If there is one woman who embodies effortless, enviable style when it comes to decorating and entertaining, it has to be Nina Beale...
Founder of the beautiful interiors and homewares store, Bungalow 55, Nina has a covetable lifestyle in the topics where she enjoys following her passion for interiors after a corporate career in banking pre-children.
Singapore has been home to Nina, her husband and daughters India and Poppy for over a decade, and four years ago the family moved to a colonial ‘black and white’ house where she has created a beautiful, inviting and relaxed family abode.
On creating a home space you love once having children, Nina reflects, “I have always preferred entertaining at home vs going out to a restaurant and once I had children it was a big culture shock because I went from working 12-14 hour days in an office to being home 12 hours a day looking after newborn babies. That’s when I really began to understand how important your home environment is for your mental health!”
Like so many of us in this parenthood journey, Nina has also learnt that not everything goes to plan. “When I was pregnant with my first child, I read and highlighted ‘The Contented Baby’ making footnotes as I went along. My best friend, who had two little ones and had been through school with me thought it was so funny,” recalls Nina, “my Type A personality desperately trying to control the unknown.” She goes on to say, “children change the way you look at life and make you fearless! They take you out of your comfort zone – I mean who would think I would be dancing in an empty lift with my children! I worked out in the first nine months (of motherhood) that I was going to be a better mother if I also pursued my own interests.” Here, here.
Nina’s relaxed approach to living and entertaining, coupled with her joie de vivre for family life and ready humour is infectious. We loved chatting to the inspiring and relatable mother – learning everything from her top tips for achieving great style at home, her go-to entertaining hacks (we will definitely be freezing glasses ahead of guests arriving in future) to her love of family travel adventures – from Whale Beach to Mykonos and many places in between. But ultimately, that home is where the heart is…
Tell us about your childhood and early love of travel...
I grew up in Woollahra, Sydney NSW. My father used to fly with Qantas and so quite often we missed Christmas day together. So, we would celebrate before he left for a trip and then my mum and I would spend Christmas day on Bondi beach. In those days people used to surf in Santa hats and it would be full of young tourists celebrating as orphans at Christmas.
I have had a few stints overseas. When I was six years old my Dad was based in London for a year with Qantas. Next, I lived overseas in Tokyo after graduating from University to practice my Japanese language skills. In 2002 I moved to London with my work with Foreign Exchange sales servicing Hedge funds, central banks and global pension funds. In 2007 I moved back to Sydney for 18 months with my husband’s job and then in 2009 Singapore became my home!
What was your career before you started Bungalow 55?
I did work experience at Citibank at 16 yrs and then that was it. I remember walking into the football-size trading floor and felt the energy and adrenalin and I was hooked. I left school and had a gap year travelling in Europe & South Africa with my friends and then completed a Bachelor of Economics at the University of Sydney.
We love Bungalow 55! Tell us all about what you offer.
Bungalow 55 evolved partly from frustration on not being able to buy my style of interior products and also from my passion for all things related to interiors. I have always preferred entertaining at home vs going out to a restaurant and once I had children it is a big culture shock because I went from working 12-14 hour days in an office to being home 12 hours a day looking after newborn babies. That’s when I really began to understand how important your home environment is for your mental health!
As a result, the products we offer in-store are comfortable, timeless and friendly to busy households without skimping on style. Bungalow 55 offers a home styling service to our clients, which is to help clients work out the correct layout for their home life and then make wise purchases vs impulse buys.
Living in an expat life you are never quite sure how long you will be here – this leads to a constant battle of purchasing cheap fillers or investing in items to take with you. I see so many mistakes being made as people trying to make their property feel like ‘home’ without stepping back and assessing the space and their lifestyle.
Who or what inspires you on a daily basis?
I confess I LOVE Instagram. It is such a wonderful platform to follow so many inspiring people in design.
How do you make time for self-care?
Self-care is the one area I don’t do well in the work-family life balance! I am fanatical about doing some form of exercise most days to clear my mind. I do try to escape to a facial every quarter and turn the phone off for 1.5 hours.
Without family nearby, do you have a support network when managing the juggle?
My friends are very important to me both in an expat world and also at home. I am an only child so my friends have become like sisters, especially school ones.
They have always provided me with encouragement, support in daily life and most importantly laughter over a bottle of wine, which helps solve any challenge!
What’s the hardest part of parenting?
The hardest part of parenting for me is being patient! Especially when it comes to homework. When I was pregnant with my first child, I read and highlighted “The Contented Baby” making footnotes as I went along. My best friend, who had two little ones and had been through school with me thought it was so funny. My Type A personality desperately trying to control the unknown. I still love Gina Ford and consider the book as my “Bible of parenting” but god knows the rule book often doesn’t apply to a screaming newborn. I have accepted and embrace that now.
