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Oasis of calm
AS chief operating officer of group human resources at a local bank, Grace Yip leads a stressful life. Her day starts early at 8.30am and she works till late, sometimes having to take work home at night and on the weekends. It is no surprise then, when she says her home should be a place where it is quiet and she can be totally relaxed. Ms Yip couldn't have picked a better spot. Her four-storey home at Upper Bukit Timah is within walking distance of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. It is so close that a family of monkeys often ambles past her home in their search of food.
The home, slightly under 5,000 square feet in size, is one of 32 units in this private development. The blocks are shaped like pinwheels, "which is good, because this means that the units don't look into each other", says Ms Yip.
Indeed, her home is like a spa sanctuary. "It really doesn't feel like we are in Singapore," she says. "It is quiet, not too far away from the city and very close to nature, which I like."
She picked a unit that comes with its private pool. "I do like to soak in the pool with a glass of wine. I usually get my best ideas sitting out here," she says.
Ms Yip lives alone, and while some may feel that the house is too big for her, she says she loves having the space. "Space is a luxury," she says. But she doesn't feel lonely here, as she often has friends over.
As with her previous two homes, Ms Yip designed the space herself. "I'm passionate about interior design," she explains.
She cleverly connects the indoors and outdoors seamlessly with her choice of colours for her living room. There are plenty of greens, browns and greys, with wood accents, such as the Butterfly Stool which stands on one side in the living room.
Her first home had a girly feel, the second had a Scandinavian theme, while this third one is modern with some Asian influences, she says. "I like a home that is modern, clean, but not too minimalist."
As the home was brand new, she didn't have to do too much renovation. Instead, time was spent picking out furnishings, from places such as Crate and Barrel and Taylor B. "Since this is my third home, I had a better idea of what I wanted, not only for furnishings but for the layout of the home too," she explains.
The avid cook says the first spot she checked out before buying the home was the kitchen. "It is big enough," she says. She did, however, add in more cupboards to store her wide collection of crockery and appliances.
The dry kitchen's open concept went down well with her, as this meant that she could mingle with her friends when cooking. "Guests too can see what I'm doing, and smell the food," she says.
When she has a big party - she once threw a party for 40 people at her home - the kitchen countertop doubles as the buffet table. She entertains about every one to two months, for friends and colleagues. Since she moved here three years ago, Chinese New Year dinners with her family are held here. "It has become a tradition for me to serve my peng cai during Chinese New Year."
She finds cooking therapeutic, and can do a variety of cuisines. Over the last three years, she has been actively learning from her parents family recipes, such as braised mushrooms with black moss, and stuffed crab shells. "It would be a shame, if we could no longer have these foods in the future," shares Ms Yip.
On weekdays, her favourite appliance is the slow cooker, so that she can have a hot meal waiting for her at the end of the day. But when it comes to entertaining, her signature dishes include bolognese and steak. "The family no longer eats steak outside," she says.
For parties, the food preparation can start several days earlier. "I love seeing people eat, so this is no trouble at all."
What she doesn't like, however, is the washing up. "Thankfully, I have a heavy-duty dishwasher and friends who don't mind doing the cleaning up," she says.
When friends come, they often make themselves comfortable in the living and dining areas. "I prefer hanging out with friends at home, rather than going out. Everyone feels relaxed, and the best conversations are often had at home," she says.
When she is not entertaining, Ms Yip enjoys curling up with a book. Her choice of books range from cookbooks to fiction, and non-fiction ones that are related to work. "I always bring at least three books with me when I travel," she says. Her books are spread around the home, some on a console in her bedroom, others kept away in cabinets in the living room. "Reading is a habit I've had from the time I was young, and I love the feel of holding a book."
Ms Yip even created a reading corner on the second storey. It is also on this floor where the guest rooms are. But what would make visitors do a double take is the wallpaper at the reading corner. It shows endless rows bookshelves filled with tomes, and at first glance, it looks so real.
"I love wallpaper, as they can be fun around the home," she says. For her bedroom, she's picked a piece that resembles stones.
Her bedroom on the third floor overlooks the greenery of the nature reserve, giving it a resort feel. It is no wonder that Ms Yip likes being in this room when she's at home.
It is also here where she keeps her precious collection of jewellery, another of her loves. "I get a piece to mark a significant event in my life," she says. For example, she calls her diamond rings and earrings her "independent women pieces". "They signify my independence, and I got them when I sold my first home," she explains.
Ms Yip is not only a fan of jewellery but of sake glasses too, which she has been collecting for the last six years. Her favourite is a set of four sake glasses that depicts Mount Fuji during the four seasons. "I found two in Tokyo, and by luck, found another two in Hokkaido," she recalls. She has a story for everything in her home. For example, she has an hourglass on display, as she says "life is told in how you spend your time".
With this third home, Ms Yip says: "It feels like what I've always wanted. I can connect with this space the most, as I feel I've achieved my dream".
But she confesses that she isn't opposed to moving again. "Simply because I can do up the interiors again," she adds. "If I do move, it will be my goal to build a kitchen from scratch."