Category Archives: Kampong Glam and Lavender

Lavender, Kampong Glam, Beach Road, Jalan Sultan

NHB project to document Malay cemetery

The tombstones and epigraphy carved by Javanese and Chinese stone carvers, for instance, reflect the settlement’s socio-cultural diversity, according to the project’s lead researcher, Assistant Professor Imran Tajudeen of the National University of Singapore’s department of architecture.

The NHB had commissioned a team compromising academics from NUS and other experts to do the project.

The raffia strings and tags are part of the effort. The strings, for instance, help cluster the matching headstones and footstones of each grave.

Mr Alvin Tan, NHB’s group director of policy, said the project is part of its ongoing efforts to document sites of historic interest.

Jalan Kubor is one of the earliest Malay cemeteries and the aim is to unearth “insights into the Malay community’s historical identity, the significance of the cemetery to Kampung Glam and its development, as well as Singapore’s connection to the Malay world”.

“We also hope to document the notable personalities and community leaders buried there, such as Haji Ambok Sooloh Haji Omar and Syed Alwee Ali Aljunied,” he added.

Associate Professor Syed Muhd Khairudin Aljunied from the NUS Department of Malay Studies attributes the dearth of research on the cemetery and its neglect to a “pervasive historical amnesia on the part of Singaporeans” and the Malay community’s lack of resources.

The project is long overdue, said Ms Savita Kashyap, a director of research and consultancy at Singapore History Consultants, which specialises in heritage education and research consultancy services.

“The cemetery has always been a mystery and efforts to trace lineages have been largely incomplete,” she added.

Singapore Heritage Society president Chua Ai Lin wants the burial ground protected as part of the Kampung Glam conservation district.

“The cemetery is an important component of urban settlement and morphology. It makes more sense to include it in the heritage zone of Kampung Glam for a holistic and robust interpretation of the area,” said Dr Chua.

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Hip Stores in Singapore

Hipster decor 101

By now, a decade or so into the movement towards things retro and indie, you might have developed the ability to spot a hipster from miles away.

Buddy Holly geek glasses? Yup. Old-school fixed-gear bicycle? Yup.

Hangin’ out in droves, but careful not to be too much in droves, in cafes of a particular sort? Oh, yeah.

These cafes, like their patrons, often also conform to a certain look. Raw industrial finish, recycled furniture, naked lightbulbs and, of course, a well-placed bicycle or two – for the owners to run errands nearby.

As early as 2010, hipster cafe culture has sprung up in Singapore and has been thriving since. Well-known ones include Papa Palheta now in Tyrwhitt Road, Loysel’s Toy in Kampong Bugis and 40Hands in Yong Siak Street.

They are often fronted by other hipsters – young urbanites who reject consumerism and mass-made products in favour of all things obscure and indie.

With dreams and passion sometimes bigger than their budgets, these cafe owners keep set-up costs down by eschewing fancy fittings. Even torn fabric on a couch can be overlooked, if it saves its new owners $30.

November 8 Coffee & Company’s co-owner Wiltian Ang’s answer to its $10,000 decor budget was simply: “Tight.”

Others that Life! spoke to worked with budgets of between $10,000 and $20,000 to do up their interiors. In true hipster fashion, some owners went the do-it-yourself route.

Hipster cafes often give customers the sense of hanging out at someone’s home, just as their clientele are being inspired to decorate their pads to look like their favourite new old coffee shop.

Life! offers a tongue-in-cheek Hipster Decor 101, with seven must-haves for a credible crib.


Beyond good food, the hipster cafe must also offer numerous appealing spots for clients to pose for Instagram-able pictures. Cute or whimsical often scores well with the shutter-happy crowd.

Step into The Brew & Bake Company in Clementi and you will feel like a child among your favourite things in this three-month-old, 32-seater cafe.

Sit on diamond-tufted chairs and sofas in primary colours, some of which were brought in from Thailand. A striped awning in the same colours hang over the entrance, as though you are entering a circus or carnival.

Upping the aww-factor, co-owner Louis Huang, 31, has filled display cabinets with toys and figurines, such as Care Bears and My Little Pony. There are also coasters and crocheted rabbit merchandise on sale at between $5 and $38.

Part of the proceeds will be donated to the House Rabbit Society of Singapore.

Mr Huang, a self-taught baker who has a silent partner, says: “It just puts a smile on our customers’ faces when they see such child-like surroundings. They feel like they can chill out.”

And while Kovan is not exactly hipster central, cafe Hatter Street there has diners going down the rabbit hole in its 800 sq ft Alice In Wonderland- themed interiors.

