Sanctuary! | 07-131116


Home! I’ve been in Singapore for six months by now, and so much has happened in terms of contemplating the concept of ‘home’ and getting to feel attached to this place. It hasn’t been hard – I’ve loved it, seen opportunities all around me and felt welcome and excited from the beginning – but at the same time, there’s no doubt I felt thin-skinned and fragile when I arrived. I moved into a flat share because I just needed a relatively cheap, comfortable and convenient solution, and I’ve been so happy with my choice – my flatmates are great, and the location is lovely. So lovely, in fact, that I this week move into my own place around the corner, together with Sanoop. After five years of living in flat shares (wonderful as they have been), I am super excited about having a space, in which we are the only ones to make decisions together, mundane or philosophical, practical or aesthetic, about decoration and styling, clutter and cleanliness, items in the fridge, guests over for a cup of coffee or a week’s holiday, soundtracks and where to have our late night calls. Doing what we want, individually and together. He travels a lot. When he’s home, we want to be together. A blissful base, in a charming neighbourhood, incidentally right between our offices. And it’s a great way of taking advantage of the possibilities that we have got. In many cases we want the same thing exactly, and when not, we’re happy to compromise. For the past five years I told myself that other things were more important than a blissful base – that it was too petit bourgeois, too normal, how everyone around me were so passionate about creating that. Chose to focus my energy and resources on other things, work, going out, travelling, a feeling that home is everywhere and definitely beyond the confines of a few white walls and recognisable items, while still loving and appreciating all of the interior design genius I spotted on my way. I’ve never thought of it as defining myself, or as if others were defining me, as one type of individual or other, maybe because I started out with my own pretty home, then created a home with a boyfriend, and only then chose primitive London flats as my place to rest and store my clothes, because of their location, price and great flatmates, and because I was only ever home a maximum of 6-8 hours a day and travelling to Copenhagen, Madrid, Berlin, America in most weekends and holidays. Now I’m ready to combine all of the elements I appreciate when thinking about housing. Because it is important to me: I do grow attached to places. In Copenhagen I moved from Kongens Nytorv to Nyboder, in London I lived in four different places that constitute a perfect tiny square on the map when the dots are connected, and even on the other side of the planet do I now find myself doing the same thing again: moving literally around the corner. Attachment, convenience, a well-defined sense of preference or just chance; maybe a mix of it all.

We Take Action Quickly. On Monday, we view three apartments in Tiong Bahru, all of them spacious, light and charming 3-bedroom spots, one slightly too noise-filled (right above Tiong Bahru Road), one slightly too central (right above Yong Siak Street, showed to us, incidentally, by an old Chinese couple who’ve had it in the family since the 1920s and knows a lot of good old stories about TB) and one just perfect, right in the middle of the historic area, down an anonymous side road, at the top (third) floor so no one lives above us (a sense of freedom), and with a great layout: from the private white-painted and high-ceilinged staircase and landing you step right into a square livingroom leading to, on the south-side, a light-filled bedroom and office, which both, in turn, lead onto a spacious balcony, and, on the east side, a long hallway giving access to the guest room, the separate toilet and bathroom and, finally, the kitchen at the end. From the kitchen you step out onto a fire escape, where we’ll have lots of plants and two stools for tea and wine breaks to soak up the atmosphere below us – the laughter and chitchat from the Chinese restaurant, the white houses with the spiraled staircases, the evergreen trees and the chipping birds. Nice wooden floors, snow-white walls, high ceilings, lots of storage space, tonnes of light. On Tuesday we run into the agent and the landlords at PS (after having viewed a sleek modern condo unit overlooking the river in Robertson Quay, just to exclude that option), and over ice cream (them) and red wine (us), we sign the contract, agree on some requirements (take down the cutesy white flowery grills in front of all windows, take down the grey plastic soap holder in the bathroom, take down the grey cabinets in the kitchen as we want a small breakfast table there) and discuss what the landlords should do and see on their first trip to Denmark next week (!). On Friday we get the key. On Saturday we walk in pendulum speed between the old and new flat to move our few possessions, spend five hours getting basic stuff in IKEA, have a local dinner at a place which we’ve never frequented before but which could easily become a new favourite (the charming decor and ambience, the airiness, the comfy Thai/Indian menu, the great selection of chai tea and the decent house wines) and go back to the flat before bedtime to walk around slowly in each room with sticks of burning black sage, which we smudge into the air of each little stretch and nook in circular motions for purification, good vibrations and saying out load what we wish for the place to contain: openness, hospitality, communication, intimacy, creativity, curiosity, rejuvenation, relaxation, etc. On Sunday, we both leave the country for holiday and work respectively, this time staying in touch while abroad in one more way than usually, i.e. via a google doc in which we’ve drawn up the theme of the house and a wish list (Dwell meets Kinfolk meets Cereal). Imagine astro turf and yoga mats on the balcony, a big wooden table in the office for everything from working to eating, cooking our preferred food in our own kitchen (I’m sure I’ll want to do that now that I’m not stressed about other people’s things and space), dancing when no one is watching and hosting our own parties in these welcoming rooms.

