Hello there, Honey
If you don’t already know, we’re a teeny bit obsessed with Instagram, which was where we found this rockin’ lady a year and a half ago.
Bella Koh is the beauty behind the ever popular Flea and Trees, a vintage, accessories, and lifestyle store based in Tiong Bahru. She’s also a media fave for her beautiful home and amazing style, so get your lust lists out, ladies, you’ll want to take notes when you see her TDF walk-in.
How would you describe your home?
Boho-french interiors set in a pre-war art décor architecture. The home is filled with light and calmness. We wanted something french, dreamy, romantic, natural, and above all – functional.
The cats & nature played a big part in the house planning. We built french doors that lead from room to room. This sense of openness carries throughout the rest of the house, where glass doors in the backyard and airwell flood the room with light. Using natural stones like marble and travertine to allow a natural aging process; you could describe the house as trans-contemporary, a livable space to withstand time.
The house was made exactly how I wanted to live. The kitchen is a main feature of the house – you see it the minute you enter. It reflects the passion for cooking and hosting. Food truly brings people together. A Victorian-style dining table paired with mid-century modern chairs similarly depicts the calm but thrown-together vibe at home.
You’ve worked in the fashion industry, you co-own Flea and Trees, and now you’re also a food stylist? Tell us how that happened!
I was with FJ Benjamin, designing and developing accessories for Raoul before all this came along! During that time I considered myself fortunate to work with some of the most amazing vendors whose clients include The Prada Group, Christian Louboutin, Marc Jacobs, Anya Hindmarch, just to name a few. The experience I accumulated during those years was priceless.
I have always wanted to share with people the things I scoured from across the globe, so we started Flea & Trees. More than just clothing, accessories and furniture, Flea & Trees is a nest of belongings, styles, and stories. The shop itself has always had a strong sense of personality, which I try to amplify. It’s a little window into my many loves and temptations.
And I definitely didn’t set out to be a food stylist! I was simply enjoying the process of cooking, documenting, and sharing my food photos via Facebook and Instagram until The Lo & Behold Group and Bed SupperClub Bangkok approached me.
I’m now part buyer and designer, part food stylist and homemaker, part social media slave and cat maid… [Ed. Note: We’re not surprised Bella’s Instagram account landed her jobs – this lady has an eye for all things beautiful!]
What’s your philosophy behind food? [Ed’s note: Follow Bella on Instagram and you’ll see what this lady LOVES to cook.] Any favourite recipes to share?
My philosophy is to keep it simple and approachable. I believe that eating whole, unprocessed foods can lead to a healthier, happier, and calmer life. Sometimes I’m inspired by a recipe on a blog. Most times, I love the challenge to create dishes based on what’s already in my fridge.
Friends now call me the Queen of Leftovers…haha. I try to eat clean, mostly vegetarian (I was a vegan for 2 years before turning Pescatarian… Blame it on the fish soup we had in Venice.) I used to lead a very unhealthy lifestyle – late dinners with various types of meat on the dinner table. I overworked and was plagued by gastric problems at 7pm sharp daily. The change in my diet and practice of yoga has led me to a happier place in life.
One of my current favorite recipes is a Capellini of toasted garlic, walnuts, french beans, spinach, basil, and cilantro. I love the fact that veggies and nuts do fill you up!
We know you love entertaining. Any tips on how to throw a stress-free dinner party?
Get everyone to cook! It’s an absolutely fun activity when everyone gets involved in the cooking process. And be spontaneous! We recently hosted a party with some new friends out on the road behind our back door. Outdoorsy – Kinfolk x Tiong Bahru style.
Let’s talk about your closet. Obviously you’re a bit of a shopaholic (don’t worry, we’re on your side) – any favourite brands and items?
I have too many favorite items. That includes a Bottega Veneta wool midi dress cut with a plunging neckline and made in the truest Italian camel color. There is something about a Tomas Maier design; artisanal, minimal, laidback luxury, yet highly appealing. As he once said: ‘Simple design is always complicated’. Only truly good designers will comprehend this.
I have always been a huge fan of Phoebe Philo since she took over the helm at Céline. It’s hard to not admire people who not only create flawless designs, but at the same time, are able to make an empire out of it. I’m still using the classic Heritage bag I bought in 2009 – a timeless piece indeed! Another favorite of mine is the Rockstud flats, worn to death since 2010… designed by the creative duo Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli for Valentino. I have utmost respect for them both since I’m an accessories designer myself.
For favorite basics, I adore the highly affordable range from Alexander Wang, Étoile by Isabel Marant and J.Crew. Most recently, Tabitha Simmons Alexa pointed flats or as I call them, kitty ears, because of the two-tone pointed shape!
Most recent purchase?