Chef-owner Yvette Chua, who declines to give her age, enlisted the help of interior design firm Pebbletree Designs to conceptualise and draw images on the wall of the two-month-old cafe.

Her older sister, a psychologist, also pitched in to help hand-draw motifs on the wall and a lampshade with Sharpie markers.

Ms Chua, a former teacher at Cedar Girls’ Secondary School, says: “It all started when I wanted the cafe to look like the Mad Hatter had decorated it. But it morphed into a cute version of Alice In Wonderland, with the pink colours.”

Before you leave, snap a shot of the yummy dessert table, lined with artificial grass and decorated with a macaron tree, bird cages and stuffed rabbit toys.

Similarly, La Marelle Cafe & Boutique in Baghdad Street may induce diabetic shock in you, thanks to its saccharine, whimsical decor – from a pink stairway dotted with coloured raindrops to lantern lights.

Find the look: The Brew & Bake Company, 28 Clementi Road, tel: 9235-2276; Hatter Street, 212 Hougang Street 21, 01-333, tel: 6988-4591; and La Marelle Cafe & Boutique, 25A Baghdad Street, tel: 8138-7654

Obscure location

Any hipster joint worth its sea salt, artisanal brew or bespoke cocktail must be well hidden – lest the unhip masses wander in and, gasp, make the place too mainstream.

That is why you must hunt high and low for them in the unlikeliest places: industrial neighbourhoods, warehouses, old sports halls or camouflaged among tour agencies or budget hotels.

The thirsty and hungry must be thrown off the scent further. Hence some have no shop signs or public contact information such as telephone numbers and e-mail addresses, although a Facebook page is a common option.

Wheeler’s Yard is in the industrial estate of Balestier and hidden among factories, while Backstage Cafe is also in a similar area in Kallang. Brawn & Brains is tucked away in the Old Badminton Hall in Kallang.

The folks behind two-month-old coffee house Ronin in Hongkong Street take the cake for being elusive. You need to remember its unit number and hunt for the pillar around the corner of its doors, which has a stencilled sign with “17 HKST”, to give you a hint of its location. Miss the sign and the doors will just look like a mirror. And there is no number to call or a Facebook page to check out.

Find the look: Ronin, 17 Hongkong Street; Wheeler’s Yard, 28 Lorong Ampas, tel: 6254-9128; Backstage Cafe, 158 Kallang Way, 01-06, tel: 6743-6893; and Brawn & Brains, 100 Guillemard Road, 01-07, tel: 9771-1610

Going D-I-Y

The hipster-chic look should not cost much. Why buy a new chair when an old one, at half the price, looks as good as new after a scrub and new upholstery?

The owners of 50-seater cafe Working Title in Arab Street know this. The two best friends, Mr Mustaffa Kamal and Mr Calvin Seah, both 29, stretched their limited budget of about $8,000 by rescuing old furniture and rolling up their sleeves to sand and repaint the pieces.

They salvaged wood from discarded planks, pallets, boards and crates, then sanded and varnished them to create tables.

With no prior know-how, they went online to sites such as YouTube and Pinterest to learn to use tools and paint properly. It was a crash course on how to make furniture, says Mr Seah, who had “never even picked up a saw before this”.

They also scoured used furniture shops to buy items and checked out dumpsters for seats they would refurbish. A prized find was an unwanted powder-blue bench in the Ubi Industrial area. It now has pride of place in the middle of the cafe.

Find the look: Working Title, 48 Arab Street, tel: 9734-4187; November 8 Coffee & Company, Thomson V Two, 11 Sin Ming Road, 01-30, tel: 6554-4388; and Hatter Street, 212 Hougang Street 21, 01-333, tel: 6988-4591


Matchy-matchy is a no-go when it comes to achieving the hipster vibe. No buying of identical chairs in bulk because mismatched ones give off a casual, creative yet devil-may-care attitude.

If you must buy a set, then at least paint them in different colours. Anything that looks too regular or straight off the mass market is anathema.

Different chair styles painted in the same colour help make for a more uniform look, if that is what you desire. Otherwise, go the whole hog and have a bold selection of unique seats at the same table such as those at Cups N Canvas and Working Title.

For individual beauties, rummage around Hock Siong & Co at 153 Kampong Ampat, which sells furniture cast off by hotels in Singapore. The company’s inventory has items such as sofas, lights and silverware. At least three of the seven cafes Life! spoke to had found some of their furniture pieces there.

Or check out dumpsters to yield prized finds, especially in the spring-cleaning lead-up to festive seasons.

