapore’s 60 or more islands. Some you can get to by small boat or ferry – or you can hire a boat with seven friends and see a bit more! Tip: Weekdays are nice and quiet. #1 St John’s Island Situated around 3km south of Sentosa, St John’s Island is a pretty place to find peace and quiet, and some interesting history. The island is alsowell known for its flora and fauna. Getting there: Take a 30-minute ferry ride fromMarina South Pier. (You can buy your tickets on the spot at the pier.) The return ferry ride costs $15 for adults and $12 for children (one to 12 years). The afternoon ferry may stop off at Kusu Island on the return home. What to do: Lay your picnic mats by the beach for a leisurely picnic while the kids build sandcastles. Walk off those calories by taking your little ones exploring in the mangroves; you’ll find an abundance of marine life, including hermit crabs and sea urchins. Overnight camping and stays at St John’s Island Lodge are also available, though bookings are still temporarily suspended on account of pandemic restrictions. Check the Singapore Land Authority website ( for updates. Tips: Don’t forget to take food, lots of water, books and toys – there are no kiosks or shops on the island. #2 Lazarus Island Another of Singapore’s Southern Islands group, Lazarus is just a bridge away from St John’s Island. Getting there: Hop on a ferry to St John’s and take the 15-minutewalk across the link bridge to the island. What to do: If you’re looking for a little more peace and quiet than St John’s, which can get crowded, this is a great place to go for a picnic, to sunbathe or build sandcastles on horseshoe- shaped Lazarus Island Beach, or to take a dip in the clear water. With a laidback vibe, the island is generally untouched and offers one of the best nearby escapes to nature from Singapore. Tips: Like on St John’s Island, there are no stores selling food and drinks here, so pack whatever is necessary. The nearest toilet is about a five-minute walk from the beach. #3 Kusu Island Kusu Island is located less than an hour away frommainland Singapore and is especially popular with devotees who travel to the island’s renowned temple for annual pilgrimages. Getting there: Take a 45-minute ferry ride from Marina South Pier. You’ll stop off at St John’s Island before reaching Kusu. What to do: Explore the smal l island’s surprisingly rich culture and heritage, and visit its sacred sites. These include the Da Bo Gong Temple, which is almost 100 years old, and three Malay keramats or shrines, which can only be reached by climbing 152 steps! While you’re there, pay a visit to the wishing well near the temple. Pack a picnic basket or prepare a barbecue for a relaxing afternoon meal. Keep the kids occupied and take them to see turtles at the Turtle Sanctuary or have a refreshing swim. Tips: You might want to avoid the months of September to November as this is the busiest time for the island’s annual pilgrimage. Name Games: The old Malay name for the Island, Pulau Sakijang Pelepah, referred to a type of deer and a type of palm tree, but the origin of the newer name isn’t known. Guided Walk: NParks volunteers host a free 90-minute guided tour on the first Sunday of every month, taking in some of the 2.8km St John’s Island Trail; there’s also a DIY guide to the trail available at #4 Sisters’ Islands A kilometre or so to the west of St John’s, and boasting rich reefs and marine life, the Sisters’ Islands are part of Singapore’s first marine park, established in 2014. They’re also home to some long-tailed macaques. Getting there: Small Sister’s Island is a conservation zone and not open to the public; to get to Big Sister’s Island you can charter a boat from various piers and marinas, including Keppel Bay and ONE°15 on Sentosa; there’s also an occasional inter-island ferry from St John’s and Kusu. Note: No berthing is allowed at the jetty on the island, which is open daily from 7am to 7pm. What to do : For the past five years, there have been regular guided walks on the islands to see sea creatures including starfishes, octopuses and clams. These are now on hiatus while National Parks carries out a review of the activities it hopes to offer in the marine park. In the meantime, find a shady spot to enjoy your picnic lunch, or see what treasures you can spot on the shoreline. Lots of Coral: The Sisters’ Islands Marine Park is home to 250 of the region’s 500 types of coral.

