Interiors: Hong Henwood from Affordable Style Files

If you’re interior obsessed and constantly searching for fresh affordable ideas for your home, you’ll love the work of Hong Henwood. The Singapore-based Australian mother of two – Charlie, 3, and Miya, 6 – runs Affordable Style Files, a boutique interior design and styling business, which focuses on affordability. “I must admit that Instagram really launched my career in the design and styling world,” says Henwood who favours an eclectic mix of affordable, designer and vintage pieces. Her goal? To create a home filled with character and charm. “I love design and I want to show people that they can decorate their homes on an affordable budget. Of course affordability is different to everyone, but I want to show people that you can buy pieces from op shops and then restore or paint them – it makes a huge difference.” Henwood also loves the concept of ‘shopping your home’. “Finding items in your home and moving them to a different location can create a fresh new look. Also mixing designer pieces with brand’s like Kmart or Target really saves you a lot. I’m also an affordable interior designer. I don’t charge a lot for my time and I’m there every step of the way with the design and styling of your home.” We caught up with Henwood at her beautifully styled home to find out more about life in Singapore and her interior tips and tricks…

Motherhood has taught me…

That everything takes longer than anticipated and that patience is the key to survival. It has also taught me to appreciate those little things that we used to take for granted, a silent cup of tea, a toilet break alone, and getting out of the house without totally loosing your cool.

I’ve discovered a creative side to my life since becoming a mother…

Prior to kids, I was working in the corporate world in Tokyo as a legal consultant for a Tokyo Law Firm. After my daughter Miya was born I became a stay at home mum and I dabbled in clothing design for children. My label was called Ma Bella. After leaving Tokyo in 2012 and moving to Perth, I decided to study interior design online with CATC and have not looked back. I now work independently for my own design and styling company called Affordable Style Files. Juggling motherhood and work proves to be difficult at times, but it’s all about trying to get that balance. I often fall off the wagon but seriously this motherhood job is the hardest job I’ve ever undertaken and one in which has changed my views on everything.

If I could have babies without being pregnant I’d have about five babies by now…

I can’t say that pregnancy suited me. With both pregnancies, I had bad morning sickness and reflux and with my second I had PUPPS (a horrible pregnancy rash that only goes away once the child is born). The best thing about being pregnant for me was probably the fact that it allowed me to take time out and rest and not be on go the whole time. Have you noticed that you can basically wear anything while pregnant and it will look semi good?

I have always had a routine for the kids…

More so for my first born because being a new mum I wanted to do everything right and by the book. I learnt along the way that routine and meals times and bed times only become easier if you have guidelines to follow. This doesn’t mean that it always works – our kids still come to our room in the middle of the night and we still play musical beds. Surely they won’t be doing this when they are 10 right?

“ Trust your instincts. You may not be doing what the books or others say, but if you and your baby are happy, then just go with it ”

My advice to new mothers is…

We all parent differently. Fake it till you make it I say. Also take the time to just be in the moment. They seriously do grow up way too fast. Sleep when they sleep and laugh when they laugh as everything else can wait. I found also cooking mammoth amounts of dinner and then freezing the left overs kind of prepares you for the days ahead when you simply don’t have time to shower let alone prepare great meals. Also accepting help. When someone offers to hold your baby or give you a break, take them up on it!

We have now been based in Singapore for a year…

We came for my husband’s job. He is a senior counsel for BP. We have always loved living in Asia and while the kids are young we thought it’s probably the best time to live the expat life. We love that there’s such a great cultural mix and that such a cultural mix can actually work. There’s a lot to see and do and everything is so close by. We try to buy our produce from the local wet markets each day for our meals. Eating out here is always an adventure. I would say living here is more expensive then living in Australia and also Tokyo. We are however lucky to live somewhere that is only a stones throw away from places we love like Bali.

We love to visit Tiong Bahru…

It’s an eclectic mix of new and old. The markets there are great. Plenty of great eats and fabulous little shops. Plain Vanilla bakery is our favourite coffee and cake shop. The creme brûlée tart is amazing! We also love going to Sentosa on the weekends or just for a cable car ride. The kids also love just hop on their scooters and go for walks around the place. Singapore Zoo is great too and shopping here is always interesting.