Lastly, forget about arranging your mismatched furniture in individual nooks and cosy configurations: Communal is in. Many hipster cafes have long benches at 12-seater tables – all the better to meet and mingle with newfound kindred spirits.

The Marshmallow Tree has a 3m-long, suar wood communal table. The 20-seat eatery mixes wooden benches and vintage pencil-leg chairs too.

Find the look: Working Title, 48 Arab Street, tel: 9734-4187; Cups N Canvas, 139 Selegie Road, tel: 6884-6855; and The Marshmallow Tree, 46 Telok Blangah Drive, 01-85, tel: 9852-1210

Old name, new place

A sick man once walked into this 60- seater cafe in hipster motherland Tiong Bahru and ended up yelling at its owners. He was looking for traditional Chinese medicine to soothe his illness but, instead of ginseng and herbal concoctions, they could offer him only cupcakes and coffee.

Who could blame him, though, given that the place is called The Dispensary and was indeed a traditional Chinese medicine hall in its past life?

The new cafe was started about four months ago by Mr Fred Wee and his wife Claire, both 54, and another partner, Mr Joel Lam, 49. After renting the 2,200 sq ft shop unit last September, with its medicine cabinets and shelving still intact after 10 years of neglect, they decided to build a cafe in it.

They even left the original painted signage on a pillar outside the shop and a wooden sign of the medical hall’s Chinese name inside – taking a leaf from another hipster cafe, Chye Seng Huat Hardware in Tyrwhitt Road, which named itself after the metal and hardware shop that used to be on that street.

Mr Wee, who also owns a cafe in Johor Baru, says: “The name works both ways for us, that people could be mistaken by our identity, but it still draws them in. As long as people are coming by, it works for us.”

These days, the medicine chests behind the counter hold coffee powder. Regular customers can even keep their own beans there.

And never mind that it does not serve any healing herbs. Its classic carrot cake with rich cream cheese frosting ($6) is so good, it is therapeutic.

Find the look: The Dispensary, 69 Tiong Bahru Road, tel: 6536-0225

Industrial, vintage or quaint decor

The naked brick is every hipster’s crush.

A wall of exposed bricks, with visible cement fillers, is the hallmark of the hipster’s lair.

Hipster cafes often use such brick feature walls when designing their spaces. The industrial look has been adapted from Manhattan lofts, where other must-haves include raw, concrete flooring; naked lightbulbs dangling by long looping wires from high ceilings; and exposed piping.

Wood, too, features heavily. The organic material’s grain and patterns as well as dark rich hues go well with concrete walls and floors. At November 8 Coffee & Company in Thomson, owners Shawn Neo, 36, and Wiltian Ang, 32, have paired brick and wood, using the bricks as bench legs and plywood for seat tops.

Mr Neo, who used to run western restaurant Barbacoa in City Square Mall, says of their D-I-Y, exposed-brick aesthetic: “It’s not well done or smooth on purpose.”

Describing the cafe as “a casual hangout and not a high-end restaurant”, he adds: “We don’t want it to be too formal.”

Similarly, Lowercase in McNally Street has a heavy wood influence. The cafe is decorated with industrial pallets and has exposed pipes on the ceiling.

If the industrial look is too harsh, you could opt for a quaint, vintage look, without becoming kitsch or overwhelming visitors with old items.

OZ Specialty Coffee, also in Thomson, has gone for an all-white scheme, making the 291 sq ft cafe look bigger and brighter. With stairs that lead to a tiny storage loft, coffee bags and brewing paraphernalia for sale, and framed pictures of scenery, it has a homely feel. Co-owner Will Leow, 21, who started the cafe with Mr Peh Li Hao, 22, says: “It wasn’t that we were trying to be hipster… We just went with what we liked for the cafe.”

Find the look: November 8 Coffee & Company, Thomson V Two, 11 Sin Ming Road, 01-30, tel: 6554-4388; OZ Specialty Coffee, Thomson V Two, 11 Sin Ming Road, 01-13; and Lowercase, 1 McNally Street, Block D, 01-01, tel: 6337-5581

Retro Singapore

Hipsters love to reminisce eras gone by in which they wish they had been born – preferably in authentically renovated settings. For that reason, the hipster cafe has thrived.

Ripping off grandpa’s style, these cafes recreate the look of Singapore and Malaysian coffee shops of yesteryear.

Case in point: Penang Street. With its Peranakan tiles and metal grilles, the two- month-old cafe opened by Minor Food Group Singapore brings back memories of the 1960s on the laidback Malaysian island.

