The Straits Times
February 2, 2002
Rough and ready
Ed Poole's house of contradictions
The American designer who masterminded the look of nightspots like Next Page and Sugar, has a relaxed attitude when it comes to decorating his own place. It is at Pearlbank Apartments, situated in an area known more for housing foreign workers than well-heeled expats. But he relishes and plays up the contrast.
Above : Image update [ May 2002 ]
Below : looking up the facade of Pearlbank from the center garden of the horse-shoe shaped building
By Arthur Sim
He has designed some of Singapore's hottest nightspots like China Jump, Front Page and Hu'u Bar. And his projects have been featured in countless magazines and newspapers.
Oddly though, when it comes to the way he chooses to live, Ed Poole of Poole Associates appears to be quite blasé. (translation : 'Severe lack of vitamin M', Ed says)
Poole, an American who has lived in Singapore for over 12 years, bought his first home 2 years ago in the well-known but not too popular building - Pearlbank Apartments in Outram.
The building was completed in 1976. With its bold horse-shoe plan, the design was thought to be quite avant-garde.
The area, however, was never considered genteel and 25 years later, it had the dubious reputation of housing foreign workers.
Poole says that the way his apartment was subdivided by the previous owner, there were at least 40 workers living there once.
Suffice to say that he got a very good price for the flat, a 4,300 sq ft split-level penthouse on the 37th floor with one of the best views on the island.
Photos : Desmond Wee | Poole Associates
RAW GLAMOUR : The exposed ceiling structure gives the place a new height while classic Charles Eames chairs up the existing marble floor's posh factor.
EAST MEETS WEST : A similarity in the kitchen decor (below) is that some items are taken from various eateries in Singapore. For example, the hanging mirrors on one wall are from Qhue, a restaurant which used to be located at South Buona Vista but is now gone. On the other hand, the dining stools are from Café Iguana at Riverside Point.
Today, only Poole, a bachelor, lives there. But in conditions that seem no better than a construction site.
"In my job, I deal with construction sites all the time so to be living like this is nothing unusual," he says.
Being a qualified American architect probably has something to do with this too.
Admiring the original spatial quality of the apartment, he acknowledges that the original architect of the building actually "did a great job".
This became more apparent after he ripped out 14 truck loads of debris consisting mainly of false ceilings, wires, ducting, grimy cabinets, make-shift partitions gaudy tiles and every non-structural interior wall.
When all these came down, one of the first things that was revealed was a bizarre concrete ceiling with massive concrete beams that also made up the sloping roof of the building.
Left exposed, it could only be described as "Modern Gothic".
The ceiling had a certain raw appeal and he resisted making any changes to it.
In this rough state, the ceiling is strangely beautiful but ceilings are where most of the electrical wiring for light fixtures and air-con ducts are normally run.
In this apartment, the wires lie in a tangle on the floor instead and there is no air-conditioning in the living areas.
Says Poole: "If there is one thing I noticed about homes in Singapore, it is that people depend too much on air-con. It's not necessary especially when your located 560 feet above sea level".
"I have had neighbors come here and say that they can't believe that the apartment can feel so cool without air-con. I tell them it's because they have too many fixed walls, obstructing cross ventilation".
"This is tropical living."
Mixture of Old and New : A minimalist staircase rail contrasts against the old timber doors (in the background) salvaged from his old office.
MAN ON TOP : This Chairman Mao silk-screen fritt, seen from the stairwell (right), marks the partition in Poole's office (above). It's a remnant from the artworks created for Front Page and Next Page at Mohamed Sultan Road. Hanging on a glass partition, the transparent nature of the silk screen fritt is used to full advantage.
Of course, in anybody else's hands, this apartment would look like the construction that it is. However, Poole has an uncanny talent of putting discordant elements together and making them look chic.
A case in point : The Charles Eames white leather chairs in the main living space against timber doors he salvaged from an old sin-seh shop in Pekin Street.
Even exposed wires hanging from the ceiling in the kitchen look like a designer statement.
But Poole does get some help from interesting conversation pieces that have histories linked with his old projects.
The old negative of a Chairman Mao silk-screen hanging outside his home-office never fails to attract attention. It was leftover from the very first House of Mao restaurant in China Square.
Some will recognize the collection of Peranakan mirrors in the kitchen because they once hung at Qhue, another trendy restaurant Poole designed (which is now gone) in South Buona Vista.
There is a sofa that looks like it might have come from Front Page bar and coffee tables that were meant for another bar, Asian.
His dining chairs came from Café Iguana in Riverside Point as "the client ordered another size".
"I hate to see stuff thrown away," he adds.
There is a patina of age to everything and nothing seems new or over-designed. Even more important perhaps, is that nothing looks pretentious.
WORK IN PROGRESS, DO NOT DISTURB :
The steps and walls leading to the master bedroom level in Poole's split-level penthouse retains the uncompleted look. The American architect - interior designer thinks his home will never be finished - a constant work in progress. **
**Update April 2007
'Not so anymore, says Poole. The apartment is nearing a total transformation, with only some ceilings, minor works to the kitchen and the Master Spa bath to go'.
Hardly the raw construction site of 2001, Penthouse One has been called 'drop-dead gorgeous' by some visitors. It has appeared in the press 7 times, used as a movie set, and hosted countless fashion shoots.
Above : Upon handover of keys in Nov 2000. Existing hopper windows are converted to full length glass, planter boxes removed and new marble installed. Right : April 2007