In this blog, I explore the use of space within two IDENTICAL architectural spaces in a pair of colonial black & white homes, each owned by the Singapore Government. Each individual approaches an interior space differently with the overall aim of creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Interior spaces should be changed around frequently to freshen up your home and also adapt to changes in your lifestyle.
As one of the residents advises " Dont get stuck on the rules of design - it is the space surrounding something that defines it. If it doesn't work play around with the space between it and another object".
I am delighted to show you these two different styles, each creating a spectacular living space that importantly functions in perfect harmony with each families needs.
"In my mind, there are 4 different elements -
Light, Form, Texture & Colour " - Nina Beale
The black & white houses are naturally light, however the sheer size of them means that the number of lights under consideration totalled 30-40 lights. Halogens were an option, chandeliers an unrealistic solution, so we settled on a mix of large bamboo lights to provide scale, brass pendants and mixed in table and floor lamps to create the atmosphere.
We did not use dimmers, but opted for "dipped" bulbs to create a softer effect and also varied the wattage of the bulbs in the lights to create atmosphere lighting.
All rooms, including the kitchen & bathrooms use a variety of table, floor, pendant lighting and depending on location of fans and airconditioning will incorporate battery operated or real candles.
Given the natural light was not an issue, the key focus for me was the sheer volume of lights required and the atmsophere I wanted to create for our home in the evening. I opted for a mixture of chandeliers bought from a junk shop in Hong Kong, painted all my lampshades black to create a moody light and put an emphasis on table lamps- each room has about 5 smaller lamps.
The previous owner obviously prioritised lighting and so we inherited timers and dimmers! I extended this concept by adding a large number of battery operated candles that operate on timers as well, so now each evening as night falls, the house lights up and twinkles away - its lovely!
"Form is found in furniture & objects that fill the space within the room or area."
Living an expat life means that you are often in spaces that won't move with you. As a result I have invested in key items that will move with us such as indoor and outdoor sofas, consoles & art. I recently had my dining table custom - made. It was based on a design I had seen and loved, and we have also invested in a baby grand piano! The rest are fillers such as wardrobes, tv cabinets etc.
I am a fan of re-upholsering to make items fit in to the climate you are living in and also helps to adapt the items to the style of the architecture and space.
Mirrors are another key investment as they can often be much better at "lifting a space " than artwork and they also give things a more "luxe" feel. My husband and I rarely agree on a picture but mirror seems to always hit neutral ground!
In this climate, I particularly favour indoor/outdoor rugs as they can be "hosed down" periodically and look like new. Sisal rugs also fit well in the tropics and are also practical.
"My advice is to buy what you love - it will most surely all work togther if you love it - your home should give you pleasure"
Our family has been offshore for 15 years and I am a natural born collector, so we have a lot in tow. We had to go about making our furniture work and found some of it worked very differently .We opted to use paint to transform the furniture to fit into the space. I am equally of the opinion that it is important to invest in good quality pieces in particular dining tables and sofas. If the budget allows, my preference would be to have items custom-made to make them unique to your home and personal style.
However, I am also practical that you have to use fillers for a space that is being left behind. I love wandering through antique & junk shops, where I can find items to bring to life again and I have whiled away many hours doing that in Singapore!
Art work is key for me to transform a room and I have a monochromatic pallette - the aim for our famiy is to create a "visual quiet". I don't tend to incorporate mirror in to my home as I hate running into myself all day but there is no doubt they open up a space.
Rather than re-upholstering our furniture, I invested in cushions that had tropical fabrics and removed our wool rugs as they look so wrong in the tropics - like a winter coat - so I have favoured sisal and outdoor polypropolene rugs.
Since moving to the tropics, I have experimented more with texture - incorporating elements from the sea with vintage resin clam shells, distressed wood and other Asian origin product from my travels such as, stone buddha heads, woven baskets & bamboo. I like the way bamboo furniture softens the edges and provides contrast against the black and white trim of these historic houses.
I also collect beautiful glassware and bottles which I keep together on my bamboo Bungalow bar from the Stuart Membery home collection.
" The downside in experimenting with texture is that they can look like " holiday purchases" when they are back in your own home and you can start to represent a souvenir shop."
I am an incurable collector, ranging from teapots, old china, sea shells, feathers to tumbled porcelain china collected on the beach from when we lived there... and birds !! They all add texture and character to a room. I mostly group the collections together to complete the story but recently I have started to mix them up and distribute them around the house which is fun!
In my opinion, colour transforms a space. Our house was painted yellow, red & khaki throughout which was excessive for my palette. I have always favoured white or off white walls to open up the space and create a sense of calm, however I like to put colour in artwork and accessories such as cushions, flowers, coffee table books even the bottles on display.
I grew up being surrounded by art & design as my father is an architect. One key ingredient to overhauling a living space is to use colour - this colour can be implemented through paint, but also in art, flowers, indoor plants, textiles and accessories.