What’s the best part of parenting?
The best part of parenting is the unconditional love and laughing together with our in-house family jokes.
What has motherhood taught you?
Motherhood has taught me to be understanding and laugh when things get out of control. Enjoy the noise even if it feels it is at a crescendo level at times.
Tell us about your spectacular home…
My family have been in Singapore for 10 years. We moved into our current place which is a beautiful black & white colonial home four years ago. We didn’t have to do any structural changes as it was an incredible white canvas with detailed windows. These homes are presented as a skeleton so our largest spend was installing lighting, air-con, fans, wardrobes and kitchen oven. We brought all our furniture and rugs with us so we just made it adapt to the new space. In saying that I have changed the layout twice since we have been here and am about to overhaul the space again using the same pieces. Amazing what a difference it makes.
Nina’s top tips to achieve a great style at home
- Hang pendant lights.
- Art – doesn’t have to be expensive – could even be a vintage poster. Empty walls will never make a space feel like home.
- Use Mirror to add light.
- Fill the space with flowers – faux or real.
What are your go-to entertaining hacks?
When I entertain I always make sure I have great music playing and good ambient lighting. It helps create an atmosphere and people relax!
- House is always filled with flowers.
- Glasses are put in the freezer so are chilled for the guests arrival. This is thoughtful and always makes guests feel special. A tradition my parents taught me and still practice.
- The dining table is set with coloured and patterned cotton napkins finished off with beautiful napkin rings – I have a napkin ring fetish! Such a great way to make a statement.
- Food – always have a variety of dishes – I serve meat or fish plus 4-5 sides.
Advice for mothers wanting to change career and launch their own business?
Changing your career when you have children is daunting especially if you have been in your career from your early twenties. Children change the way you look at life and make you fearless! They take you out of your comfort zone – I mean who would think I would be dancing in an empty lift with my children! I worked out in the first nine months that I was going to be a better mother if I also pursued my own interests. Starting your own business means putting yourself out to public scrutiny which I found very difficult and still do – however people and especially other mothers are just so supportive as they understand how much life changes going from a corporate job to staying at home. If you fail? Well, at least you tried – its not a playground where people are going to laugh at you for falling over. The benefit of running your own business is that you can manage it around your family requirements so I have always felt like I have been present for the children and most importantly my husband whilst still being able to follow my passion.
What are your favourite travel destinations?
I am more adventurous than the rest of the family so I like travelling to different places. We tend to go on one big family trip in the summer break and we go to Mykonos every year. My husband’s strategy is it works, why change it! Hard to argue as anytime we have deviated from the plan it hasn’t been successful. We enjoy Greece for its clean, simple food, beautiful beaches, water and most importantly fun! We love going to Queenstown, New Zealand for its outdoor activities, wine and skiing. Our happy place is Whale Beach, Sydney NSW. It has a strong surfy vibe, incredible natural beauty and a wonderful local community. For work, I tend to go to the trade fairs in NY, Paris and Sydney.
Favourite thing to do with your children?
Favourite thing to do is an afternoon by the pool and have a bbq dinner as a family. David’s work involves incessant travel, children are always busy with sport and friends so when we get together, usually on a Sunday afternoon, we really look forward to it.
What would you recommend as must-dos for families visiting Singapore?
Must-dos for family visiting in Singapore really depends on the ages of the children. My friends now have teenage girls so its all about B2 at Ion and they enjoy going to the Tanjong Beach Club. I like to take guests down to Keppel Bay Marina for lunch and a walk afterwards to Labrador Park. Great to see the architecture mixed with old Black and white houses along the shorefront. Oh and a trip to Lukes at Robinsons and Jypsy at Robertson Quay. If there is the time the bumboat from Clarke Quay to Marina Bay Sands is always a great way to fit some sightseeing in with a drink at Spago’s, Marina Bay Sands afterwards.
Day–to–day Singapore haunts?
Plain Vanilla Bakery, Fishwives, Culina. I do ‘Pilates with Cheryl’ twice a week and play tennis at the Winchester tennis arena, Alexandra Park. Love having a kids dinner at the Polo Club.
What Nina is loving…
Becoming by Michelle Obama..
Serena Crawford on Instagram.
Perennial fabric – Jake Stripe in Chocolate Kiss.
The Ordinary skincare range – Retinol, Caffeine solution & Hyaluronic Acid.
Priya Sen Vitamin C complex.
Yellow Fin Tuna on the bbq with black sesame seeds, ribbon cucumber, soba noodles and edamame beans with loads of fresh lime.
Superga – just discovered they opened in Vivo City and bought 4 pairs!
Golden Goose – Italian sneaker range.
Sexy Fish restaurant in London.