Nice Surprise I’ve lived in Singapore for 12 years and have therefore read many editions of your magazine. Initially, it was great but over the years I felt it had less to do with me, as we’re not on an expat package. When I was offered a three-month subscription this year, I thought I may as well have a look. I was honestly mostly bored by the first two issues; it seemed like the same stuff, catering to people with a lot of money – I felt excluded by it. So, when the March issue of the magazine came, I almost didn’t bother opening it. But what a nice surprise I got. So many interesting articles – I’ve torn out at least 20 pages! The magazine started with a letter to the editor about changing your demographic, and I thought “I hear you Sister!” And it just continued to be full of interesting finds from there until the end. Well done and thank you! – Trish Ed: Hi Trish, thanks for the feedback. Good to know we’re on the right track! Let us know what you think of April’s issue. I have sent you the e-version.


Turtle Trivia: “ Kusu ” means “turtle” or “tortoise” in the Hokkien dialect. Two species of sea turtle are commonly encountered in Singapore’s Southern Islands: the green turtle and the hawksbill.

Singapore’s Smallest Island

A few kilometres east of Pulau Ubin is Pulau Sejahat Kechil, a tiny dot in the ocean measuring a round 40 me t r e s by 25 metres. Only, the dot isn’t in the ocean any more – it has recently been subsumed by land reclamation works taking place on neighbouring Pulau Tekong. So, you won’t be able to visit, but if you’re a Google Earth sleuth, you should still be able to spot the little island online, sitting close by its bigger companion, Pulau Sejahat (which is still fairly modest, at 150 metres long). T h a t b i g g e r i s l a n d , incidentally, was home to a military encampment in the late 1930s, with barracks, gun batteries and lookout posts, the ruins of which survive today.



Ed: That’s so good to hear; it really cheered the team up, too. I’m sure you’re now out and free to do all those things. Let us know how you go!

Thanks for the Walk I just wanted to thank you for hosting the recent MacRitchie Walk. It was great to catch up with you again and I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed this lovely part of Singapore. Best wishes. – Donna Ed: Thanks, Donna – looking forward to doing more with you. You can find dates for new walks on our Events page and our website.

Email us at




44 Heritage

Homes: Where to find Singapore’s black-and-whites

32 Snooze Tales: Putting common sleep myths to rest

52 Blank Canvas: How to make the most of an open-plan space

68 Street Talk: What it’s like living in Kallang



Design Double Win

Trimming with Style! Give your home a simple yet effective décor refresh with these outdoor-inspired curtain trimmings by Samuel & Sons, available exclusively at Altfield Interiors. Imagine lying by the water listening to the ocean waves with the Oceania Collection ( pictured ), which reflects the tranquillity of the sea. Also available is the Treillage Collection, offering a modern interpretation of the classic treille (trellis) motif. View the collections at , or in person at #07-10 Central Mall Office Tower, 1 Magazine Road .

Home-grown interior design firmDesign Intervention has been handed two prestigious gongs at the International Property Awards, one for “World’s Best Apartment Interior”, for its London apartment project, the other for “World’s Best Bathroom Design’, for work on a Bangkok property. This is the second consecutive year the team has earnt an international win for residential interior design. Go to to see more of their stunning projects.

Luxury Leather The new Poltrona Frau collection of statement furniture pieces is now in situ at Proof Living. The store has created a dedicated area to showcase the pieces, including its Let It Be sofa ( pictured ), which comes in both fabric and leather. There’s a leather wall feature for customers to experience the variety of leathers available to customise your Italian furniture pieces. At $16,080, it’s not exactly inexpensive, but who said style comes cheap?




Botanical Art There was a time when having moss on your walls might be cause for alarm, but now it can be considered an artform! InOut Atelier creates bespoke “mosstallations”, otherwise known as preserved moss frames. The mosses are dried, preserved and laid out individually to your preference. They can be crafted into anything from a mini A5 frame (starting from $50), to huge floor-to-ceiling installations for larger homes or commercial spaces. Pieces can last for years and make a fun and eye-catching alternative to indoor plants. Find out more about this biophilic art, including a terrarium collection, at .

