Shabby Glam

Nick Oxborrow’s tri-level shophouse can be found in the colourful Blair Plain conservation area, where ornate, restored heritage houses are an eclectic mix of Chinese, Malay and European designs. His vibrant home is an enchanting kaleidoscope of colour and quirky antique pieces.

Artists in residence

Upon entering the serene courtyard, there’s little to indicate the grand, high ceilings and spacious rooms inside. “From the outside, it looks small – like a little Peranakan chocolate box,” says Nick. “But inside, the size always surprises people.” The house has several functions for business and living. Downstairs, Nick’s partner Carlos is prepping for an exhibition, with large cavasses. Upstairs houses Fabulation (fabulation.com.sg) Nick’s event services agency, as well as a formal dining area, swathed in rich Chinese reds, and a tropical outdoor kitchen.

The top floor is reserved for Nick and Carlos, with a cosy living nook and desk, and a green outdoor balcony that overlooks terrace houses. It’s perfect for a quiet drink at night after the heat dissipates. “As my house is both work and play, I have organised it so that the top floor is a totally private living space with bedroom, sitting room and bathroom,” says Nick. “The second floor is our main living and working space with our kitchen, dining room and office, so it’s a shared space. The first floor is mainly storage and studio where Carlos works on his art and we can entertain as well.”

This isn’t Nick’s first home in Singapore. “I was born and partially grew up in Singapore. My father moved here 50 years ago in 1968 from the UK and we’ve not looked back. I’ve lived in the UK for school, and Switzerland and Boston for Hotel School and work, but Singapore is home. My parents lived on Cuscaden Road in Orchard in an old apartment building that is now St Regis Residences. My childhood home was a black and white on Stevens Road and I also lived in an old walk up Arab Street. So this is my forth residence.”

Heritage features

Nick adores the heritage elements of the house. “This house has really good energy. It’s filled with history and the old world of Singapore. The moulding design at the front is beautiful, but the inside is just as striking, with its exposed beams, ornate tiled floor and traditional wood floor boards. All these features give the house a lovely feel.” The neighbourhood is close to buzzing Duxton Hill, the CBD, as well as Sentosa. “I love how central it is – we can get to everywhere in the island quite easily and also access Orchard, the City and the West. It’s such an ideal place for me to live, as I do so much running around.” For morning meetings, good coffee is a stone’s throw away. “Kith Café and Strangers Reunion are my go to places for a quick bite or an all-day breakfast. I love the banana smoothie from Kith and My Grandfather’s Sandwich at Strangers.”

Statement pieces

Nick’s interiors are a blend of antiques, second hand items and travel finds. “Our furniture is a random collection of old, new, second hand and gifted. The chandelier in the kitchen made out of kitchen utensils comes from an old pub in London that was being renovated. It no longer matched the new décor so the new owner gave it to me and I’ve loved it ever since. The dining room table a dear neighbour sold to us for $100 – we painted it red. The dining chairs we bought for $50 from an old restaurant and I had my childhood friend’s teenage daughter paint them – she went home covered in red paint! I also love the white monkey lamp on the wall. It’s so eclectic that we decided to leave it as the only statement at the top of the stairs.”

Throw it together

Nick’s decorating style is hard to define. “It’s definitely an eclectic mix – we’re not exactly shabby chic – more shabby glam! I just buy things I like and then it all sort of comes together.” But his home will never resemble a museum. “I like to be able to look around and see beautiful objects but I don’t want everything so stiff and perfect that I worry all the time. I was brought up in an environment where everything had to be perfect and it was always a bit tense. So, I don’t worry if something breaks – use it, enjoy it and when it goes it goes.”

Nick also has a special connection to ANZA – he will judge this months’ Melbourne Cup Race Day Best Dressed competition. “Not only are ANZA my neighbours, but I love the occasions and the friendship that I have found in the organisation. It’s really important that communities are built to provide a home away from home for expats.”

Nick’s go-to stores:
Hotlotz (hotlotz.com) “An auction house that’s fantastic for unique old items.”
Hock Siong & Co (hocksiong.com.sg) “You can pick up old furniture from closing or renovating hotels – my gold lamps in the dining room are from there.”