Inside the stunning home and creative mind of Singapore stylist and mother of two, Charlie Cameron...
Charlie Cameron, from the Lottie is Loving lifestyle blog, is a stylist, photographer and co-owner of The Assembly Hall. Known for her love of all things lifestyle – from travel to interiors, Australian art to entertaining, this mother of two has a distinct style – think light-filled, pared-back spaces and thoughtfully yet simply styled moments of every day life – created and shared from a beautiful heritage ‘black and white’ home set in the tropics of Singapore. The Australian-raised mother to Finn, aged 10 and Pippa, aged 7, Charlie has had as many career changes as international moves. After studying interior design in Melbourne, she took a diversion into finance in London, then regained her love of creativity with an events production business in Sydney. After a few years in Hong Kong, Charlie and her family made the move to Singapore, six years ago. “When we moved to Singapore (and the kids were a little older) I had some time to consider ‘what next?’”, reflects Charlie, “and decided to learn photography to complement my styling skills and created a lifestyle blog, Lottie is Loving. After a while, Lottie is Loving turned into a business providing styling and photography services in Singapore.” Last year Charlie launched The Assembly Hall (with business partner and fellow expat Kate Gallagher), which she describes as a “fun and informative place to gather and learn”, providing creative workshops on everything from interior styling to photography for beginners. “Kate and I believe in passing on our skills and knowledge to others,” says Charlie, “that community over competition is important and helping others to achieve their goals is a wonderful way to give back.” Despite the many moves and career sidesteps, or perhaps also because of them, Charlie has an enduring love of home and lifestyle, of making a space personal and beautiful (even when continually renting), and this passion is contagious. Whether it’s the local creative industry, a group of entrepreneurial women or even Instagram pals, Charlie has a habit of inspiring, connecting and sharing her learnings. The beautiful art deco ‘black and white’ bungalow set amongst lush tropical greenery on the edge of Dempsey Hill, is clearly a wonderful space from which to draw inspiration and welcome others. Charlie runs her styling and photography business from here and also hosts all the workshops for The Assembly Hall. Most importantly, this is the space from which she raises her family… We caught up with Charlie at home to talk about lifestyle loves, expat life, connection with community, and how she juggles family time with two creative businesses. Photography: Clare Barker Wells | Words: Emily Armstrong
Tell us about your upbringing in Australia. What are your most vivid memories of your childhood?
I grew up all over Australia. My father was in mining and every couple of years we would move to a new mining town. Often we were in remote locations in tiny townships so my childhood was spent largely outdoors playing make-believe games with my sister and brother, going for family bush walks and playing at my friends’ farms. When I was ten, we moved to Melbourne, where I lived for the next ten years before I decided to spread my wings and move to London.
When did you move to Singapore?
Our family moved to Singapore six years ago from Hong Kong. We had been living in Hong Kong for four years and were struggling with the lack of space (and lack of school places!) for our children, so we made the decision to move to Singapore. It was a fantastic move for us and we have been so happy to call Singapore home.
Where did your styling and photography career emerge?
My styling career started when I owned an event production business in Sydney. I have always had creative tendencies and studied interior design after school, but when the opportunity to move to London came, I left my studies and took up a career in investment banking which would last eight years. It was only when I returned to live in Australia that I decided to get back to my creative roots – and I have never looked back. I found that I loved the temporary nature of styling for events, of creating a visual story that was connected to a brand, and the freedom that event styling allowed as it often doesn’t have the functional and practical overlay that interior design requires. When we moved to Singapore (and the kids were a little older) I had some time to consider ‘what next?’ and decided to learn photography to compliment my styling skills and created a lifestyle blog, Lottie is Loving. After a while, Lottie is Loving turned into a business providing styling and photography services in Singapore. I love blogging and it has sadly taken a back seat since I launched The Assembly Hall a year ago, but my plan is to refocus my efforts towards the blog in the coming months and I’m excited about creating some new content.
How important is Instagram to you?
