House Tour: Cynthea Lam's Garden of a Home

An innovative and passionate homeowner proves that it is possible for city dwellers to bring the outdoors in to create a more liveable home. She also spills tips on highrise edible gardening.

Updated on June 13, 2017 8:06 am

Jerni Camposano


Much has been said about the benefits plants bring into one's home. Aside from improving air quality, these living things also make for great decorative pieces to spruce up a space.

Urban farmer Cynthea Lam of Super Farmers knows these well enough. Not only did she add green elements to her home, but she also took it up a notch by transforming her HDB flat in Bishan into an oasis teeming with flora.

"Plants filter the air and break the monotony of a sterile space," begins Cynthea. "Above all, they teach us to be patient and observant. If you take care of them well, without excessive TLC, they actually thrive!"

Cynthea grew up in a house where there were a lot of plants, fruit trees, and even chickens! When she got married and had to move to Bishan, she felt their flat was too sterile for her liking.

Cynthea's kopitiam planters are for sale in Naiise

"So I started planting things outside the house that would cheer me up a little," recalls Cynthea, who first planted large plants in their corridor. However, her hubby did not approve of it so she began making little kopitiam planters to decorate their corner-unit home with some greenery. "They're long lasting, don't shed leaves, and are easy to maintain."

Cynthea, who lives with her husband and two kids, loves how cosy and open their home is while at the same time providing them with lots of privacy and their own quiet corner. The family's pad also sports high ceilings as it is located on one of the higher floors of the HDB block.

When the couple was scouting for their love nest 11 years ago, they chose this HDB area because it had easy access to food and grocery stores and the neighbourhood was not crowded. "Most importantly, I loved how the unit didn't have the typical HDB layout and was very windy and we got enough sun for the plants," says Cynthea. "Unfortunately, the sun doesn't come through our balcony. But we're really lucky ours is a corner unit and so we have a good amount of space to plant stuff!"

"I love experimenting with planting herbs and vegetables, things that I can eat!" she explains with much delight. With a glowing expression on her face, Cynthea talks about her two passions: nutrition and urban farming.

It all began when her beloved daughter almost lost her life at the tender age of 3. Within a short span of just 10 months, the child suffered two episodes of pneumonia, which was later credited to an allergic reaction to food colouring. Since then, Cynthea has become more aware and informed on the real issues of food, health, and sustainability.

Today, she relishes her sweet, precious time planting and harvesting in her own home. Most of these plants are the very ingredients Cynthea uses when she cooks for her family.

Although the plants are the focal points of this space, Cynthea is also proud of how well the overall design of their house turned out.

"I like how the elongated layout of the living room gave us enough space to create 'kiddy corners,' yet felt cosy enough to huddle together at the end of the day to watch TV, read, and play," she says.

The family's kitchen used to be boxed up until they decided to tear down the walls and turn it into an open kitchen where Cynthea can chat with and watch the kids while preparing their meals. "Our kitchen being larger than most new HDB flats also meant we could include a small island, which I'm in love with. I've always wanted one."

The dining room-cum-home office is a spot where Cynthea spends most of her time in. Her dining table is large enough to accommodate her paperworks and office stuff before the family sits down for dinner. She further adds, "I also love that I have a wonderful unblocked view of the park downstairs from this area of the house."

The family combined two rooms into one to create a larger master's bedroom that features a walk-in wardrobe and a spacious toilet with an extended basin area. "We absolutely love that this room is big enough, the kids can bunk in with us, and we can retreat to our 'cosy corner' before bedtime for TV or storybook reading, and everyone shouts 'Good night!' and fall asleep together. It's a very Kampung thing!"

Cynthea knows there is a challenge in the quest for green space in Singapore. But this passionate homeowner encourages Singaporeans to inject even a subtle accent of greenery into their otherwise bland home or office environment. She started the cause in her very own residence.

"Once in a while, take your eyes off the computer and stare at this gorgeous arrangement and it will cheer you up! Unlike flowers, they don't wilt easily, and are super easy to maintain and are elegant enough to beautify a boring space without being overpowering."

For those who have already adopted a vertical garden (a concept popular in Singapore because it can grow more plants in limited space), Cynthea advises to "never overwater, give it some sun, and do your research! Read up on how you can maintain a certain type of plant. Once every few months, give it some fertiliser and turn its soil or upgrade to a larger pot when the plant is showing signs of distress."

Green thumbs up for this urban oasis in Bishan!

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Photos by CH Thyng


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