A Singapore apartment worth waiting for
Creating a home of beauty takes time — 20 years in the case of Betty Ng’s apartment in East Coast, Singapore.
The Ginger Modern Asian Bistro owner got a first glimpse inside the apartment she now calls home in 2001.
“I was attracted to its high ceiling of more than 3.5 meters and its spiral emergency backstairs, which brought back childhood memories. My aunt’s family used to live in one of these apartments which I visited often when I had play dates with my cousins,” said Ng, who grew up in Singapore until 1987 when she began a life outside her country.
“The location is within walking distance of East Coast Park and beach. The neighborhood is dotted with preserved buildings from landmark churches to picturesque pre-war shop houses. The Joo Chiat/Katong area is an undisputed hotbed of architectural diversity and the historic homes for the local Eurasian and Peranakan community.”
Another important advantage is it is a freehold property, which means the owner has it for an indefinite period, unlike leasehold.
“My husband and I loved it on first sight, although the condition was pretty run-down. But we saw the potential of turning it into our little sanctuary,” she added.
As the couple was living between Tokyo and Shanghai, they didn’t upgrade the place until four years ago.
“We were glad we did as we were able to return to Singapore during the COVID-19 outbreak since the beginning of last year,” Ng said.
To make the space more practical for family living, they enlarged the master bedroom, en-suite bathroom, and took additional space from the common bathroom to create a bigger open kitchen and utility room. As the ceiling is very high, an attic was installed above the common bathroom for storage. While remotely managing her restaurant in Shanghai, Ng had plenty of time finishing up the renovation and dressing up the interior.
“We recently made changes to our beloved balcony and enclosed it with sliding windows to make it my woman’s cave and study,” she said.
“It is essentially still a balcony, which we can slide open to enjoy the evening breeze. We also added a rooftop terrace so we can enjoy drinks in the evening or enjoy some early morning meditation or yoga practice.”
The living and dining space features an open kitchen where Ng spends most of her time. As a restaurateur and creative chef, the kitchen design is the most important place for her at home.
“As it is an open kitchen, it doesn’t feel enclosed when I’m working alone inside the space. I do a lot of tests in my kitchen for the restaurant in Shanghai. The feedback from new recipes is important for my team to execute. When we have guests over, we can mingle and interact while I cook, or we just eat and drink over the counter,” Ng said.
A reading corner occupies part of the living room where the family can indulge in their books. The couch area is for gathering for pre-dinner or after-dinner drinks or some TV watching.
“We used a family heirloom piece of furniture to partly divide the space between living and dining rooms, which we can serve food from the open kitchen, it’s all very practical,” she said.
One look at Ng’s 100-square-meter, two-bedroom space and it’s immediately obvious that she is a serious collector of art and design pieces. She has a knack of mixing and matching so everything works together.
“I’ve always had an eye for beautiful things. They’re not necessarily expensive or from a particular period,” she said.
“My style is practical, depending on the space, since I have moved around for past 30 years. I kept the shell simple and then brought it together with all our collections from our overseas stays, travels and family heirlooms.”
Ng’s interior style is always eclectic, fun and elegant. She loves interpreting old styles in a modern context. The older elements of the apartment are balanced with industrial modern features and bohemian touches.
There are several pieces extremely dear to her heart. Her husband Thomas purchased a tall camphor wood antique cupboard displayed in the kitchen area in Beijing in 1988.
“We often went to antique markets during weekends when we lived in Beijing three decades ago. This piece was delivered on a bicycle from Jianguomenwai Dajie to the Friendship Hotel in the west. It is now part of my pantry,” Ng said.
The glass cabinet is another favorite piece of furniture Ng bought from Design Republic. A stunning piece of art itself, the cabinet’s sleek, simple lines and structure make it a great place to display the family’s collection of vintage silverware and glasses from Europe. “I love its transparent lightness to the space without adding any volume, which is great for a rather small space,” she said.
Israeli artist Basmat Levin’s paintings have previously graced the walls of Ng’s restaurant Ginger, her previous house in Shanghai and now her living room in Singapore.
“I love the gift from her, the painting of beautiful patterns displayed at the entrance, adding color to the white wall and complimenting our furniture. The home immediately feels cozy and warm,” she said.
Ask The Owner
Q: What’s the best thing about living in Singapore?
A: Singapore is a multi-racial city, a multi-lingual and multi-religious society where people live harmoniously together. We get to speak a special version of English called Singlish, which mixes in the local languages. It’s kind messy and beautiful at the same time.
Q: Describe your home in three words.
A: Cozy, compact and close to nature.
Q: What’s the first thing you do when you get home?
A: Relax in my woman’s cave and study or go to the rooftop garden.
Q: How do you unwind?
Q: What’s the view outside your window?
A: My neighbors. I get better view when I go to the rooftop.
Q: What’s your favorite object in your home?
A: My alchemy crystal singing bowl, it calms me down immediately when I work with it.
Q: Where do you source furniture?
A: I have collected most of my furniture living in China and Japan and from our heirlooms. I have not sourced any furniture so far in Singapore.