At Home in Singapore with Bungalow 55 Owner Nina Beale
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…

Go to: Bungalow 55 | Photography: Clare Barker Wells



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

  1. Hang pendant lights.
  2. Art – doesn't have to be expensive – could even be a vintage poster. Empty walls will never make a space feel like home.
  3. Use Mirror to add light.
  4. 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!

  1. House is always filled with flowers.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
Donald Robertson.

thegracetalespodcast

@modelmother

Jess Bowen
"I ended up tandem feeding my two children until my daughter turned 4.5 years old," says British mother of two and model Jess Bowen.

As it happened, tandem feeding was never part of the plan and it was only after reading about it online that she knew it was possible. Jess now shares her story online too, through her blog and Instagram account @modelmother, in the hope that it'll inspire others, just as she was once inspired. "I'm still breastfeeding my son who has recently turned two and we are both happy with how it's going although the plan is to night wean him as soon as his final tooth is through because mama needs some rest!"

Keep Reading Show less
Collective membership

Rebecca Ritman with her son Sonny

Pepita Fernandez
From rubber rings to earth-shattering epiphanies


Ever since my son was five weeks old, when I felt like I had just woken up from a very long and very intense dream involving repeatedly putting cold cabbage leaves on my nipples (nature's balm for that brutal early breastfeeding soreness), I have been mentally amassing a list of all the things that really, really made a difference. The moments that, whether psychologically or physically, gave me the fresh legs I needed to keep on going on my own new-baby marathon. Or the things I didn't do, that I would have done, had I known about them ahead of time.

Keep Reading Show less
GRACE MAIL
Sign Up For A Weekly Dose Of Mama Love

The story we are told of motherhood is one of lightness that leans into the beautiful, the incredible and the magical. However, for all the lightness there is shade, and in the shadows lies a rollercoaster which pushes you to your limits and at times breaks you. Both sides are important for open, real dialogue around motherhood. As a health professional I entered motherhood confident. I had all the resources at my fingers tips as a women's health physiotherapist. Despite this, my journey was far from smooth. Even though I was well informed, it didn't make me immune to the real emotional and physical challenges of motherhood that are still so rarely discussed.

Keep Reading Show less
Smoosh Founder Mim Gascoigne
Do you cleanse your face properly?

For so many of us, the answer is probably no (and it doesn't help when you have a small child at your feet trying to get your attention). Which is why we like to keep our skincare regime simple and effective, and also why we opt for oil-based skincare.


Enter Smoosh, a fuss-free, natural skincare range based on the hydrating power of oils, created by Sydney mum of three and teacher Mim Gascoigne.

"Cleansing is such an important step in your routine. If the cleansing step is too harsh and dries out the skin, you are a few steps back and you've only just stepped onto the starting block," she says, referring to that feeling of dryness that can come after cleansing if you've stripped all the hydration out of your skin. She set about solving that skincare dilemma. Smoosh's Silky Cleansing Oil, contains six organic and natural plant oils, including camellia, peach, jojoba, watermelon and passionfruit and leaves your skin feeling soft, supple and hydrated (the opposite to the aforementioned dry, tight state).

Next in the Smoosh skincare regime is a serum, and there are three in the range, so there's something for all skin types. "Pregnancy, menopause, hormonal changes, illness, travelling, seasonal changes, stress, shaving (men love our Soothing Balance oil serum) are just some of the things that can change how skin is behaving and its specific needs," she says. "I wanted to offer three multifaceted organic and natural face oil serums, free from fragrance and essential oils, that would offer nourishment and visible results to skin during the different phases life throws our way." As for what serum actually does (i.e. how it'll help us glow), she explains that a serum is that extra step after you cleanse and before you moisturise, that will deliver a concentrated dose of vitamins, antioxidants and/or actives to your skincare routine. If your skin still feels dry after you apply serum, Mim advises you to keep your skin damp when you apply: "our oil serums absorb quickest when skin is damp. after cleansing or misting is a great time to smoosh. Three to four drops massaged into damp skin should leave skin supple, bouncy and moisturised never greasy."

Her passion for plant-based skincare products came from her mother, who is a GP and studied naturopathy. "She has a real passion for research so was great at teaching me, from a very young age, all about plants, their great benefits as well as their contraindications," says Mim. And as for the name Smoosh, it was inspired by the feeling you get when you see chubby baby thighs. "You really want to 'smoosh' them," says Mim. "Whatever age you are, healthy skin has that beautiful glow and softness that brings about the desire to touch and smoosh it."

Here we talk to Mim about how she got her business off the ground (and the ups and downs of that journey), the key ingredients in her products and why your skin will love them, practical time management tips for the working mother, and most importantly, how to Smoosh.

