Whether it’s at work or in her own backyard, interior designer PENNY SLOANE has the preservation of the planet in mind. At her home in Tanglin, Singapore (a stone’s throw from the Botanic Gardens) she’s contemplating her decidedly brown garden. The recent lack of rain has meant that her once leafy idyll is now teetering on the edge of crispy. And, while she’s well aware that firing up the sprinkler system would restore it to its emerald best, she can’t quite bring herself to do it.
As a full-time working mother of two, Penny is used to demands, but her latest ambition is perhaps her most challenging to date. “My biggest mission right now is to save the planet,” she says with a resolve that would rival that of Greta Thunberg. So, for now, the sprinklers stay firmly off.
Penny is the co-founder of Siren Design, an interior design firm that has been delivering cutting-edge interiors to commercial and office spaces in Southeast Asia and her native Australia since 2006. She and her team have brought their brand of corporate woke to the likes of Facebook, the PwC Experience Centre, Visa, Google and JustCo, to name a few.
But besides working with eco-friendly finishes – think carpets made from recycled fishing nets, rainforest-friendly timber and offcuts of marble – Penny is now encouraging her clients to make sustainability a key aspect of every project. This means looking at every detail, from the materials they’re using, to how many AC vents they’re putting in – even what products they’re stocking in their pantries – to make them as environmentally friendly as possible.
She’s also getting very strict with the building process, as she estimates that over 90 percent of the jobs that Siren works on require a refit, not because of any structural need but because, ultimately, the client changes their mind. “It’s such a waste!” says Penny. “A waste of time and money, but, most shocking of all, a waste of resources that literally go straight into the landfill.”
As a result, the company is encouraging its clients to very carefully consider its ideas. “Do they actually need a full fit-out from the get-go? Instead, we can work with landlords to provide a cold-shell space instead of a finished-condition space. If we can avoid ripping everything out and starting again, so much the better – for everyone and for the planet.”
Life in Tanglin
When she’s not doing her bit to save the world, Penny can be found back at her Tanglin home, with her favourite dynamic duo, Jade (5) and Hugo (2), and husband Craig.
“We chose the house because we love the access to the garden from every room. There’s loads of natural light and lovely high ceilings, and it has a family-friendly layout. It’s also incredibly private and quiet, even though we’re only a stone’s throw from Orchard Road.”
The family has been in Singapore for eight years. “It was Craig’s job that brought us here. We both studied at university abroad, but this is our first expat posting. We love it; it’s definitely home for us.”
Since moving into this particular property a year ago, Penny has, she admits, had to let go of some of her own design expectations in favour of a space that’s more functional. “I would love to think that my home is ‘liveable luxe’ but the reality is actually more ‘toddler practical’!” she laughs. “I’ve discovered a love of layered patterns and bold and high contrast colours that I never knew I had, but which are great for hiding toddler, dog and general life mess.”
That said, some of the little luxuries are still there, including a Barbera Design bronze table, which is Penny’s favourite item in the whole house, and which the family regularly gathers around.
Change in routine
Jade has recently started at “big girl school” while Hugo is now taking the school bus to nursery. The impact on the family’s morning routine has been seismic. “I feel like my entire life has changed since we discovered the school bus!” says Penny. “Our mornings have literally been transformed.”
Whereas every day used to begin at 6.30am and involve two manic drop-offs before Penny would charge into the office at 9am, the family now has a leisurely breakfast and quality time before everyone goes their separate ways at 8.20am. And, rather than berate herself for not acting as everybody’s transportation service, Penny sees it as another step towards a greener existence, as well as time that is exclusively for her family. “It’s now my favourite part of the day. You don’t get that when you’re desperately trying to get everybody into the car.”
Less seamless has been the integration of exercise into her weekly regime. “When I’m really stressed or really busy, it’s the first thing to go,” she grimaces. This is despite having a personal trainer lined up at Chijmes and a Pilates instructor who comes to her house twice a week. “Even then, I manage to let exercise fall by the wayside! I know it should be a priority but the reality is, it just isn’t.”
Penny is a firm believer, however, that a healthy body and a healthy mind are crucial to productivity, whether it’s her own or that of her team or clients. Creating “mentally well” spaces is what has earned Siren Design its impressive roster of clients and it remains at the forefront of what they do. That and creating more environmentally-friendly workspaces.
“We can all be better humans,” she says. “We’ve just got to know how.” It can be as simple as waiting for the next downpour rather than reaching for the garden hose at home.
Wine & Dine
Culina at COMO Dempsey (“everything on the menu is delicious!”) 15 Dempsey Road | 6474 7338 | culina.com.sg
Luke’s Oyster Bar & Chophouse (“for a special night out — we sit at the bar and watch the world go past”) 22 Gemmill Lane | 6221 4468 | lukes.com.sg
Hua Yu Wee (“for chilli crab and pepper crab; authentic, simple, delicious”) 462 Upper East Coast Road | 6442 9313
The Providore (“the best croissants”) Multiple locations | 6221 7056 | theprovidore.com
Tan Boon Liat Building (“lots of great stores to explore for furniture; I especially love the new Fritz Hansen showroom”) | 315 Outram Road
Second Charm (“for that found magic piece of furniture, or they can also customise”) Block 21 Kallang Avenue, #05-165 Mapletree Industrial Building JEB & Stylecraft (“two spots for contract pieces”)
• 49 Cantonment Road
• 3 Lim Teck Kim Road, Unit #01-01 Genting Centre
XTRA (“for outdoor furniture”) 6 Raffles Boulevard, #02-48 | xtra.com.sg
Edupod (“for outdoor playgrounds for the home”) 998 Toa Payoh North | edupod.com.sg
Kenaris Salon (“Alston for cut, Vanessa for colour”) #04-03 Wheelock Place, 501 Orchard Road