Similarly, The Dispensary in Tiong Bahru, which opened a few months ago, has kept its history as a Chinese medical hall. Sinpopo, an eatery styled like an old-school coffee shop, is named after a notorious nightclub in Tanjong Katong Road in the 1960s.

And what do hipsters eat on in these cafes? Why, enamel crockery, of course – while they graze on suitably old-school decor items.

Cafe owners found the ubiquitous, classic enamelware – pale yellow, blue, green or pink, rimmed in dark blue; mostly made in China – after scouring mom-and-pop shops in Tanjong Katong and Joo Chiat. There are also flower- and animal-motif enamelware and all come in different sizes and depths. They can cost from 80 cents for a small plate to $5 for bigger ones.

To dig up vintage paraphernalia to replicate the hipster cafe look, a pilgrimage to Bangkok is a must.

Sweat it out in flea markets to unearth gems such as vintage transistor radios and television sets.

Check out Rod Fai Market, an open-air bazaar beside an abandoned railroad track, or Ratchada Night Bazaar, at the junction of Ladprao Road and Rachadapisek Road, where you will easily find old records, an old dentist chair or a vintage scooter.

Find the look: Penang Street, 1 Lower Kent Ridge Road, One@KentRidge, National University Hospital Medical Centre, 01-09 and 01-19/20, tel: 6334-6023; The Dispensary, 69 Tiong Bahru Road, tel: 6536-0225; and Sinpopo, 458 Joo Chiat Road, tel: 6345-5034

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Bugis Arts district getting a fresh breath of life

An artist's impression of Queen Street (above) after the URA's renovation of the area is completed.

TWIRLING ballerinas, martial arts students and guzheng players could soon take to the newly widened sidewalks of the Queen Street area to showcase their art, and bring life to an otherwise quiet stretch in the city.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) is providing more room for the eclectic mix of arts organisations based there to stage activities along the street. Besides widening the sidewalks, it has installed benches and created coach drop-off points as well.

The renovations to make the street more pedestrian-friendly are expected to be completed by the middle of this year.

Arts groups say they have been eagerly waiting to use the outdoor space for activities to engage the public on a regular basis, since the authorities told them a few years ago that it was going to rejuvenate the quiet street.

Some tenants, such as 2902 Gallery, receive as few as 10 visitors a day on Saturdays and Sundays.

But successful street festivals such as the annual Singapore Night Festival, which drew more than 400,000 people to performances held in Waterloo Street, Queen Street and Armenian Street in August last year, have demonstrated the potential that the area has to host outdoor events.

Art Trove Gallery and Museum operations director Roy Quek said he moved his gallery to Waterloo Street four years ago because he had heard about the plans for the area.

He said: “The revitalisation effort has been a long time coming and will help shine the spotlight on the great concentration of arts organisations located in the district.”

Several national monuments and conserved buildings are located in the area, which is also home to arts groups such as Forte Musicademy, Art Bug and The Private Museum.

The Singapore Art Museum and arts facilities such as Dance Ensemble Singapore and Sculpture Square are also in the vicinity.

Despite the proximity, tenants say there is little synergy between the groups because they run their own classes behind closed doors.

With planning by a central coordinating body, they envision monthly parades and scheduled outdoor showcases, which could lead to an exponential growth in visitor numbers.

Singapore Ballet Academy principal Jeffrey Tan said: “Now that the sidewalks are wider, it will be safer for us to plan outdoor performances for our young pupils, who are mostly between five and 10 years old.”

Other groups say they will also save on publicity and rental costs of private indoor spaces like theatres.

But residents and business owners say the changes have aggravated the traffic congestion.

Waterloo Apartments resident Xu Yu Hua, 55, said: “The wider pavements eat into the road and it is just not feasible because the traffic here is already very bad.”

“The hotels bring in big tourists buses, which can cause 20-minute jams during peak hours, and we have to make a big detour to avoid the road,” added Ms Xu, who is a trader.

The URA said it has designated coach drop-off points to cater to the hotels and places of interest in the vicinity.

Some residents also fear that the quiet of the area will be disrupted. Student Margaret Aniela, 19, who also lives in Waterloo Apartments, hoped the events will take place in the day “as it might be hard to sleep at night if it’s too noisy”.

OM The Arts Centre coordinator Gim Lee thinks everyone will benefit from the new plans. The centre runs guzheng and erhu classes, among others.

“The area is teeming with talent and I look forward to a more lively place, where the public can mingle with musicians, calligraphers and dancers,” he said.

