Come evening, if you were walking along this residential street in Singapore’s Joo Chiat enclave, you might do a double take in front of a particular home. Facing the sheltered walkway, a large window, when retracted, offers unfettered glimpses of a light-filled abode. There might be a cat lazing languidly on the window counter. Or perhaps some friends are perched atop bar stools, peering out at the comings and goings in the neighbourhood as they share a tipple or laugh over a joke.
This home belongs to Jeremy Ng and Amanda Misso. Wholeheartedly embracing its unique sense of place, it is a home filled with generosity—the generosity of company; the generosity of natural light and breeze that gives the interiors a comfortable, airy disposition; and the generosity of friendliness to the neighbourhood. Misso works in marketing procurement at Visa and Ng brings in overseas entertainment acts for premium customers at Marina Bay Sands. It was an arduous search for a specific type of unit that brought them to Joo Chiat. Misso is no stranger to the East, having grown up in the area. She quips: “I’d like to think I influenced Jeremy to some extent, to realise how ‘East is the best side’.”
In Geylang where they formerly lived, friends would come to their apartment for a second round of drinks after patronising the late-night eateries nearby. Joo Chiat offers a similar convenience. “I’ve often explained to friends and family how this home has the best of both worlds: cafes and bars along Joo Chiat Road and affordable hawker fare at Haig Road. It’s almost been six months of living here and we’ve already found our regular coffee, craft beer and grocery spots,” shares Misso.
The home is not a traditional shophouse but has a similar feel, having a long plan at 25 metres deep and a narrow six-metre frontage. Built in 1957, it is the perfect size for the couple, Ng’s mother and two feline friends: a ginger tabby named Mikey and a grey British Shorthair christened Mingo.
“I’ve often explained to friends and family how this home has the best of both worlds: cafes and bars along Joo Chiat Road and affordable hawker fare at Haig Road”
Misso lets on that she enjoys the connection the one-storey home offers. “We did consider the option of a duplex unit, but that felt so detached. I mean, would you even know if the other person was home? I can’t deny though, that limiting ourselves to this specific preference of single-storey apartments with a minimum square feet area within the East did reduce our available options on the market. But that further emphasised how we saw the potential in this shophouse-style unit when we first visited it.”
The unit had been home to a group of foreign workers. The original layout was claustrophobic, with many rooms crammed into the narrow plan. Its long depth and dearth of windows also meant dark spaces, particularly since an existing void in its centre was covered with a thin metal roof.
“One of our contractors told us that when he saw the state of the home on his first site visit, he had exclaimed, ‘Are they mad? Why would anyone buy a space that’s so old and rundown’?” muses Ng. This speaks of the successful transformation by design firm Home Chapter, which was founded by Luke Shields. Like surgery, the good bones were singled out of the chaos, and parts subtracted and added strategically. He threw open the home to the street, to the elements and to the flexible way of living that the couple desired.
“We go back years so designing a home for them was exciting and daunting at the same time,” says Shields (the Australian-born architect is a cousin’s husband). “The couple love to entertain and enjoy socialising so we focused on a floor plate that allowed the spaces to be zoned in a way favouring this.”
The aforementioned two- by two-metre window fronts the living area, which is now open and capacious after Shields removed two small bedrooms. The window counter is a key feature. The couple dubs it the ‘bar’. “We played around with the idea of a bar at the front of the house that can be opened up to the five-foot-way, for small moments of connection and interaction with the neighbours and passers- by. It integrates the home into the fabric of the neighbourhood and creates an extended outside-in lounge for guests,” says Shields.
Aside from removing the front two rooms, the rejigging of the plan resulted in a small study corner next to the living area. A corridor connects the living room to the dining area at the rear. In between are two bedrooms and a powder room, accessed from a long corridor. The latter was altered from having the feel of a subterranean space into an outdoorsy avenue, awash with daylight after Shields removed the thin metal roof covering it. A pool of pebbles and hanging plants augment the garden feel, as do exposed brick walls along this pathway. Its shades, ranging from rust to carrot, add colour to the palette of white walls and pale floors. A sliver of open sky atop the pebble strip waters the plants with rainwater, highlights Young Tay of Met Interior Design, who also helped with the home’s design.
The dining area looks to a courtyard at the back of the home where a sole tree is a green accent. Ng was adamant that this spot be open to the sky. Some rain might wet the floor a little at the dining room when storms turn torrential but no matter. It is part and parcel of life in these parts. Wind also flows in freely to cool the home through the various openings. “Jeremy and Amanda are not big on air conditioning so we wanted to use what nature had already provided,” Shield comments. Opaque glass bricks at the rear facade amplify the effects of light.
This translucent wall sits between twin roller shutters, deployed to give the couple a streamlined ride-in ride-out arrangement for their motorcycles. On the motorcycles, two are parked up front along the five-foot-way. One is a red Honda Z50 45th Anni Monkey and the other is a Honda Z50 Gold Edition. Symbolic of the couple’s untrammelled take on life, the smallish vehicles bring on inquisitive looks.