Want a quick and easy way to style up your home? Cushions can be the answer. Gaya Alegria has a huge range of indoor and outdoor cushions worth checking out, from indoor and outdoor, cotton to velvet, plain and patterned, and square or rectangle. There are wallet- friendly options, or more expensive ones if you’re keen to splash the cash. Browse the large collection online at , or head to #07-06B Tan Boon Liat Building, 315 Outram Road .

New-look Lights Singapore eco-luxury candle brand Temple Candles has just launched its new-look illuminations. Inspired by the White Jade gemstone, the candles have a heavy crystal- clear base, sheer white inner and faceted-glass exterior. Made with all-natural coconut blend wax infused with pure essential oil fragrances, Temple’s luxurious candles burn cleanly while scenting a room with tropical aromas. Available online at and selected retail outlets.

Family-friendly Flooring If you’re looking for eco-flooring that’s stylish and even safe enough for your pets to eat off, Bamco fits the bill. Made from powderised bamboo charcoal, the product acts as a natural air purification agent, absorbing unpleasant smells. It’s free from phthalates and formaldehyde, making it non-toxic and child- and pet-safe. The composite core also makes it highly suitable for the Singapore climate. Check out the range at .





MYTH 4: Exercising too close to bedtime will have a negative impact on your sleep. It’s a common belief that exercising in the evening arouses physiological excitement and therefore hinders sleep. This is a particular myth worth taking a closer look at. Yes, high-intensity late-night exercise has been shown in some studies to delay sleep onset; this is on account of an increased heart rate and body temperature, as well as an increase in endorphin levels that can also boost the brain’s alertness and activity, making it difficult to fall asleep. However, positive effects of exercise on sleep have also been shown, such as shorter sleep onset latency and better sleep quality. This can be explained in part by something known as the thermogenic effect: during exercise, our body temperature rises and then decreases again shortly after; this drop in temperature mimics our body’s natural temperature shift before falling asleep, hence signalling to our body that it’s time to sleep. Another positive effect of evening exercise lies in the circadian rhythm, or the inner clock that controls our sleep-wake cycle. Exercise can help us to manipulate and adjust our own internal rhythm and realign our sleep schedule.

MYTH #2: You can heal your emotional wounds during sleep. While dreaming occurs in all sleep phases, it’s most common during REM sleep. Dream sleep has a fundamental role in the processing of emotions. It’s during this favourable neurobiological state that emotions can be processed in a stress- and anxiety-free state. Studies have shown that after a disturbing event, sleep attenuates the experience of stressful emotions by lowering amygdala activity and increasing the activity of cognitive control regions. By this, REM dream sleep helps us to regain control and heal emotional wounds. Since the start of the pandemic, many people have reported an increase in vivid dreams and reoccurring nightmares. This isn’t surprising; COVID-19 has triggered emotions and concerns such as loneliness, loss of control and financial insecurities. REM dream sleep is part of your body’s way of processing the emotions and tapping into its curative resources. MYTH 3: Tossing and turning at night means that you are sleeping badly. Body movement during sleep isn’t unusual and doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re getting poor sleep. How often or for how long you move at night varies greatly from one person to the next, averaging between five to 16 movements per hour. As long as it doesn’t interrupt your sleep, it’s not necessarily a cause for concern. However, if pain or discomfort is the cause of restlessness, action should be taken. This is where choosing the right mattress is crucial – aim for optimal firmness to align the spine and support the body without causing uncomfortable pressure points.

“Doctor Sleep” helps to d i spe l some common myths about getting quality shut-eye.

We spend about a third of our l ives sleeping, so it’s no surprise that we’re constantly trying to understand the intricate process that unfolds in this unique

state of consciousness. But how many of your sleep habits are rooted in myth? We find out from DR VERENA SENN, Head of Sleep Research at Emma – The Sleep Company . MYTH #1: How much sleep you need depends on the amount of deep sleep, not on the total sleep duration. Deep sleep, or slow-wave sleep, is the most restorative sleep phase associated with vital functions, such as production of growth hormones, strengthening of the immune system, repair and regrowth. That said, other sleep stages of light sleep and REM sleep also bear significant functions. Lighter sleep (known as the N2 sleep stage), for example, contributes to memory processing and consolidation and plays a fundamental role in the learning and automation of movement sequences. Likewise, REM (rapid eye movement) sleep plays a critical role for our mental health and processing emotions.

