SPECIAL REPORT

Homes Built With Character: Nick Oxborrow

by Marc Almagro, Photography by Chino Sardea and Mohammad Izzadely
15 Jan 2018

With so many professional services just a click away, developing a personal style can be a real struggle. Unless you’re in full control of your faculties, it’s fairly easy to cave when you’re introduced to a terrific decorator, or when you find yourself in a showroom inexplicably filled with hard-to-find vintage Platners. After all, hiring the hottest stager or buying up an entire look requires nothing more than swiping your metal card. And this is exactly why we applaud heartily the handful of brave souls who resist the temptation to be ‘au courant’. By bravely facing who they are and what they like, they are able to create inimitable environments that light the path toward originality, comfort, and style.

Creating Magic
Mr. Nick Oxborrow, Events Creator
“It’s got to be fabulous,” Mr. Nick Oxborrow admits candidly when asked what his house means. “I need to feel more inspired in my home than when I’m outside, so it has to be filled with things that I love – things that I came across during my travels, family heirlooms that have been handed down to me. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it has to have value in terms of experience, of memory. These are collections of all my memories.”

In 2008, Mr. Oxborrow bought over Lila, the business built by the South African florist Mr. Peter Rose. But he did not only take over the business and its clients, he assumed Mr. Rose’s lease as well, ending up as the master of the three-storey shophouse, one of the nearly untouched specimens on a road lined cheek-by-jowl with beautiful but gutted out shophouses.

There he set up Fabulation, an events services company, growing it on the back of client base he acquired, eventually developing for it a broad range of B2B and B2C offerings.

Today, Fabulation performs any number of services associated with events, from guest list management to lighting production, design, build, and styling, and floral supply for residential and commercial spaces.

“Fabulation is a combination of ‘fabulous’ and ‘celebration’; we want to bring more creative events to Singapore,” Mr. Oxborrow explains.

 

The company has created several very memorable events through the years. For a Chinese New Year lo hei party it designed for Standard Chartered at the old Avalon club, Mr. Oxborrow created 50 table pods for the 500 guests. Left with no space for entertainment, he had an opera singer perform on a swing above everyone’s head. For the Sun Festival, he designed Bedouin tents, had them made in India, and transported to Singapore, where he set them up under a plastic dome. He covered the floor with piles of beautiful carpets, and scattered beautiful furniture all over the place.

“My mother used to throw elaborate parties; I grew up in that environment,” Mr. Oxborrow says. “When I’m designing a party, I’m always asking how I can make it more fabulous, fun, frivolous.”

Things have changed at the shophouse. In the past, Mr. Rose set up his climate-controlled florist’s studio downstairs and entertained and slept upstairs. He left the third storey mostly empty; an occasional guest would end up staying there with whatever pieces of furniture were not in season. “I relocated my business here, on the second floor, where Peter’s bedroom was. His old studio is now where my partner, an artist, paints. The third floor is completely private, with the bedroom, toilet, and sitting area. I also revived the balcony on the third floor so I can grow plants. It’s now a working house with spaces for everyone to enjoy.”

Mr. Oxborrow does not like commuting to work, “and wasting time on the road”. “But I’ve been doing this – living in the same building where I work – for the past 10 years, so it’s a learned thing.” He started out his business in Singapore in another shophouse on Arab Street, a spacious studio that he divided into three sections, where he installed his bedroom at one end and an office at the other. “I’m happy with this set up because when the work stops at the end of the day, the entire place becomes my home again.”

“I never work upstairs – ever,” Mr. Oxborrow says emphatically. “No errands upstairs; just complete relaxation. If I need to catch up on work, I just come down the stairs, but I switch off totally at the end of the day. So you’ll never find me going back to work on a Sunday.”

Mr. Oxborrow put the house together based on the purpose of the area. He set up a meeting space-slash-dining room, a private domain on the third floor, and picked a dominant color scheme of each: Tiffany blue for the outdoor dining room and adjoining kitchen, bright red and gold for the meeting room, and a soothing combination of white and a few shades of green for the private domain. 

The house has inevitably become a sort of a showroom. “I was inspired by antique dealers who bought houses to decorate, and turned them into showrooms. If a client comes here and likes what he sees, that’s half the battle won. If a bride sits in this room and looks around her, I’ve sold the wedding!

“I get inspirations anywhere and everywhere – the vibrancy of all the things that I like: movies, TV, travel. Singapore is small so you know everything that is going on. You can’t walk down a street twice and find something new. There might be an art exhibition or a performance that’s coming through, but that’s all very generic. So I really need to create magic at home. I need to feel inspired. This home is literally layer upon layer of my life.”