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Gadgets & Home Improvement

In-house touch

Interior designer Elizabeth Acland opts for a varied look for her very first family home - a two-storey conservation shophouse in Emerald Hill
The Business Times - June 21, 2014
By: Tay Suan Chiang
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In-house touch In the study, Ms Acland has adorned the wall with portraits of her late grandmother. (Above) The couple spend the most time in the sitting room. Near the dining area is a built-in wall cabinet which is a traditional feature of Hokkien shophouses. - PHOTO

AS an interior designer, Elizabeth Acland shapes the way her clients live. "They come with a brief of how they want their home to look, and I make it a reality," says Ms Acland,

co-founder of E & A Interiors. But when it came to her own home, she was almost at a loss. "It was more difficult. I had so many ideas, I had access to everything you need to do up a home - it was much tougher to pick what I wanted." In the end, she opted for an eclectic look for the two-storey conservation home in Emerald Hill, where she lives with her fund manager fiance Timothy Hay. "The look is a mix of old and new, which is befitting of the house itself," she says. "Its location is right smack in the middle of Orchard Road, and yet the home retains its old charm."

The couple moved to Singapore last year, when Mr Hay found a job here. Like most expatriate couples, they went house-hunting, viewing apartments and shophouses. "We visited a friend who stayed in a shophouse, and fell in love with the idea of doing the same. So we picked this over living in an apartment," says Ms Acland. "But had we moved into an apartment, the look of it would definitely be more modern." Their conservation home had been left empty for a while, but the couple saw the potential in it. "I loved the high ceiling, which makes the house feel cooler."

The home comes with its original ornate pintu pagar (wooden half doors), elaborate plaster work and wood carvings which combine to create an architectural hybrid that is also referred to as Chinese Baroque. Near the dining area is a built-in wall cabinet which is a traditional feature of Hokkien shophouses. "It is the perfect place to store our glassware," says Ms Acland.

This is the first time the couple are living together, and the first family home that Ms Acland is decorating. "Thankfully, Tim and I have similar tastes," she quips.

Ms Acland started her interior design career in London's Colefax and Fowler, the most established design house in London where she learnt the fundamentals of fabric and design. She then joined leading interior design firm Veere Grenney Associates, and worked on projects in New York, The Hamptons, Jackson Hole, Mustique, London and Sweden.

She met her business partner Chloe Elkerton in Singapore, and the duo decided to start E & A Interiors. "We offer the full spectrum of interior design, from custom-making one armchair for a client to full renovation projects. The studio has our own experienced in-house furniture-makers and we customise most items here in Singapore," says Ms Acland.

But what makes them stand out from other firms is E & A's exclusive and varied library of unique fabrics, rugs and wallpapers. The studio specialises in representing small boutique suppliers producing artisanal fabrics and wallpapers from England, France, Belgium and North America. Many of the fabrics are hand-woven and hand-printed. The use of fabrics can be clearly seen on the sofas, armchairs and cushions in Ms Acland's sitting room. "Fabrics are a great way to brighten up the look of the home, since we are renting this place, and didn't want to spend on wallpaper," she says. "You could use fabric as upholstery, as curtains, or even wrapping them on lampshades." Ms Acland has also wrapped the bedhead in her favourite Le Manach fabric.

"How you use the fabric will depend on its weight, such as the heavier ones for upholstery," she advises. "Textures on the fabric also add interest."

The studio also specialises in lighting and carries high-end English lighting brand, Vaughan Designs, which Ms Acland also uses in her own home. Many of the pieces have a rather vintage look to them, which complements the home's architecture.

The couple spend the most time in the sitting room. Natural light fills the space which makes it ideal for relaxing and reading.

Just behind the sitting room is the study, which Ms Acland used more often when the studio was based in her home. E & A Interiors is now at Kim Yam Road. Here in the study, Ms Acland has adorned the wall with portraits of her late grandmother, Myrtle Acland, one of the leading models of the late 1940s and early 1950s - her face was used to promote Lux soap. Little renovation was done by the landlord to the home, save for the kitchen, which now has an open feel with an adjoining garden at the back. "Tim's the one with green fingers," says Ms Acland.

Most of the furniture was either brought over by the couple from the UK, or bought locally from antique and second-hand stores such as Aphorism and Hock Siong respectively. They also brought with them their personal art collection, which again, "are a mix of antique paintings and modern ones", says Ms Acland.

Two of her favourite pieces are in the sitting room, one of which is a piece in different shades of blue by Singapore-based British painter Leo Poloniecki. Ms Acland adds that Poloniecki painted a whole series for the E & A studio and they have 10 other pieces here in various colours. Her other favourite is a smaller cubist painting, "it could be a Joseph Csaky from the 1920s, but I don't know for sure".

Despite moving in for just over a year, Ms Acland, like most other interior designers, says that her home is still a work in progress. The couple plan to live in this home for a few more years, but Ms Acland doesn't mind moving house sooner. "I enjoy moving. It is an excuse to do more stuff," she says.

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