Go to www.smooshskin.com

Smoosh Silky Cleansing Oil

Smoosh Silky Cleansing Oil

www.smooshskin.com

Smoosh skincare

Smoosh skincare

www.smooshskin.com

Smoosh Nourish oil serumSmooth Soothing Balance oil serumSmoosh Radiance oil serum

Smoosh's range of serums

www.smooshskin.com

There are so many cleansers in the market, why did you decide to launch an oil cleanser and what are the benefits of oil cleansers?

So many cleansers, yet I still felt like I hadn't found my perfect one. Personally, having such sensitive skin I really wanted to create an oil cleansing blend that was free from essential oils and fragrance, yet was also light and silky enough for all skin types. A cleanser that is gentle yet thorough is crucial. This is where an oil cleanser shines, it has the ability to cleanse away the most stubborn makeup and sunscreen yet leave your skin soft, hydrated and your skin barrier healthy and intact. I also had customers asking for me to create one.

What skin types would this product suit? For example, should oilier skins steer clear?

All skin types can benefit from our Silky Cleansing Oil, each plant oil in the blend has been thoughtfully chosen to provide just the right amount of slip for a beautifully smooth massage and cleansing ritual, without overloading the skin. Once massaged in and gently removed with lukewarm water and a soft cloth, your skin will be perfectly cleansed, super smooth, nourished and glowing. No greasy oil slick in sight.

Smoosh has three different serums. Firstly, what role does serum play in our skincare?

A serum is that little step that will deliver a concentrated dose of vitamins, antioxidants and/or actives to your skincare routine. Our oil serums can be used alone or added to your moisturiser. Luxurious, potent and brimming with goodness each of the three oil serums is loaded with omega fatty acids, vitamins and antioxidants to help nurture and bring about healthy and glowing skin.

What is the difference between the three serums you offer - and how did you settle on three?

I settled on three, as I feel within the trilogy, all skin types can find a a blend to support them. Whatever skin season they are having. Pregnancy, menopause, hormonal changes, illness, travelling, seasonal changes, stress, shaving (men love our Soothing Balance oil serum) are just some of the things that can change how skin is behaving and its specific needs. I wanted to offer three multifaceted organic and natural face oil serums, free from fragrance and essential oils, that would offer nourishment and visible results to skin during the different phases life throws our way.

Radiance oil serum is a nectar-like oil serum, deeply moisturising so wonderful for very dry and/or mature skin. It turns around lack lustre skin really quickly and it's also wonderful in cold windy weather. Soothing Balance oil serum is for all skin types, especially those prone to breakouts, it's silky and light yet still provides beautiful moisture. It's calming on inflammation and brings clarity to confused skin. Nourish oil serum is a satiny, berry packed oil serum, it gives dewy hydration, nourishment and is really rejuvenating for normal to dry skin types. It's a bit like a super berry smoothie in a face oil!

Natural skincare has always been part of your life - tell me how your mother influenced your skincare decisions and how you approach your skincare regime?

My mum is a GP and also studied naturopathy so I was surrounded by tinctures and natural skincare products from a very young age. She has a real passion for research so was great at teaching me, from a very young age, all about plants, their great benefits as well as their contraindications. She was also instrumental in teaching me about the benefits of nutritious healthy food, the benefits of having a healthy lifestyle and how both can impact skin health for the better. She was into bone broth long before it was trendy!

Smoosh skincareSmoosh Nourish oil serumSmoosh Radiance oil serumSmoosh Soothing Balance oil serum

www.smooshskin.com

Smoosh skincareSmoosh Radiance oil serum

Skincare has changed a lot over the years, what are some ingredients or products which have stood the test of time?

I think face oils have been around for a long time but have definitely become more mainstream which is great as I think they are really transformative. Oil and balm cleansers have been used by actors and stage performers for decades to remove heaving makeup so their credentials are pretty good too. Weleda Skin food is a great classic as is Dr Haushka Rose Cream. Lanolin is another ingredient that has stood the test of time, Lanolips 101 ointment, is such a great formula. Glycerin is a bit of an underrated ingredient, it's been around for ages and is so healing for dry skin. It seems to be having a bit of a resurgence though!

The term "clean beauty" is very trendy - how would you define clean beauty?

As there is no official definition for the term, I feel the term can sometimes be confusing. One brand's clean list can vary from another. I would say Smoosh Skin is a clean beauty brand insofar as it is organic and natural, plant-based, free from added fragrance, vegan and cruelty free.

What are the hero ingredients in your products?

This is a hard one; we source 26 of the highest quality organic and natural plant oils and create all our formulas in small batches so they are fresh and vibrant. They all play an important role, but special mention to the luminous coral red of the organic Rosehip fruit oil, and the dark vivid green of our virgin Hemp seed oil, however, they are all such a delight to blend and work with.

Where do so many of us go wrong when it comes to skincare?