Instagram is an incredibly important social media channel for me as it is the only marketing channel that I use for both of my businesses – Lottie is Loving and The Assembly Hall. But more than that, it is a fantastic platform for practising the craft of styling and photography. I adore the endless inspiration on Instagram and have met so many amazing people through the platform. I can really say that I have formed friendships and a sense of support from the community on Instagram. On the flip-side, I am acutely aware that social media can bring out our worst insecurities – for me, it usually rests with imposter syndrome and an unfounded sense of failure. Even when we know it’s the ‘highlights’ reel for the accounts we follow, it is hard to not compare and despair at times. Whenever I feel like this I put my phone down and pick up a book, seek out the kids or meet up with a friend to remove myself, if only temporarily, from the social media world.
Tell us about The Assembly Hall, the creative workshops business you launched last year…
The Assembly Hall is a fun and informative place to gather and learn. It was established in 2017 with my business partner, Kate Gallagher, and we offer creative workshops for individuals and small businesses wishing to learn a new skill or brush up on an existing one. It is really about empowering small business owners and individuals to up-skill so that they can take care of areas of their lives or businesses that they would otherwise need to outsource. Kate and I believe in passing on our skills and knowledge to others – that community over competition is important and helping others to achieve their goals is a wonderful way to give back. The success of The Assembly Hall is in part because people need a sense of connection – it can be extremely lonely to establish a business on your own – or to move country as an expat. We give people the chance to connect with others and feel part of something bigger. Our workshops are typically four hours long and are always hosted by a professional from the relevant industry. They are hosted in my black and white home and are informal and relaxed – oh, and we serve yummy food too!
You seem to love all aspects of lifestyle - creating and celebrating the little things in home, travel and entertaining… what are your real passions in this space?
I do have a love for all aspects of lifestyle! I have a strong pull towards anything aesthetically pleasing – whether it is a beautiful interior, a gorgeous place to travel or a delicious dish – I appreciate it all. I also adore fashion and am interested in all things beauty. What anchors all of these categories is a love for design. But aside from my general yearnings for all things beautiful – I have a passion for Australian art.
Your children are school age now. What’s been your favourite age and stage with your children?
I’m loving right now! I have never really clung to the “I wish they would stay little forever” thing or felt dismayed about them growing up. I have generally liked each stage but now that they are older I really love the conversations that we have and watching them navigate the world. I enjoy their company and they make me laugh, which is lovely.
How do you practice self-care?
I have always been fairly active but now that I am older I am really trying to pay more attention to being consistent with exercise and eating well. I feel the effects of getting older and I would really love to keep myself feeling strong and healthy for the next 40 years to come. So I practice yoga at home (I am obsessed with Yogaglo) and play tennis each week. Occasionally I go for a run and have on and off had a personal trainer to push my fitness a little (…or a lot!) as well.
What has motherhood taught you?
What is truly important in life and what it means to be a good person – and how to try and encourage these traits in my children.
How have you decorated your children’s rooms?
When it comes to the kids’ rooms I have always tried to keep the decoration fairly non-age specific. Some of the items in Pippa’s room are from her nursery and Finn’s room has barely changed in the past five years. Pippa’s room was transformed when I wallpapered one wall with the fabulous ‘One Fun Day’ wallpaper designed by Pax and Hart, and the Confetti Systems garland has been in her room for the past seven years. I try and keep my tidy/and design tendencies away from their personal spaces so that they have the freedom to express themselves as they wish. But it’s hard. Finn recently expressed a desire to have Star Wars posters on his wall – so we searched for some designs online and I tried to not influence his decision. Luckily he was taken with some cool retro graphic posters (I thought I might have to really test my “let them do what they want” theory for a moment there!)
Has your fashion style changed since you became a mother? What’s a typical look for you?
I don’t think my fashion style has particularly changed since becoming a mother – I hope it has just generally evolved with the changing fashion styles. I love fashion and have paid more attention to it the older I have become – perhaps because I need to divert attention away from my sagging face! Seriously though, I am aware of getting older and while I am not (yet) prepared to do anything invasive on the anti-ageing front, I believe that clothes can help to make you feel youthful and relevant even if the lines on your face tell a different story. I tend to favour loose cut dresses, midi skirts and have become obsessed with wearing sneakers.