To find out more about Emma Sleep and how its mattresses can help you sleep better, visit

31 MAY2021





BY JO UPCRAFT While the black-and-white properties across Singapore all tend to have a commanding external presence, it’s the interior that gives them their own unique personality. A nd they come no more character-filled than the eclectic black-and-white of interior stylist, designer and artist JOSEPHINE BYRNES. Here, she lives with her husband Peter, their two children, Ivy (12) and Jasper (15), superwoman housekeeper Erna, two rabbits, a family of rescued lovebirds and their recent addition to the family – adorable toy poodle puppy, Ziggy. Nestled in its own private tropical oasis off Bukit Timah Road, the 10-room colonial home features a sweeping driveway, outdoor decking, swimming pool and carriage house; but it’s when you enter the front doors that it truly takes your breath away. Josephine’s house was never going to be boring. The daughter of an architect, she has natural panache, flair and curiosity – not to mention a fine eye for detail – in her Australian blood. Add to this a career of over 20 years in acting (Josephine had a starring role in Australian TV drama Brides of Christ ), and periodically working in interior design and the art world, and it’s clear to see how her home has come to combine elegant sophistication with a treasure trove of storytelling delights. The family moved to Singapore in 2014 after 13 years of living the expat life in Hong Kong. An incurable collector, Josephine admits that they “must have moved a thousand boxes!” so they could hang on to their favourite furniture and homeware gathered over the years. Here, we chat over English tea (served in the finest antique bone china, of course) and home-baked apple cake while enchanting objets d’art wink at us from nearby, as Ziggy watches from a distance. with a story

33 MAY2021


Your house is the anchor of your world, so surround yourself with things that make you feel inspired and comfortable.




You moved to Singapore seven years ago. Did you know what kind of house you were looking for? I think we thought we’d put the bulk of our belongings into storage and do this last Asian stint in an apartment, on our way back “home”. However, the heartbreaking deaths of two friends in two countries at the time of our move made me suddenly realise the shortness of time. Ivy and Jasper were six and nine, and these were integral years in our family story; this was the time they’d later look back on and remember their “family home”, so I set about finding it. I have always found these black-and-whites so compelling – the challenge of them and their heritage, and their beautiful light-filled spaces. They are very, very special to live in. Your home is stunning. Was there anything specific that won you over? It was in pretty good condition, and has, like so many of these homes, an easy layout, high ceilings, grand proportions and a beautiful flow. This one had been well looked after by the previous tenants and it had a kitchen fitted – not all the ones I looked at did. We also felt lucky to find a lovely garden and pool already in place. I loved the layout and the space of the rooms, and the palpable history of the property, and all the lives that have made it home before us. I wanted the house to come alive again with us. We think it was built around 1915 to 1920, and I’ve been told it was the home of a British Army Officer or the Police Chief. One of the bedrooms has a small brass gun safe built into the walls.

35 MAY2021





With no furniture here when you arrived apart from the fitted kitchen, how did you go about arranging your space? The first thing I had to do was get some cupboards. I went straight to IKEA and ordered the plainest basic cupboards and added various collected door handles to them. I hung curtains – we have 14 doors on the ground floor so we needed some privacy – and I placed rugs down as “anchor points” and for a neutral base. Did you buy a lot of new furniture? Well, this house is much bigger than our apartment in Hong Kong. I did buy things along the way as I came across them – I made regular trips to IKEA and Junkie’s Corner, for example. Also, once we had our children, I wasn’t working as an actor in Hong Kong, and I started doing other creative work; this included art directing and styling bespoke private and corporate events for art galleries and a private event space. As I took on these small interior styling commissions, I was always sourcing and seeking lovely things – and, as you can see, too often they had to come home with me! The large canvas in the living room is a section of a painting I saw in the National Gallery in London; she’s called The Surprise by Claude-Marie Dubufe, painted in 1827. I love her and just had her blown up on canvas as big as I could. The print next to her comes from a small wallpaper sample. I was planning to cover a section of the living room with it, then just got an enlarged print instead. Talk us through the art in the dining room. The Mona Lisa with the DamianHurst skull crystal overlay is by artist Tanya Piratay and was part of a series, by various international artists, auctioned for the charity Smile For A Child. On the adjacent wall is a photograph of a derelict theatre in Detroit by artist Denise Hough. This is the first theatre The Jackson 5 played at. I love that there is nothing left standing amongst the rubble apart from (if you look closely) a few lonely chairs. In the corner of the room hangs an art piece by Marie Garcia Ibanez; it’s a human spine made of china, with a pattern on it of tiny flowers. I had admired this series for a long time and my husband gave it to me as a 50th birthday present. I love it so. Absolutely! Your home is a feast for the eyes. Where did you get the art in the living room? I loved the palpable history of the property, and all the lives that have made it home before us.