I think trying too many new products, all at once can often send skin into a spin. I speak from experience in this area! Adding one new product to your skincare routine at a time and using it for a few days before adding the next, is the best way to see if a product is working for you. Also, when using actives like retinol and acid toners it makes you even more susceptible to sunburn so it's so important to practice good sun safety.

Smoosh founder Mim Gascoigne

What lead you to launch your own business - was there a defining moment where you made the decision?

I'd thought about it for many years, however, once I started having babies it took a back seat. Once I had my third child, I somehow felt ready to start a new chapter and had the confidence to jump in. I've always been naturally driven by creative projects and have a genuine passion for skincare so it helps to have a real love for what I'm doing.

The beginning is often a stumbling block for so many women when it comes to launching their own business. Where did you start and how quickly did you launch?

Much of the product line is a culmination of decades of my own research and experience so developing the products has taken years. However, once I decided to go for it, building the brand and business itself, took about six months to solidify. I drew on a bit of knowledge I had from some marketing subjects I did at university. My husband works in marketing so he offered to give me a framework to build the business from i.e. key steps to follow in launching the business, which was very helpful.

What has been the most challenging part of starting a business?

The most challenging parts have been sourcing packaging, labelling and suppliers. Some of our oils have been very hard to source. Covid-19 social distancing and restrictions hit just as I was launching, which brought new challenges as many of our oils were suddenly out of stock. Lastly, being from outside the skincare business, it is a challenge to build brand awareness as a small start-up as it is a crowded market, so that is our biggest challenge right now.

What about the most rewarding?

Customer feedback. Seeing our customers' skin transformations from our products. Having sensitive skin myself and dealing with eczema and more recently rosacea, I know how hard it can be to find a product that works and supports your skin. I genuinely love that we can help our customers get relief for their skin condition and attain healthy, happy skin.

www.smooshskin.com

Now, how do you manage your time between your children and your business?

It is a constant juggle, especially as many of the aspects of starting a new business are completely new to me, so I feel like it takes me more time than the next person, I have to do more research and this comes with more frustration! I have three kids, 9, 7 and 2, so working with them around makes any task infinitely longer! When possible, I plan ahead and carve out pockets of time to work when they are otherwise engaged. I have moved into a casual teaching role which gives me more flexibility to work on the business too.

How do you look after your skin daily? What products do you personally use?

I cleanse every night with our Silky Cleansing Oil and a soft cloth. I then use one of our three oil serums depending on how my skin is feeling.

In winter I mostly reach for Radiance oil serum in the evenings, it's so deeply moisturising and wonderful for dry winter skin. I then often choose the lighter, Soothing Balance oil serum in the morning. In the summer it's more often Soothing Balance in the day and Nourish oil serum at night.

I don't cleanse in the morning unless I've used a mask overnight. Skipping the morning cleanse has been really helpful in calming rosacea flare ups.

Every 7-10 days I use the Allies of Skin retinal and peptides overnight mask. I also use a pure white french clay mask mixed with one of the Smoosh oil serums if I need a soothing mask.

Other loves…….
Mother SPF
Bare Minerals Complexion Rescue Tinted Moisturiser and RMS Un-Cover Up
Baby Cheeks Blush Stick by Westman Atelier
Tubing mascara as I have hooded eyes and no mascara stays put!
Lanolips 101 Ointment

The Grace Tales is a global lifestyle platform for mothers searching for style, substance, and solidarity. Driven by creating content, community and connection, we celebrate the paradox of modern motherhood; the struggle and the beauty, the joy and the relentlessness.

Sophie Harris-Taylor captures something we often try so hard to hide: our vulnerability. As mothers, we're supposed to be strong and powerful, yet what is often overlooked is that our transition into becoming a mother is the most vulnerable period of our lives...

"I think we're often afraid to show our vulnerabilities," agrees London-based Harris-Taylor. "Perhaps we think by showing this side people are going to judge and only see weakness. Where actually I think there's something incredibly powerful and strong about being openly vulnerable. I'm in awe of the people I photograph, its often about striking the balance between confidence and vulnerability. I've found my work to be a very therapeutic experience, it took me a while to open up myself, but by doing this it has allowed my subjects to open up and engage in an honest conversation."

Keep Reading Show less
"I know that abandoned is a word that has been used in telling that story, but I actually don't want to use that word anymore," Zoe Hendrix tells me, when we go back to the beginning of her life, when she was born amidst the Eritrea-Ethiopia border war...

When she was five years old, she went to live at an Ethiopian orphanage with her twin brother. In her own words, "It sounds like you abandon an old tire on the road or something, and to me, it's more that she surrendered us because she was very unwell. I only learned this recently as well, so that's why I want to correct the wording I have used previously." Hendrix and her brother were later adopted by a Tasmanian couple and moved to Australia. Fast forward to 2015, and the country watched Zoe marry Alex Garner on the very first season of Married at First Sight. The couple went onto have a beautiful daughter Harper-Rose, but have since separated.

Keep Reading Show less