Spontaneous. Even just the evening we look at those three flats, Monday, is wonderful. Walking around together in the vibey neighbourhood that I’ve come to love so, deciding to move into one of the places together, being invited out for a celebratory dinner at a place he knows I’m curious about, discovering that the place is closed, walking down some charming, lively streets, picking another wonderful eatery, and being led, by him, to see a beautiful hotel lobby after that, a place to which one might escape from the hustle and bustle of the surrounding streets, for a glass of prosecco, some meaty olives and listening to a podcast together… occasionally smiling at each other, gazing at the chandeliers above us… Mondays. I don’t even ever pay attention to which day is which except for when I write this blog – it’s a long time since I have.

Body Attack. On Tuesday morning I run to the gym instead of the barre, to jump my body through an attack session. To a degree, it’s the same principle as barre – using your own body to tone lots of minuscule muscles – but just in a different environment. I do prefer barre, but sometimes it’s nice with a chance – and with the option to jump in the pool after the sweat-dripping session. On all other days, I stick to the blissful boutique space in Hongkong Street. Solo classes for the most part, but also one with the mother of the instructor as the only other practitioner. So funny to watch the loving dynamics between the two of them as we learn to have a strong mind and strong body – or drop down to the floor laughing.

Election. No thing as a US election to bring out views and emotional outcries on social media. Catching my attention is this, this, this and this. I stop at one status update, encouraging people to imagine that this isn’t a catastrophe but an invitation to do whatever we can as individuals to create a better world by taking positive action – so instead of bemoaning politics, we should do something brilliant today ourselves, like signing up to volunteer in our community once a month, donate to the refuge crisis or planting trees.

Google. This week sees the launch of the new APAC headquarters, in Singapore, of one of the world’s most advanced companies when it comes to employee benefits, stimulation, nurture and care. On my private little tour of the grounds on Thursday, I’m handed a freshly made organic soy almond matcha latte from one of the beautiful in-house cafes to accompany me on the stroll around the professional playground, the design of which is just impressive. From the open-plane layout across all indoor levels and the three lush rooftop gardens to the multi-faith room (maybe a general spiritual sanctuary for thought would have been more progressive, but I can see the point in this solution), the washroom music, the sleeping pods, the massage rooms, the well-equipped gym and the elegant furniture… I’m glad such a place exists – somewhere you really want to work, socialise, eat, sleep, hang out, be inspired. Icing on the cake is trying out the augmented reality app, Tango, at the end of my tour and having dinosaurs strolling around in front of me.

APAC Summit. To wrap up the APAC summit we have this week at my own office, we all meet for a homemade Vietnamese dinner at my former colleague’s place. She left the company to become a yoga instructor back in her home country, but she’s not moving to HCMC until next month. So on Thursday evening she makes the tastiest crispy spring rolls and bun bowls for all of us – 15 girls in their late twenties and early thirties, from all over Asia (Beijing, Hongkong, Seoul, Bintan, Chang Mai, Tokyo) and then me; so grateful for joining.

Bali. On Sunday I fly to Bali to meet five friends – a couple from London and a couple and their 9-months old son from Jutland; the five of us first met in London five years ago; now there’s an extra guy to play with. The point of departure is simple – stunningly spacious, tranquil and tastefully decorated villa in Seminyak, good friends and me. I can enjoy the company when I want, and do my own thing when I want – yoga, running, reading, working a bit on different little things, swimming, finding fine things for the new house and meditating. It’s a good balance – everyone is up for exploring the island and going for great meals, but then also just happy to enjoy pool time, chatting, laughing and drinking gin and tonics in our luxurious home for the week. The London couple reside in the colourful wooden garden annex; the Jutland family sleep in the elegant white pool house; I have the beautifully carved wooden four-poster bed in the large, minimalist top-floor bedroom under the steeply sloping rafters of the main building all to myself. Unlike my previous Bali trips, there’s no tight agenda or itinerary this time, but there’s the same amount of good vibrations – and alignment: we’ll take each day as it comes. Today, Sunday, we take a stroll through Seminyak, have a smoothie bowl and coffee at Revolver, toast to life in aperol spritz on a day bed at Potato Head, hang out by the pool in the late afternoon and go for dinner and espresso ginger martinis at trendy Mamasan, where the baby just lies peacefully on a bench between his mum and me, and conclude the day with gin and tonics in our garden. This week, some of my friends are visiting temples and schools in Myanmar, some are enjoying the Singapore Biennale, some are travelling for business, some are having Christmas parties in London and Copenhagen… I’m creating memorable bases – in Singapore and in Bali.

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