A lightweight Tokyobike! They are beautifully simple, pared down, and add much excitement to my life! My husband and I bought one each and we’ve been taking spontaneous night trips around the island. Riding on it always reminds us of our own cycling adventures down Meguro, Tokyo. We intend to travel the world with it…haha!
Tell us about these stunning dresses (the black and white ones).
Both pieces were my wedding gowns! The white, a Monique L’huillier gown, called the Tatiana from the Spring Collection 2008. It is an ivory strapless silk organza gown with a pleated tulip bodice in the front and a half ball button at the back. A classic trumpet silhouette that I relentlessly hunted down at The Landmark, Hong Kong. It was crazy because I had to make 3 trips to Hong Kong just for the fitting!
The black tulle dress was designed by me. A full ballgown, off-shouldered and slightly padded. I was definitely caught in the crazy 80’s padded shoulder trend back then. In the right amounts, it’s timeless.
You obviously have a great heart and love your cats. Tell us a little about how you came to adopt so many stray kitties.
It all started when my sister and I picked up a stray back at my parents’ neighborhood. He’s almost 15 years old in human terms, which makes him quite an elder. He still looks great, as handsome as George Clooney. My brother (who incidentally, is in a band called MONSTER CAT), calls him Torpedo Lard, because he’s fat but fast.
Apart from a family of cats Terence and I have adopted at our time on Portsdown Road, our Tiong Bahru native cat – Bob, has been quite the celebrity. Bob is famous in our neighborhood and has always been the love of many a shopowner. Two years back, he was badly injured in a terrible car accident. Long story short – a community of Tiong Bahru residents and friends rallied to raise funds and share support (& tears). I was his full-time private nurse back then. Bob is now healthy and still roaming the hood. He really loves Tiong Bahru. Oh, and he has a bustling Facebook page too. He’s famous now and hence, doesn’t come home as often…
One of our cats passed away 3 months ago. She was 14. I’m still dealing with the loss of her. After all, she was a huge part of my life for more than a decade. I have a seep bond with all my cats – so deep it is indescribable. My biggest fear though is trying to cope with their absence when old age catches up with them.
Apart from all this, cats are really therapeutic and have brought me so much joy in my life.
We know you used to live in Portsdown. Why the move to Tiong Bahru?
The move was a practical decision. After several years of renting in Portsdown, it was only wise to get a place of our own.
They’re both very different places and have their own unique charm. Portsdown is like a little sanctuary away from the city. It’s the ideal place for retirement. We’re nestled in nature, and the bohemian vibes are calm and soothing. We used to do night walks with our cats while the neighbors watched on with amusement. They would just walk in a line behind us, sniffing fresh grass. Almost like a scene from The Pied Piper leading a pack.
Tiong Bahru is much more communal and has a bustling aura of energy, yet still laidback enough to keep you grounded.
What’s a typical day like for you?
A typical day for me starts with feeding my 7 cats, making myself a strong cup of soy latte, heading to the wet market for some fresh ingredients, cooking to feed myself, getting some work done for the shop, yoga class, dinner, catching a film on cinemaworld or tv5monde and finally getting some more work done before bed (work sometimes mean instagramming on an excessive level). [Team note: we’re soooo jealous!]
Little black book: where do you go for
Affinity Yoga at Valley Point or Telok Ayer. I’ve signed my life away at this studio so I have to make my every penny worth its while. Yoga Movement and Veritas are great studios too!
b) shopping in SG :
– Como Shambhala for a range of holistic body products
– Remède Spa at St Regis Hotel; I am as much a sucker for their jade stone massage as I am for their stunning interiors. That fully marble-clad steam room…
– Nature’s Glory for fresh organic produce
– AI Eye Fashion at Wheelock place for highly affordable eyewear and a wide range of Raybans
– Supplies & Co. at Raffles Hotel. Their carefully curated range of quality furniture and homeware deserve our full attention.
– The GoDown along Zion Road for new vintage homewares
– The Damn Good Shop for a collection of our childhood memories
c) online shopping:
d) drinks with friends:
– 28 Hong Kong Street. We are addicted to Michael’s amaretto sours!
– Bitters & Love; the bar is opened by a good friend and designed by the husband.
– Naked Finn. Try Ken’s thai ice tea with vodka. It is beyond amazing!
– Ristorante Pietrasanta. Spectacular service, great wines and atmosphere, some of the best Italian food you will ever eat.
– Commune Bistro. Me and dad love their German wheat beer on tap!
– Colbar. Reminisce old memories with beer and fish & chips.
– The Library. I enjoy bringing friends there and teasing them by giving them the really lame passwords…open sesame?
– Orihara Shote, sake heaven.
– Loof for their Singapore sour. A super simple, refreshing local drink of vodka, sour plum syrup, calamansi juice, soda.
Thanks for having us, Bella!
All images taken by Suasti Lye Photography & Design.