37 MAY2021


You have some intriguing personal collections … I think I become fascinated with a particular thing and the story and lives behind it – the love, care and reverence in making things by hand over time, and the occasions that are elevated and marked by decoration and adorning things. There are French church candlesticks, religious glass domes from Europe, birds’ nests, necklaces and headpieces from important celebrations from various parts of Asia, and tiny “lotus shoes”, made for bound feet in China many years ago and stitched with such perfect, delicate care. Almost everything has been picked up treasure hunting and curiosity shopping in local markets around the world. What are your most coveted items? Ooh, I’m not sure I could choose – I become in awe of them all along the way! That twinkling cross in the living room is one of a pair that was discovered in a crypt in the South of France – it was used to lead processions in religious festivals, and is completely covered in tiny hand-cut glass beads, wired on by hand by someone over months and months, I suspect. The “Cap I Pota” Madonnas were used in private shrines in Spain and dressed up for special festivals. They are so serene; I always wonder what they have seen.




A successful home is a collection of things that you love.

39 MAY2021





Is there one piece of furniture you’ll never tire of? I had the black cupboard in the dining roommade years ago for our Hong Kong apartment, out of an old Chinese screen of window panels. It used to be white and held books and toys. When it was reassembled here, I hated it and wanted to get rid of it. On a whim one day, Ivy and I painted it black, and now I love it all over again! Do you have a favourite room in the house? Hmmm ... maybe the dining room? I do love entertaining and I love imagining the dinners held in here over the history of the house. I fill it with flowers – the wilder the better. The chandelier over the table I found many years ago in a dusty old junk shop tucked away in SheungWan in Hong Kong. It has become a source of amusement for my family as I dress it up with decorations whenever there’s anything to celebrate – birthdays, Christmas, CNY, Deepavali. Where do you spend most of your family time? We gather in the upstairs living room at night. As with all these houses, this room was originally an open verandah, and over time it was closed in with windows. It has three bedrooms, two interconnected, off either side. The ceilings are 5.5 metres high, and it’s very hot up there during the day. I constantly marvel that these houses were built with such generous proportions. The large coffee table, an old Chinese bed bought here in Singapore 20 years ago, has been used by my children as a perch to watch cartoons from; it’s had jigsaw puzzles all over it and all manner of art-and-craft creations; it’s been a hideout and a boat; but now it’s regularly covered in laptops and various remote controls.

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What are your tips for expats who want to restyle their spaces themselves? Make your home where you are; our spaces have a profound impact on our daily lives. Buy what you love, not what’s trending. I’m drawn to pieces that people put time, effort and energy into and the curiosity and love in them sings to me all over the house every day. Especially now, our home is the anchor of our family and our world I think it’s important to be surrounded by things that make you feel both inspired and at ease.I guess as an expat I’d say spend money on things you’ll take with you through your life, and with the rest get creative: cushions you love, a candle or two and any heartfelt details can instantly lift up your space. Oh, and lamps ... lighting is everything. Where do you retreat to for some quiet time? This house is full of spaces to retreat to, but sometimes this open-decked room by the garden. It’s at its best in the afternoons and as the sun goes down. In the courtyard, I planted two small frangipani trees for my two friends who died and prompted the move to this house. Seven years on, these “remembrance trees”, now big and strong, often decorated with candlelight, twinkle as the night draws in – a constant reminder to me to focus on what is important (even if I sometimes ignore their call) – and how lucky we are to be here, now and together.

