Hubert Burda Media

Yesterday Today

Nikki Hunt may love the black-and-white aesthetic, but in her colonial-esque bungalow, it’s colour that gets her happy.

Twenty years ago, UK native Nikki Hunt came to Singapore as an economist, and fell in love with the grace and splendour of the city’s old colonial buildings. Home then, for the new expat, was a rented black-and-white house built in the days of British rule. “When you look at them, the proportions are strong and there’s a sense of permanence,” she says. “They were there for the last generation and it just feels like they’ll be there for the next generation.”
Keen on design since young (her mother had an interior design firm), Hunt quit corporate life and began doing up the homes of friends when her youngest, Sasha, was born. In 2004, she set up Design Intervention ID, an interior architecture studio comprising enough nationalities to draw comparisons to the UN. (Its 25-strong team hails from 11 countries.)
“As a kid, my mother would make me create mood boards for her and I absolutely hated it. So she thinks it’s very funny that I’ve now chosen this career,” she regales. “You know, as an economist, I would spend my weekends reading home magazines. Now, for relaxation on Sunday mornings, I read The Economist and The Financial Times.”
A finalist at this year’s Andrew Martin International Designer of the Year Award — considered the Oscars of the interior design industry — Hunt today lives in a “modern black-and-white” near Sixth Avenue, which she and her husband Stephen built from the ground up five years ago. With their kids Jaime and Sasha, both now in their teens, the bungalow was given a facelift late last year to give them their own private spaces and “just to bring things up to date”.
“Here in Singapore, I like to recommend that people redecorate every five years because the weather is very harsh and trends change,” she says, walking us through the light-filled foyer and into the formal living room. True to outsized black-and-white proportions (for air to circulate), it is an imposing space with a coffered ceiling and dark wood transoms.
“A chandelier would have been expected in this room, but it would have made it feel too grand. This is a little more interesting,” she says of the glossy stainless steel rack of LED candles suspended from the ceiling.
“When I design, even before we even lay the first brick, I can see the finished room in my head; everything in detail right down to the piping on the last cushion,” she tells us.
“Because the house is a black-and-white, which typically incorporates elements of the Art Deco movement, a lot of the furniture is a modern interpretation of what people would have had at the time,” she explains. The coffee table, for instance, has Chinese fretwork interpreted in stainless steel, while modern chesterfield sofas sit beside side tables with cascading crystal beads. A majority of the pieces are Hunt’s own designs. And because “colour influences moods”, she says: “I added accents of orange because I wanted it to be not as serious as the poshness could have perhaps made it feel.”
Clearly one to gravitate towards punchy colours, Hunt, inspired by the prints of a cushion cover, custom-designed a centrepiece rug in shades of orange, Tiffany-blue, red and green for the adjoining black-and-white-striped dining room. Beside it, and pass the black capiz shell chandelier, is the billiard room, a little intimate nook Hunt fondly refers to as “a decadent waste of space”. To compensate for the lack of windows, she installed scenic wallpaper and mirrors to reflect the available light.
In contrast to all the ritz and glitz, the family room, on the opposite end of the ground floor, features distressed leather couches and deliberately mismatched art (with auction pieces hanging beside postcards and caricatures). “What we are trying to evoke with this room, is that everything goes — just be yourself. No one has to worry about spills or scuffs; it all adds to the patina,” Hunt says.
Upstairs, the master suite is like a self-contained apartment with a gym and sitting area. A place of refuge, the space is drenched in sunlight, lined in white wallpaper, and dressed in bright and cheerful fabrics. “The fabrics remind me of peach melba, the dessert with vanilla ice cream and raspberry and peach sauce. Growing up in England, that was the taste of summer,” she reveals. To complete the look, and for a little “fun”, she’s also hung up a painting of another great British icon, Charlie Chaplin.
“Interior design is all about how a room makes you feel rather than simply how it looks,” she says. “So I want to feel relaxed in the family room, a little glamorous in the living room and in my bedroom, I want to wake up happy.”