For kidswear brands…

I shop a lot at Zara and small boutiques online like Bobo ChosesMini Rodini and other sweet brands like Hubble and DukeSeed Heritage has just landed in Singapore so we are also venturing there a lot too. I also buy a Tutu Du Monde dress for my daughter every year for her birthday. Shoes we like are Melissa’s, Saltwater sandals and flats.

“ Just when you think you are drowning they surprise you, maybe by saying something utterly hilarious that makes you laugh till you cry or that big embrace they give you and say that they love you ”

I live in Saltwater sandals…

Ripped boyfriend jeans, Converse shoes and Mister Zimi. I also have a love for harem pants and anything with leopard print! Most of my wardrobe is black! In summer my essentials are: Saltwater sandals, great Jets swimwear, Mister Zimi, some nice clogs sandals, wedges and some denim pieces.

My style hasn’t changed since becoming a mother…

Although I’ve learnt the art of layering. I guess things kind of happened once I had babies and the whole thing with breastfeeding. Kimono jackets and little singlet tops under another TOP definitely made more of an appearance into my wardrobe. Being in constant tropical weather I’m always in dresses. My Mister Zimicollection is massive – they’re the perfect mummy dresses!

Motherhood is a constant battle…

You always have to be on the ball. It can be terribly exhausting and sometimes you just want to run away and hide and lock yourself in the bathroom for at least 10 minutes just to recharge. It’s the most demanding job I’ve ever taken on. The best part is their unconditional love for you. I also love the fact that we can try to mould and shape them by what we are teaching them everyday to be that little bit better. People talk about the terrible twos but I think each age comes with a whole new set of rules and game changers. You can never really be on TOP although I like to think that I am.

I love bedtime…

It’s when we all wind down. Bath followed by their bedtime stories and them recalling their day and then them and also us often passing out too. We often pass out while putting them to bed ourselves. Then it’s husband and wife time. Just sitting on the couch watching a bit of TV or on our deck to bring some normal conversation into the day.

My passion for interior design began…

When we decided to buy a small block of land in Bali (500m2) in 2004 and build our villa. Then we bought land (85sqm) in central Tokyo and designed and built our second home, which was three stories high with all your Japanese mod cons. From the design to then styling the homes, I guess my passion began.

I always say you should invest in those big ticket items for your home…

You should definitely spend money on a good bed, a great sofa and then dining chairs and even and amazing rug. Everything else can be easily sourced and changed to suit your mood. At the moment I’m loving Sheets on the Line bedding as well as Cultiver linen. Kira and Kira make beautiful bespoke TV cabinets and mirrors and tables. I’m adding their mirror to my wish list. My go to rugs are Armadillo and Co. I love Australian businesses and will always support them when and where I can. Tracy at Cranmore Home has been a massive supporter in sourcing my products for home designs here in Singapore.

My top homeware brands for children’s rooms are…

Armadillo and Co rugs.
Jimmy Cricket wall decals and paper.
Numero 74 cushions and canopies.
GoosebumpsCultiverKip and Co and Sack Me bedding.
IKEA helps with great storage solutions, bookracks and toy storage.
Baskets from Olli Ella.
Incy Interiors beds.
Also take a look on Gumtree often you can find great old beds in fabulous condition that perhaps only needs a new paint job.
Colourful prints and artwork from Jessie BreakwellRachel CastleJacqueline Burgess and Antoinette Ferwerda.

Hong’s little list of loves:

I good eyebrow wax and shape. And Gimme Brow by Benefit!
Fresh linen sheets and duvet.
Caramelised balsamic oil with homemade crusty bread and a whole lot of triple cream Brie.
Farms. I’m totally a city girl but in the last few months we’ve been going rural and learning about what our farmers do. Totally in love with the land.
Scented candles in pretty packaging.
Atelier Lumira and SOH Melbourne candles are my faves right now.
Denim anything.
Fresh flowers from the markets.
Big sunglasses.
Danish design.
Long hot showers.

Photos by Andrea Galkova Makeup: Astra Louise Words: Georgie Abay 

Children wear Seed Heritage