First-Time visitors to Geri Murphy's home often wonder if she gave them the right address. To get there, you have to make a left turn along Pasir Panjang Road, followed by a fairly long drive up a nondescript lane that makes you wonder if you are driving into a jungle instead.
The road leads to a single block of apartments, where it looks like time has stood still. The apartments were built several decades ago, and the compound is so quiet that you wonder if anyone lives here. The presence of cars in the open-air carpark hint that, perhaps, there are people living here after all. The lift is so tiny and run down, you're worried it might break down midway.
It is a different story in Ms Murphy's apartment, which is bright, airy and full of life. The owner of home furnishings store, Originals, moved in nearly eight years ago. "I can always see the look of surprise on people's faces," she says.
The view from her apartment may not be as glitzy as that of the Marina Bay area but it is still breathtaking. In the distance, there are Singapore's southern islands, such as Pulau Bukom, and tankers dot the sea. Nearer to shore, there is the construction of the upcoming port. "There was no reclaimed land in this area when I moved in," says Ms Murphy.
The best part about the apartment is that the living spaces, from the living room to the three bedrooms all look out onto the sea. "I love the view from each of the rooms. The light and the energy in the apartment are wonderful," she says. "Plus the sunsets here are just amazing."
To maximise the apartment's sea view, Ms Murphy removed the rarely used original folding doors.
The moment a visitor steps in the front door, the view is immediate. She relies on blinds in the balcony to keep the dust out when she is away, but otherwise, the apartment is open with a breeze flowing through the rooms.
It is no wonder that the balcony is one of her favourite areas at home. "My guests love it too.
Everyone gravitates to the high table here," she says.
As the owner of a furnishing store, it is no surprise to hear her home is filled with pieces from Originals. "All of the pieces are what I have collected on my buying trips. They are typical of furniture I have in the showroom," says the Australian expatriate, who often visits Bali, Sri Lanka and India to source for furniture. Apart from the store at Bukit Timah, she has a second store in Colombo.
"The interior is not complicated. It is clean and uncluttered," says Ms Murphy. "The furniture is really simple in design, contemporary and works as a complement to the art, which is a focus for colour."
As a store owner, "you can change the look all the time" but there is a downside to it too. "I have to stop myself from filling the home with pieces meant for the showroom," she says. "It used to be so cluttered. I was hoarding lots of things, but then I realised - discovering them is enough. I don't need everything around me. You lose the appreciation when it is overcrowded. And I do enjoy selling them to people who really love them."
Some of the pieces in her home are more unusual, such as a pair of teak wood pillars by the kitchen, which were picked up from Rajasthan. "Such pillars were a common feature in merchants' homes," says Ms Murphy.
Her study table used to be an old Javanese door that she attached old plough handles to for legs. Another favourite piece is a 3m long console at the front door that used to be an old bench top. This piece also has legs made from old plough handles.
By the balcony is a stone sculpture from Bali, which used to be a corn grinder. "It took five men to move this to the apartment," says Ms Murphy. "I won't ever give this piece away, because it is so hard to find another."
Her choice of furniture naturally reflects what Originals specialises in - collections of recycled pieces from both India and Java as well as more contemporary teak pieces.
Teak is Ms Murphy's wood of choice for its "natural colour and beautiful grain, its hardy nature against termites and it is strong for furniture use," she says.
The pieces in the home are a mix of old and modern pieces, such as a pair of sideboards in the living room. "The common element is the natural finish on all of them, which I really like. It is a calm hue, providing a great backdrop for the colour in the artwork and the soft furnishings," says Ms Murphy.
The colours in her home are inspired by the surroundings, such as the light blue wall in the balcony, and the blinds which come in shades of light green and blue, and beige, reflecting the lush greenery, water and sand respectively.
Splashes of orange add vibrance to the home, mostly in the form of artworks, including pieces by a Vietnamese painter and some Aboriginal art. "Not too much otherwise the apartment will feel hot," says Ms Murphy.
The sad news is that she will have to move out by year's end, as she and fellow residents have been told that the apartments will be taken over by Singapore Power.
Ms Murphy will move to an apartment in the city by then. "I'll definitely miss the sunset and the sense of space."