“Art, culture and heritage are meant to be shared.”

HDB development in King George’s Ave

Date issued : 14 Jul 2014

 A 1.23 ha plot of land at the junction of Syed Alwi Road and King George’s Avenue will be developed for public housing (please refer to Annex A for the location plan). The land is zoned for residential use in the Master Plan.


2The land comprises mainly vacant State land and a private industrial property at No. 16 King George’s Avenue. To facilitate the public housing development, the Government will be acquiring the private property under the Land Acquisition Act. The Singapore Land Authority (SLA) has gazetted the land affected by the acquisition today. SLA and HDB are in touch with the affected landowner to assist with any queries and concerns.


3More information on the future public housing development will be provided when the plans are ready.

BT: Non-residential deals to remain active

Non-residential deals will continue to drive investment activity in Singapore for the rest of this year, given faltering sales in the tepid private residential market, DTZ said in a report yesterday.

The report found that overall real estate investments fell around 11 per cent from the previous quarter to $4.4 billion in Q2.

And although non-residential investments (particularly offices) drove the volume, they too fell 6 per cent to $2.9 billion on muted transactions in the hospitality and mixed-use sectors.

At least six big-ticket non-residential property deals were concluded in Q2.

In the commercial sector, three office properties – Prudential Tower, Equity Plaza and Cecil House – all along Cecil Street in the central business district, were transacted. A consortium of Far East Organization, Far East Orchard and Sekisui House also beat seven others in a government land sales tender to clinch a 99-year-leasehold commercial site on Woodlands Avenue 5/Woodlands Square for $634 million.

In retail, Frasers Centrepoint Trust acquired Changi City Point at Changi Business Park for $305 million; in Industrial, Ascendas Reit bought Hyflux Innovation Centre at 80 Bendemeer Road for $191 million.

The transactions in Q2 brought the total investment volume in the first half of 2014 to $9.4 billion, 17 per cent lower than the same period last year. It also looks on track to achieve the earlier forecast of $20-25 billion for the full year.

Property companies and real estate investment trusts (Reits) were the main drivers of activity in Q2. Property companies were the largest buyers, accounting for $3.1 billion or 71 per cent of investment activity.

Reits were also very active, but their divestments of $512 million exceeded their acquisitions of $496 million, making them net sellers in Q2. This is expected to reverse in Q3, though. Acquisitions are likely to be boosted by the listing of Frasers Hospitality Trust.

The trust’s initial portfolio will comprise six hotels and six serviced residences, including two – InterContinental Singapore and Fraser Suites Singapore – located in Singapore. Both will be injected for a combined value of $824.1 million.

Swee Shou Fern, DTZ’s director of investment advisory services, expects Reit and developer acquisitions to continue supporting investment activity going forward.

“As global real estate markets start to improve, investors and funds are becoming more positive about the performance of the real estate . . . market. This could see them increasing their allocations to real estate and Singapore could benefit, being one of the most liquid markets in the region,” she said.

A Colliers report released last week turned up similar findings and projected similar trends.

It blamed the slump in residential investment sales on “the double whammy of frail investor interests in en bloc and strata-titled properties, as well as anaemic developers’ quest for land acquisition via collective sales”.

“In the next six months of the year, sales emanating from (government) land sales are forecast to stay subdued. On the private sector front, the collective sales market will likely remain depressed as the same factors that have kept it at a standstill will continue to play out in the months ahead,” it projects.

The consultancy expects interest in commercial properties to gather pace, backed by a steadily recovering office rental market.

“In addition, small and mid-sized family offices or single family offices are increasingly shifting their asset allocation towards property-oriented investments, particularly that of good quality office buildings that have potential upside in yield and capital appreciation. More of such deals can be expected to be sealed in the coming quarters,” it said.

Conservation properties for sale in D7 and D8

in today’s local media news, it was reported that a hotel, comprising three shophouses along Jalan Klapa, off Victoria Street in the Kampong Glam Conservation Area has been put up for sale with an indicative pricing of $17-18 million. Located at 9, 11 and 15 Jalan Klapa, the shophouses are on total land area of 4,275 sq ft; the site has a balance lease term of about 92 years. The gross floor area is estimated at 7,911 sq ft. The site is zoned for commercial use but is permanently approved for hotel use. The shophouses have 15 themed rooms (with an average size of around 215 sq ft), spanning across two storeys and a mezzanine level, a cafe lounge and a small pool. The indicative pricing translates to a net yield of around 2-3 per cent, based on the current income stream from rooms as well as food and beverage operations.