Guest room




Josephine’s Recommendations

National Gallery Singapore

SPMKT Dempsey, Blk 8 Dempsey Road, #01-15A Tippling Club 38 Tanjong Pagar Road

Shop Lottie Lifestyle (“for gorgeously curated everthing”) Bungalow 55 (“tropical style at its finest”) 8D Dempsey Road, #03-04

Puppy Colours, dog behaviour specialists, trainers and teachers (“they’ve been a lifeline to us, who are all unused to small dogs, helping us settle in

our new puppy”)

Jypsy Restaurant 38 Martin Road

Common Touch Pottery Burghley Lifestyle Hub 45 Burghley Drive, #01-08

Hock Siong (“the store often sources items from hotels being refurbished; the lamps are from The St. Regis Hotel – I painted the lampshades black; also, the chairs on the outdoor verandah were from the Raffles renovation”) 153 Kampong Ampat, #01-03

Originals (“they sell beautiful, unique pieces from around the world”) 1 Bukit Batok Street 22, Level 5

43 MAY2021


Singapore’s We explore the neighbourhoods that are home to these beautiful heritage buildings. Black Where are BY REBECCA BISSET

S ingapore’s colonial black-and-white hous e s a r e i n my t op t h r e e a r c h i t e c t u r e styles, along with Georgian, and the Peranakan shophouses. Design-wise they’re perfect for this climate, with thick wal ls and good eves that provide shade. Most of them originally included an open ventilation structure to allow natural airflow, though many have subsequent l y been filled in to accommodate air- conditioning. The ma j or i t y o f these striking houses were built in the first few decades of the 1900s, and for a mix of uses – from homes to officers’ messes and administration buildings. There are around 500 of them still standing in Singapore today. Most are homes, but some are used for businesses or restaurants. Sadly, quite a few are empty as rents are high; others are waiting to have new roofs put on, or have been left to become overgrown and derelict – like my old house! Here’s a quick rundown on the history of these different neighbourhoods and some of the different styles.

Adam Park

Adam Park The 19 black-and-white houses here were built in the late 1920s for municipal purposes. They played witness to a fierce three-day battle during World War II (leading to one area being known as “Hellfire Corner”), and then served as a prisoner-of-war camp for defeated Australian and British troops. Over a thousand artefacts have been found in the area to document that period. Did you know? One of the houses in Adam Park was established by POWs as a chapel.

About the name: Black-and-whites take their name from the contrast between the dark timbers used in the beams of the houses and their bright whitewashed walls. The dark tone of the wood is a result of it being treated for termites with an oil called creosote.




Whites? -and-

Ridley Park

Alexandra Park The earliest black-and-whites were built on this spot to complement the Alexandra Barracks. While some date as far back as 1906, most were erected in the 1930s for senior medical staff of the Royal Army Medical Corps who worked in the Alexandra Military Hospital. Did you know? The area takes its name from Princess Alexandra, wife of then Prince of Wales and later King Edward VII. Changi In 1927, the British general Webb Gillman surveyed Changi as a potential defensive fortress. The area he assessed was a swampy forest, previously used for growing coconuts. Black-and-white houses were built here in the late 1920s and early 1930s as residences for senior British officers – in particular, for the Royal Engineers. Did you know? In the 1920s, the only way to get to Changi from the city centre was along an unpaved track to Changi Village. Dempsey & Ridley Park When the outbreak of WorldWar II sparked a need for more military accommodation in Singapore, Ridley Park and Ridout Road were two enclaves close to the existing Tanglin Barracks that were developed as married quarters for officers and their families. The actual barracks at Dempsey now consists of retail outlets and restaurants. Did you know? Ridley Park is named for Henry Nicholas Ridley, an English botanist who developed the rubber industry in the Malay Peninsula.

Gillman Barracks Located jus t eas t of the Al exandra Park enc l ave , and known today as one of Singapore’s most prominent art centres, the small collection of colonial buildings at Gillman Barracks was built in 1936 for the British infantry. Aside from the barracks, there were black-and-whites that served as married quarters for officers. Did you know? Gillman was one of the final outposts to fall to the Japanese in World War II.

