New Digs

Spaces for young and old

Chef Emmanuel Stroobant and his wife Edina Hong spend hours at work together for most of the week, so when it came to doing up their new two-storey house, it was important they carved out their own personal spaces.

Ms Hong, 43, says: "As we work so closely together all the time, we really need our own 'me-time' to get away and recharge."

The couple run the Emmanuel Stroobant Group, which manages seven food and beverage brands ranging from fine-dining restaurants such as Saint Pierre under the Emmanuel Stroobant Group Luxury Collection, to mid- and casual- dining restaurants such as Brussels Sprouts in Robertson Quay.

An avid gamer, Ms Hong heads to the basement every Saturday afternoon to play video games and watch television.

She calls it her "woman cave" and the raw, unadorned cement walls certainly lend it a cavernous feel.

Here, she splays out on a roomy couch and plugs into the virtual world on a television that measures more than 75 inches and comes with built-in speakers.

There isn't that pressure of cooking in a professional kitchen. It's a completely different feel when you're surrounded by family and friends.

CHEF EMMANUEL STROOBANT on cooking at home. The open-concept kitchen in his home has wood panelling and cookbooks placed on shelves above three fridges as well as a state-of-the-art kitchen system

Boxed game discs are lined neatly below the television, amid rows of tumbling wires and electric cables.

Aside from it being a game room, the basement holds some of her extensive shoe collection. Heels, flats and running shoes are stashed in their own shoe "pockets" and stacked on top of one another.

Meanwhile, the 48-year-old Belgium-born chef indulges in "me-time" by doing yoga.

For this, he heads to the master bedroom, which takes up the entire attic, and works up a sweat on the wooden-decked balcony. He also meditates there.

The house - it sits on a land area of about 4,000 sq ft - in Sixth Avenue was built from scratch after the previous house was demolished. It has seven rooms, a basement, a swimming pool and a built-up area of about 7,000 sq ft.

The couple, who are both Singaporeans, paid $3.5 million for the old house and it cost about $1.8 million to build and furnish.

They live with their two daughters - Keira, six, and Mia, three - and two cats, Cocaine and Tonic. Ms Hong's parents also stay with them when they are visiting from their family home in Seremban, Malaysia.

Ms Hong, who was heavily involved in the design of the house and picked the furniture, says she went for a loft-like feel with big, open spaces and wood panels of various sizes that clad the walls. Natural light pours in through the glass-ceiling stairwell that runs up one side of the house.

The living room is dominated by a loud, three-panelled neon orange painting by Canadian artist Joanne Corneau, who goes by the pseudonym Corno, and muted brown couches.

An open-concept kitchen, which was designed by Mr Stroobant, is next to it. It is the heart of the house, where the family have dinner or entertain friends at least once a month. It is a homely space, with wood panelling and cookbooks placed on shelves above the three fridges - these can be accessed with a ladder on wheels.

The state-of-the-art kitchen system features two kitchen islands. The "hot food" cooking station, by cooking equipment brand Waldorf, has a flat-top French grill, an industrial sunken stove and a teppanyaki grill. The other island is used for preparing food with five in-built fridges under the counter.

Guests can sit on high stools on one end of the counter or the long dining table next to the open- concept kitchen.

For bigger groups, doors at the back of the house can slide open to allow guests to spill out into the small garden and the pool area. Last Christmas, the family had about 40 people over for a party.

Mr Stroobant says it is not work when he is cooking at home. "There isn't that pressure of cooking in a professional kitchen. It's a completely different feel when you're surrounded by family and friends."

Despite Ms Hong staking claim to the basement, the couple's two daughters and her parents have also moved in to share the space with her. The girls have their own art corner while an elliptical trainer - a gift from Mr Stroobant to his father-in-law - and a massage chair were put in for her parents to use.

Ms Hong says: "Everyone can do his own thing in this house and we don't have to talk. We're just enjoying one another's company being close by."

In spite of the house looking complete, the couple say that there is more to be done. They moved in last June. For example, Ms Hong wants to put in wine chillers in the basement to store their wine collection. But they are taking it slow as moving in overlapped with their business expansion plans.

In March, they re-opened Saint Pierre after relocating it to One Fullerton, taking over a 2,000 sq ft space vacated by the Butter Factory nightclub.

Ms Hong says: "There are still things to do. It's not like a restaurant that has to be finished before we start welcoming diners. We're going to take our time."

An oasis away from work

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 07, 2016, with the headline 'Spaces for young and old'. Print Edition | Subscribe