Talk us through the inspiration behind the interior of your home?
I am hugely inspired by Australian design and I love the work of Arent & Pyke. My interior style is influenced by a pared-back Australian look – pale timbers, elements of Scandinavian style and a mix and match approach to create balance. I like our home to feel calm, uncluttered but lived in. I have always tried to buy pieces that I truly love and ignore whether the piece is exactly right for the rental home we occupy. When we first moved to Singapore we lived in a modern house, now we live in an Art Deco black and white and yet our furnishings have stayed the same. I believe you can make (almost anything) work if it is beautifully designed.
Do you have a favourite room?
My favourite room is the one that interestingly has the least amount of design in it – the upstairs living room. It is surrounded on three sides by beautiful windows that look out on the tree canopy. It is a quiet space and I often sit there to read or sip a cup of tea and relax.
Can you list some of your favourite pieces of furniture/objects in your home?
I love the Mark Tuckey egg cup stool, the String shelving system, the super soft vintage boujad Tigmi Trading rug, the Joshua Yeldham artwork, the David Bromley embroidery, the Castle and Things bedlinen and the many Armadillo & Co rugs.
Would you say your interior style is similar to your fashion style?
Yes, probably. I am drawn to more than one interior style and I think my fashion choices reflect that too. But in general, everything is rooted in an unfussy aesthetic.
Favourite thing to do with your children?
Go for a walk with our dog Jet. Share a meal at Blu Kouzina in Dempsey.
How do you keep your home tidy with children around? Are you a minimalist or maximalist?
The kids have grown up knowing that we expect them to respect our home so they are pretty good about tidying up after themselves (let’s be clear though – they are kids and need prompting – sometimes multiple times!) but in general they tidy at the end of each day and carry their stuff back to their rooms. As they’ve got older too we just don’t have as many toys or plastic to contend with so it’s become less of a thing. I am definitely a minimalist – I like everything to be tidied away and looking clutter free.
What are your time management tips?
Honestly, my ability to manage my time and responsibilities relies on the fact that I have live-in help. We moved to Asia when Finn was only one, so I have never had to be a mum, run a household and manage the commitments of a job without live-in help. I am immensely grateful that I have had this additional support as it makes everyday life run so smoothly. The usual stress points around picking kids up from activities, trying to get dinner on the table or make sure school uniforms are clean for example, just aren’t relevant when you have someone who is always there to help you. These wonderful women who provide help are the backbone of support for so many families in Asia and they deserve our gratitude, respect and heartfelt thanks for all that they do for us.
What are your favourite long-haul travel destinations?
Like many expat families, our long-haul travel usually revolves around visiting family – for us, it is summer time in the UK and Christmas in Australia. We usually try and tag an extra little escape just for our family on these trips too and have recently fallen in love with the Balearic Islands and South West France. In Australia, my husband and I try and find a couple of days for just the two of us and make a beeline for Byron Bay to relax and reconnect with one another.
3 must-dos for families visiting Singapore?
The Treetop Walk Fort Siloso on Sentosa My Chinatown walking tour on the blog!
The best and least favourite thing about expat life?
The best thing about expat life is meeting new people who are all open to new experiences and friendships and finding connections with people who would otherwise never have come your way in life. The least favourite thing is that sometimes these wonderful people leave.
What are your favourite Singapore haunts?
Cookhouse at Dempsey – for drinks and dinner at the bar. Merci Marcel – for coffee, pastries or lunch. Woods in the Books – for gorgeous kids’ books. Plain Vanilla Bakery – for cupcakes and coffee. The Fat Prince – for dinner.
Charlie's little list of loves:
My female friendships. Luisa Brimble’s photography. Gin and Tonics at Cookhouse. My new Sony A7R III. Chanel Rouge Noir nail polish. The genius artwork of CJ Hendry. All things Dermalogica. Unfold app.