‘The eye has to travel,’ said the eccentric Diana Vreeland, who was well known for her colourful, and inspired work in the pages of Vogue. She had a tactful way of bringing in multiple points of inspiration and making it all just work in her spreads. One of the great things about interior design is we have that same opportunity. We can cover every corner of the world, take in the sights, the style and the culture, and create spaces that remind us of all that we saw. That’s why I love sharing about my travels — I know I finish each trip full of ideas for my home, the homes of friends and the homes of my clients. I hope you feel the same after these posts!
A while back I wrote about my trip to Bali. En-route from Bali, I also visited Singapore and took in some of its many sights. I could have stayed longer – much, but it was a short stopover as I made my way back to Hong Kong and was enough to whet my appetite. If you are heading to Asia I highly recommend a stop in Singapore.
I was again fortunate to have excellent tour-guides. Friends of mine had moved there a few years back and I finally had a chance to visit them and see the sights.
Singapore is a land of futuristic architecture in a tropical climate that is an international melting pot with a dynamic expat community. Its sights are abundant but here are a few (or more than a few) highlights from my trip. Spoiler alert: lots of architecture and design inspiration took my breath away!
First, a look at the delightful, old-world charm of the Heritage shophouses. These are some of the most iconic historic buildings in modern Singapore. Many of these shophouses belonged to the Peranakan community and one of the distinctive features of the Peranakan owned shophouses are the ornately designed tiles that adorn the buildings, known also as Peranakan tiles.
Photography by Ana Kamin
The tiles! So pretty.
We found an artist’s interpretation using pieces of the Peranakan tile to make modern pottery.
Measuring and weighing dough for hand-made dumplings was the centre-stage display at a world class dumpling restaurant I’d go back to in a heartbeat!
A couple of pics from the Singapore’s world class rainforest zoo. How fun to be amidst the animals in each exhibit (most of the time – eeks!).
Arab Street and Haji Lane, a vibrant and colourful historic district converted into artists galleries and colourful shops.
Art Deco gems, the Atlas, celebrates the great Art Deco lobbies of Europe and their rich culinary and beverage traditions.
Greenscape echoes terraced rice paddy fields within the built environment at the Park Royal.
Gardens by the Bay is part of a strategy by the Singapore government to transform Singapore from a “Garden City” to a “City in a Garden” and to raise the quality of life by enhancing greenery and flora in the city. Beautiful to look at, these structured certainly add to the city’s futuristic skyline.
Elegant old ‘black and white’ houses (above) evoke a refined picture of colonial Singapore and date back to when wealthy immigrants, plantation owners, built these lovely homes in the late eighteen and early nineteen hundreds. Patterned light filters through whitewashed plantation shutters, ceiling fans bring a welcome breeze to offer relief from the tropical heat. Sit in rattan furniture on the covered verandah to capture the essence of tropical chic amidst swaying potted palms and sip on a Singapore sling.
That captures the romanticism to be found in Singapore.
We visited a ‘black and white’ that was converted to a home décor and furnishings showroom and I was in love at every sight. Among the many things I wish I had brought home were these items (but believe me, if I ever open a shop this will in be my inventory – for sure):
Using these screens is a great way to filter light and offer a bit of privacy without resorting to conventional window coverings.
My dear friend Deanna who showed me all the best spots!
These Chinese wedding cabinets are typically finished in a high gloss lacquer. I really like the more subtle finish on these and was so tempted to buy a pair to house all of my fabric books. It may still happen!
Chinese brushes make great styling items as they tell an interesting story and add texture to any tablescape.
Lunch in a black and white house converted to a restaurant – Chopsuey Cafe.
Chinese New Year decorations were revealing the year of the dog.
One restaurant on Dempsey Hill showcased three classic looks of Singapore. Black and white, Indigo and white, and the Peranakan tiles.
Again I had expert tour guides. I stayed with friends I have known since our sons were small together and had the delight of enjoying the expat life, Singapore style while I stayed with them. Deanna knows all the design sources I would want to see and I was delighted with many home décor discoveries I made (and did a bit of fashion shopping too).
Dining. I’m sure there are many world class restaurants to discover. Here are just a few as my visit was brief. There is so much more to go back for.
Dumplings: Ranked as one of the world’s Top Ten Best Restaurants by The New York Times, at Din Tai Fung the kitchen takes centre stage and you can watch the masters take showmanship seriously as they expertly make the dumplings while you watch. https://www.dintaifung.com.sg/about.php
Chopsuey Café hits all the high points for me in their décor. A beautiful setting in a black and white house on Dempsey hill, with its colonial style décor is surreally gorgeous. Details like the woven rattan chairs, fresh flowers, and giant tropical plants give it all the Asian meets the tropics ambience you could ask for. Top it off with fabulous food, beautifully presented and I can’t wait to go back!