“I started riding when I was 16. It’s undeniably a more affordable and convenient way of transport compared to a car,” shares Ng. “Pre-pandemic, I used to go on riding holidays with friends and was fortunate enough to explore parts of Mongolia, Nepal and Bali. It’s just a different experience to see a country when you’re wandering off the beaten path,” he says.
Ng’s regular commute is a 2023 Vespa GTV scooter but he hops onto the Honda Z50 to get coffee from one of the many cafes in the neighbourhood. Misso had also caught the motorcycle bug a while back, although she admits a big draw of the vehicle was the speedy ride to work. She elaborates: “Right before I got my Class 2 licence, I bought a Harley Davidson Sportster and had it decked in an iconic shade of Tiffany Blue. It was so unique that even after I sold it, friends would text me often after spotting it on the road. These days though, I prefer the muted look of the Triumph T100 Black.”
On regular weekends, the couple are consummate hosts. “We’re always trying to figure out how to push the envelope in this new home, such as how to seat more bodies in the dining area, setting up the Japanese konro BBQ in the back lane instead of the courtyard, planting the Stanley cooler box for drinks along the five- foot-way and so on,” says Ng. Adds Misso: “I’d say we have visitors minimally every fortnight, so weekend mornings are the best time to get meals from the nearby butcheries, vegetables from the wet market, and we’d walk past the natural wine stores so we’d pop two bottles in the roller crate.” Pop-up stores or weekend markets in the vicinity also add to the excitement of a weekend in this part of town.
“We played around with the idea of a bar at the front of the house that can be opened up to the five-foot-way, for small moments of connection and interaction with the neighbours and passers-by”
The home embodies the couple’s individual quirks and shared preoccupations. Says Ng: “We’re alike in some ways; we share the same values in life, we give space for the other to grow and we’re always there to support each other. But it’s also funny because we have completely different interests. It’s especially evident when you see Amanda reading a novel on her Kindle and me watching YouTube reviews on the latest camera equipment.”
He is a fan of American architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s works, especially the iconic Fallingwater and Robie House; the latter’s long band of windows was designed to bring light into the home. Japanese architect Tadao Ando’s works also fascinate him, especially Axuma House and Church of the Light that celebrates the use of off-form concrete. These sensibilities of light and raw materiality have found their way into Ng’s home.
On the other hand, Misso declares her penchant for function over form. “I’m the one in the relationship who will measure every shelf and drawer so I can get the correctly sized inserts, plan the height differences between countertops and chairs before we go hunting for furniture, and measure the dining space three times before we even commit to a dining table,” she lists in a combination of seriousness and self-amusement.
The couple’s love for motorcycles is immortalised in artwork around the home. One is an image of Misso’s Yamaha TW2000 and herself by South Africa-based artist Claudia Faber, who specialises in watercolour paintings of vintage motorcycles. Ng had customised it for Misso after she acquired the Class 2B licence and he gifted Misso her first motorcycle. Says the grateful recipient: “I absolutely love that I had this trusty model as my first bike although I kept it only for a grand total of 15 months as you just have to upgrade to a bigger bike the moment you get your Class 2A licence.” In the living room is a pair of silkscreen artworks by Ornamental Conifer (the moniker of British artist Nicolai Sclater whose unusual canvas also comprises cars and motorcycles). “His style combines a playful typography with impactful messaging, which has a distinctive cheeky feel. It reflects our love for contrarianism and a healthy disrespect for life’s daily norms,” Ng observes.
His passion for pop culture brightens up nooks, corners and walls throughout the home. A ‘Pointman’ by Futura, an Edgar Plans x NBA 75th Anniversary piece and others from Joan Cornellà and Kaws are some figurines in his collection. There are some sentimental pieces too, such as a Jonas Merian lamp that the couple bought when they first decided to cohabit. “Made out of an old biscuit tin, it was the first purchase we bought from furniture shop Journey East for our home. Six years and four homes later, it’s still with us,” says Misso.
Perhaps the best objects to represent the duo are a pair of glazed ceramic Resting Birds from Vitra as they symbolise the couple’s free-spirited approach to life and their dedication to each other. “These are usually seen in the bedroom as they’re meant to depict tranquillity and companionship. But the truth is these are the only two birds that our cats can’t be bothered to catch!” Misso jests.
In a sentimental tone, she references the Spanish sailing word abarloados that she discovered in a poem to represent their companionship. “It is used to describe the situation when two rafts are sailing parallel, at the same speed and rhythm, with their own space but on the same path. We’re not married but we’ve been together for close to 12 years. I’d like to think it’s not specific characteristics of a partner that keep you attracted to him after a decade, but this idea that both of you are on this same path, next to each other for your entire life.”
Photography Sayher Heffernan
Styling Jasmine Ashvinkumar
Hair and make-up Sha Shamsi using Dior Beauty and Keune Haircosmetics
The October anniversary ‘Voices’ issue of Vogue Singapore is available for sale online and in-store.