Alexandra Park

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Goodwood Hill Goodwood Hill’s bungalows were built by the Public Works Department in 1910. Over time, the houses here have regularly been used for administrative purposes – firstly by the British, then in the second half of the 20th century as a study centre for Singapore’s political and civil service leaders. Many are rented out now as private residences and are in the perfect spot close to Scotts Road. Did you know? Goodwood Hill boasts some of the oldest black-and-whites in Singapore. Mount Faber The small cluster of surviving black-and-whites on the southern slope of Mount Faber were inspired by the Art Deco movement in the 1920s. This was a popular spot for colonial houses as it was quiet, while still being central. Did you know? Following a recent $1 million refurb of black-and-whites here (on Pender Road) by the Singapore Land Authority, there are plans to make the area a heritage trail.

Mount Pleasant The cluster of black-and-whites on the north slope of Mount Pleasant are among the grandest in Singapore. Built in the 1930s, they were used as accommodation by high-ranking officers, including senior police from the nearby Police Depot (later Singapore’s Police Academy, until 2005). Some are now run by Ascott as Serviced Residences, and they look amazing. Did you know? During the war, the estate was a work camp for POWs building the Shinto shrine that’s hidden away in MacRitchie Reservoir even to this day. Nepal Hill A dozen or so black-and-whites can be found at Nepal Hill, a small area just to the southeast of Rochester Park. They were built in the late 1930s for the same purpose, to house British officers and their families. Did you know? The famous Gurkha regiment of Nepalese recruits led by British officers was stationed at the foot of the hill, hence the name of the area. Rochester Park There are around 40 black-and-white bungalows in Rochester Park, which were used in the 1940s primarily by British military soldiers stationed at Pasir Panjang Military Complex and their families. Today, several of the buildings operate as bars and restaurants. Did you know? This area is home to the only Starbucks-occupied black-and-white!

Adam Park




Seletar Camp The military camp at Se l etar was bui l t in the 1920s and 1930s t o h o u s e m i l i t a r y pe r sonne l f rom t he nearby Seletar Airbase. As this was formerly the largest British Royal Air Force (RAF) base in the Far East, the area has Singapore’s biggest black- and-white count, with around 200 bungalows still standing. Some of the houses were occupied by the Japanese during the war – one was a “comfort house” for the soldiers. Did you know? There used to be many more colonial buildings here. 174 were demolished to make way for the Seletar Aerospace Park in the 2000s. Some are still empty and derelict from that time; a few are occupied by restaurants and bars.

Sembawang From 1938, the far north of Singapore was home to a massive British naval base – at the time, the world’s largest dry dock. The sizeable collection of black-and-white houses here were built for the use of senior officers; many sat on elevated land, with balconies to allow for a vantage point back to the base. Did you know? The roads here take their names from former British colonies and territories: Bermuda, Pakistan, Canberra, Delhi, Sudan and so on. Seletar Camp


47 MAY2021


Malcolm Road

Wilton Close, Wessex Estate

Wessex Estate Just off Portsdown Road is a big group of black- and-whites built in the 1930s and 40s. The 70 or so semi-detached houses and walk-up apartments housed British servicemen working at military sites in Alexandra and Pasir Panjang. Today, the estate is known for its collection of art studios and galleries. Did you know? Roads here are named for English towns and all start with a “W” –Woking, Westbourne, Whitchurch, Weyhill and Wilton.

Where else? There are other pockets of Singapore where you’ll find black-and-whites, including Evans Road, Monk’s Hill, Hooper Road, Turf Club Road. Woodleigh Park, Malcolm Road, Nassim Road, Seton Close, Chip Bee Gardens and Fort Road. There are also a couple of privately owned ones on Chancery Road and on the East Coast, while the Botanic Gardens and Fort Canning both have some splendid properties built in the same era that are worth seeing too.

Jane’s Singapore Tours ( and some of the Associations do guided walks featuring black-and-whites in different areas. There are also a couple of great books on the topic, including Singapore Colonial Style , by Charles and Luli Orchard, which you can buy on our website at



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