Published February 14, 2009

Personal Space

Roof with a view

Tucked away in the Balestier Road neighbourhood is a newlyweds' cozy love nest with a uniquely appealing rooftop terrace. By Geoffrey Eu

BEING pragmatic Singaporeans, Henry Sim and Grace Koh started looking for their first home together six months after they started dating, before any formal engagement and well before they got married last month. What they settled on was an 18th-floor apartment with a roof terrace in the Balestier Road neighbourhood - a cozy love nest with a view to match.

Neither was particularly enamoured with the three-bedroom space, which has since been converted to two bedrooms, but once the rooftop - with its unobstructed views - was factored in, the decision to purchase was almost immediate.

'Both of us were sure of the relationship so we planned ahead, although it took us awhile to decide exactly what we wanted,' says Koh, 36, director of sales and marketing for a consumer electronics firm. 'We just fell in love with the view.'

However, once they saw the possibilities presented by the terrace, which comprises a significant portion of the apartment's 2,600-square-foot space, there was never any doubt that they had found their new home. 'When Grace first brought me to see the space, I wasn't too impressed with the interior,' says Sim, 33, a consultant with Accenture. 'But then she opened a door that led upstairs to the roof - within an hour we made an offer and completed the sale soon after.'

He says, 'Both of us are very social types - once we saw that the roof could fit nine round tables, a nice bar and also accommodate a large TV screen where my friends and I could watch Premier League matches, and a Jacuzzi in the corner - we knew we could make this place work. Plus, it's always windy up there.' He adds, 'This area also has some local flavour as it is notorious for gambling dens - Balestier is a cool area.'

The couple considered living in the East Coast, where Koh had an apartment, but they decided to opt for the greater accessibility and convenience instead. 'We have unobstructed views, right in the centre of Singapore,' she says. 'You can't find another place like this at an affordable price, and surrounded by so much nice food as well.'

She adds, 'We first bought this place in mid-2007 for its investment value. It's great for a married couple but it's not child-friendly, so we will have to move once we decide to start a family.' Says Sim, 'We're both still in the rat race, so we'll either buy a bigger property outside town or stick to an apartment near the centre.' The couple only moved in about two weeks before getting married, so the space is still a work in progress, furnished with just the bare necessities. 'What with moving in and the wedding preparations, it was all quite tiring, so we will take a break before we start thinking about properly decorating the place,' says Sim. 'I tend to be more laid back while Grace is more motivated.'

Koh's experience in the electronics industry means she is a lot handier with installing of hi-fi equipment and TV sets than he is. 'I'm a bit of a gadget freak - the good thing is he leaves all the electronics stuff to me,' she says.

There may not be much furniture at the moment, but the apartment is wired up in every way imaginable, equipped with playthings to satisfy any home entertainment aficionado - with X-Box, PlayStation, Nintendo Wii and Apple TV, among others.

With visions of mahjong sessions under an evening sky, their friends can't wait for them to complete plans for the rooftop, which is a uniquely appealing space. 'It's that top-of-the-world feeling - imagine playing mahjong up here,' she says. There is a constant breeze, other high rise buildings and a view of the Singapore Flyer and the business district in the distance. 'On a clear day, we can see as far as Indonesia,' says Sim.

Thinking about how to decorate their new home has proved to be a welcome distraction from the rigours of working life for the newlywed couple, who have not yet cooked their first meal at home. 'Maybe we'll do something special on Valentine's Day,' says Sim.

'When people ask me how married life is, I tell them to ask me in six months - or six years,' says Koh. 'No matter who you are, living together is a compromise and a challenge.' Adds Sim, 'When I first met her, I told her I wanted to write a book. She said, 'What's so interesting about your life?' That brought me back down to earth.'

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