ANYONE would be excited about getting the keys to a new home and moving in, but British expatriate Millie Heath was more wary than anything else. After all, her brother and sister-in-law had previously lived in this terrace shophouse off Killiney Road, and "I didn't want to move into someone else's shoes," she says. But contrary to her fears, the creative mother of one has successfully turned the two-storey space into the Heath family home. She lives with her husband Nico, who is a director and co-founder of Lightfoot Travel company, and their six-month-old son, Orlando.
Ms Heath oversaw the interior decorating, and says she is not a fan of things being too "matchy-matchy". She explains: "I buy certain items simply because I like them. I like the house to be lively, cosy, not like a showhome - and nothing manicured."
She handles export sales for Vaughan, and the home previously doubled as a showroom for the British lighting brand. Vaughan now has a studio space at 46 Kim Yam Road, but Ms Heath still proudly displays some Vaughan pieces in her home. "There is no way I can show chandeliers here, so those are displayed in the studio," she says. "But having them at home means clients can see how the lamps look in situ."
When she does have clients over, it's no surprise when they remark that her home is like "Aladdin's cave for decorative lighting," she says. The two-storey home is tucked away in an obscure alleyway that is easy to miss. "The location is amazing, it is close to town, and yet not too far from the studio."
She also fell in love with the home's architecture which is mostly still in its original state, down to the timber-framed windows. "The two bedrooms are huge, but the home could do with more bathrooms," she says with a laugh. Her bedroom is Ms Heath's favourite spot, because of its spaciousness and airy feel. The couple who have been married for four years arrived in Singapore with two suitcases, "but we have now filled the whole house," says Ms Heath.
She shopped for pieces from furniture store, Bungalow 55, and also from E&A Interiors which is known for their upholstered items. "I enjoy going to boutique stores, finding pieces that I can upholster to something that I like," she says. "It's about creating something different." While she prefers shopping at the smaller stores, Ms Heath also mixes pieces from bigger stores in her home, such as from Crate and Barrel. She points out that the chests of drawers in her home are from Ikea. But she adds her personal touch by replacing the handles with vintage-looking knobs that she found online.
Ms Heath isn't shy to point out that she is a big fan of cushions. She gushes: "You can create so many different looks with them, use them to introduce different fabrics and colours into the home". Indeed, there are cushions on every chair in the home, to the day bed in the bedroom, and even on her bed.
Does her husband mind so many cushions around? "Nico says he gets it, so he doesn't mind," says Ms Heath. In the case of lamps, she says that changing the lampshades is the way to add interest to the home. The lamps in her home are a mix of glass and ceramic which she pairs with colourful lampshades. "Before you buy a lamp, it helps to know where light is needed, and how it would be used - such as for reading or to highlight an area . . . then go on to select the material, such as glass for a contemporary look or brass and nickel for a traditional one."
The frequent travellers have also filled their home with pieces bought overseas, such as rugs from their honeymoon to Jaipur, and an old timber window panel from Sri Lanka. There are other little items around the house, that make the place distinctively theirs. The many photographs of themselves and family members are prime examples, along with framed photos of friends taken at the couple's wedding, along with their well-wishers. A map of the world sits on a wall, which Ms Heath gave her husband on their first anniversary. "It is tradition to give a paper present for the first year, so I thought this would be most appropriate, since he owns a travel firm," she says. The map requires Mr Heath to scratch out the places where he has been. "You'd think he's been to many places but there are still plenty of places to explore." Ms Heath has not forgotten about the family dog, a wired hair dachshund. "The many stuffed dachshunds around the home are a tribute to Chilli."
It is hard to believe that the couple have lived in this home for a few years already. "I like to keep things neat, but thank you for thinking that this is a new home," Ms Heath says.