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Ros and Richard's respective careers in advertising and law brought them to Asia, with the intention to live in Hong Kong for two years and then Singapore for a further two. Fast forward to today, and they have now been in Asia for 30 years. Their old Chinese Shophouse home on the historic Emerald Hill Estate in Singapore highlights their love for collecting and interiors. The word eclectic is thrown around a lot these days, but the word could not be more fitting for Ros and Richard's home. From a 1950s jukebox to an automaton monkey, Russian art and Chinese furniture, there is so much to explore.

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Ros explained to us how they would trawl through the junk shops of Singapore in the late 1980s to find all manner of wonderful things. These shops have sadly all closed down now, but the items that Ros once found included a foghorn and even an old British air raid siren that they sent over to their house in France.
After leaving advertising, Ros turned to her love of interior design and opened up an interior design shop. The shop was set up like a home and had the most fascinating mix of pieces from South East Asia, India, England and France. Every piece was specially chosen by Ros on her travels with her one guiding rule that whatever she purchased for the shop, she had to love it enough to have it in her own home.



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The location of the Chinese Shophouse and the architecture is very important to Ros. This specific style of architecture was born out of the need to have shops with space for the owners to live on the premises. The Emerald Hill Estate is the only residential estate left in Singapore of Chinese Shophouses. The street is set up as a circle, with each house painted in a different colour.


With a terrace garden at the front, an inner courtyard and three stories, Ros describes the house as being like a Tardis. Although the house is relatively narrow, it goes back a long way and features an inner court yard between the corridor and dining room that goes straight up the centre of the house. As this style of house is so long, the inner courtyards were traditionally included in the design in order to air the house.


"The drawing room is where we all disappear to when we want a quiet read or to listen to music and chill and often I leave the front doors open and the half height wooden doors closed, a unique feature of Chinese Shophouse architecture is that there are swing ’saloon’ style wooden doors in front of the main front doors so when they are open, the wooden saloon doors can be closed which are only half height - which enables you to retain your privacy but with plenty of light.’'

Prior to moving to this house, Ros and her family spent 25 years in a beautiful old British army colonial house, before moving to Emerald Hill, where they have now been for four years.

The drawing room is a mix of Chinese and English furniture brought over from their previous home. And everything has found a new place seamlessly in the Shophouse.

''This house really lends itself to the description of an ideal family home. To me, even from the first time I came in through the front door, how to use each room seemed obvious and it has worked out really well.’'

Although the two houses were not dissimilar in size, both being over 4 000 square feet not including land, they are a very different layout. Ros' previous home was spread out on one floor, whereas this home has more levels, so it was a new way of approaching space. The family didn't want to bring in new furniture, instead they wanted to creatively use the wonderful pieces they had collected throughout the years.


''We use the dining room for family time, not only for formal dinner parties, and we often have family discussions over breakfast and supper. I work at the dining table during the day as it leads directly onto the inner  courtyard so there is a lovely view of the plants and flowers as well as a few Balinese stone gods and monkeys hidden amongst the greenery…’'


There were some pieces that proved a little tricky when picking a spot for them. For instance, the wonderful 1956 jukebox that the couple purchased in the UK and shipped out to Singapore, was originally planned for upstairs. That was until it was placed in the dining room, where Ros recalled it instantly looked amazing next to the Asian furniture, where it has been placed next to a Vietnamese pew which has a bright red cushion on it. The lobster above it was purchased in Jakarta, the little creature is nestled on velvet with its front antennae playfully arranged in a circle.



And the monkey in the glass case? Well, that's an old French automaton, of course. The piece, which was created by a famed French automaton craftsman, plays the violin whilst opening his eyes and moving his arms. The little creature, which still wears its original costume, was purchased from a specialist in London after a recommendation Ros received in Prague whilst sourcing Czech glass for her shop. It was in Prague that she spied two stuffed bird automatons and was told by the dealer that London was the best place for automatons. In London, a specialist looked for a few years for pieces for Ros until they decided on the monkey.


What is so wonderful about Ros' home is that each room has so many talking points, she explained to us how people come into the house and discover something new each time. ‘’My style is not minimalist! I might change the position of something and there's so much going on that guests think things are new.’'
And it's not just the quirky pieces that have such a rich story behind them, the family's art collection has many tales to tell. When the family first arrived in Asia, they met Marjorie Chu, an art dealer, a pioneer of contemporary local art, her work was helping to put young Asian artists on the map. Chu founded Art Forum in 1971 and Ros and her family purchased a lot of their early pieces from Chu in the 1980s and 1990s.


Ros explained how ''she had a fantastic connection with local artists who were trying to make it in the art world, many are now well known in the region, she had such a way of spotting talent.''

As well as this local art, the home has paintings from France. The four large paintings behind the buddha in the dining room are by the Spanish monk Juan Rodriguez. The artist was sent by his monastery to Asia in order to paint. He never returned to Spain, instead he spent his life painting scenes from his travel in Asia and Africa.


In the drawing room there are pieces by many Vietnamese artists including works by an artist that the couple discovered unexpectedly. During one of their regular visits to a contemporary furniture shop, the owner one day showed them his own paintings which he framed himself. The Paris-born artist would paint the most sumptuous interiors of French and Vietnamese apartments.

The family also adore Russian art, many of which they purchased from a specialist gallery in London's Westbourne Grove. ''It has now sadly closed, and we wished we had bought more from there,'' commented Ros.


Being in Asia, Ros explains how Barnebys makes the world of auctions so easy to navigate. For example, some of the European furniture in the home was purchased online from a Sotheby's auction.

Auctions also offer the family a chance to find something unusual, a cornerstone to their design style. ''The weirdest thing we ever bought was a taxidermy bear, in our French house we have a lot of old taxidermy. We bought this piece from a dealer on Portobello Road and shipped it to sent France. In the end we took it back to the UK and sold it at Sotheby's. My husband and I loved it, it was truly beautiful, however, there was something that wasn’t quite right about it. We tried it in so many different places in the home but it just didn't fit. There was 'something about that bear.''

Photographed and styled by Anne Nyblaeus.