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Jade Seah On Shophouse Life – Biggest Pros, Cons & Advice For Others Searching For Heritage Homes

31 October 2022 | BY

We spoke to Jade Seah to gather her thoughts on the biggest perks and pain points on living in one of these heritage homes.

Jade Seah On Shophouse Life - Biggest Pros, Cons & Advice For Others Searching For Heritage Homes

Shophouses – if you’ve never lived in one, chances are you wish you did. The heritage homes found in estates like Joo Chiat and Balestier are relatively spacious, fairly hard to come by, and full of character. 

We spoke to local host and actress Jade Seah on shophouse life, to gather her thoughts on the biggest perks and pain points on living in one of these heritage homes 8 years in. Plus, we sought some advice for those looking to stay in one of their own, so that you too may one day live out your shophouse dreams. 

Jade’s pros of shophouse life

Heritage homes with “kampong” vibes

Jade Seah’s full home tour.

Speaking to Jade, one thing that was undeniable was her deep love for shophouse life. Why else would she still be living there close to a decade later? The pros, she says, are abundant, and are both physical and environmental.

Jade Seah Shophouse HomeImage credit: @jadeseah

Physical pros refer to plus points as far as the design and structure of the house are concerned – the most obvious one being that it is, well, a heritage home. Because of their rich history, every shophouse is unique. Living in one is like living in Singapore of yesteryear; for history buffs, this can be incredibly enticing.

Living in a shophouse also comes with most of the perks of living on a landed property – in particular, having only a handful of neighbours means increased privacy, along with a “kampong” atmosphere of sorts.

Jade values the sense of community gained from living in a shophouse; she’s so friendly with her neighbours that she is even looking to throw an open-door block party with her next door neighbour soon. 

Spacious floor area and high ceilings

Structurally speaking, the spacious floor area meant that there was plenty of room for decorative freedom. For Jade, this meant filling her home with restored pieces from all over the world. 

Jade Seah Shophouse HomeImage adapted from: Jade Seah’s House Tour

There’s the vintage drink trolley from Brooklyn, New York, the rocking chair from eBay, and the armchair left behind by the previous homeowners, which she kept and reupholstered. 

A rare but highly sought after home feature, high ceilings are another perk that come with living in a shophouse – they not only open up the space and allow plenty of natural light in, but also leave tons of room for taller furniture and lights. Jade took full advantage of this, spending ages sourcing for the perfect statement piece. She eventually landed on star-shaped pendant lights.

Jade Seah Shophouse Home Star Pendant LightsStar-shaped pendant lights.
Image adapted from: Jade Seah’s House Tour

The high ceilings also meant that she was able to convert part of the home into a loft – adding an upstairs to what was originally a single-floored home.

Today, she uses this space as her bedroom.

Jade’s cons of shophouse life

No central management body

While Jade loves her home, she does admit that the shophouse life isn’t all sunshine and roses. The biggest con, she says, is the fact that unlike HDBs and condos, which are managed by a central body like the HDB or MCST, shophouse owners are largely on their own when it comes to maintenance, servicing, and repairs. 

This means that things like leaky ceilings, burst water pipes, and cracks in the walls need to be handled by the homeowner – the breakdowns mentioned here are not random examples, but rather real issues that Jade has had to handle on her own. 

And if you think you’ll be lucky enough to have your shophouse be problem-free, think again. These defects are all part of age-related wear-and-tear, and are especially common in shophouse units as they tend to be older. This is an unwelcome reality for some, especially those who prefer a more hands-off arrangement, where maintenance is handled by the management. 

No elevators or designated parking

Much like a walk-up apartment, shophouses don’t come with elevators. This may come as a shock to some, but well, they just didn’t have them back in the day. Often overlooked, elevators are a comfort that most of us take for granted. Going without means decreased accessibility, and a harder time moving bulky items in and out of the house. It’s good exercise though. 

For those who drive, living in a shophouse also means forgoing the convenience of designated parking. Much like the name suggests, shophouses were originally built as shop-houses. Just as the bottom floor shops were once open to the public, so were the roads, and they still are today. This means that the streets are public access, and parking spaces are limited and first-come-first-serve.

Jade Seah View from Shophouse HomeImage credit: @jadeseah

For Jade, though, she doesn’t mind, as she says the perks of shophouse life far outweigh the pain points. She shared that “it takes a certain demographic of people to want to stay in a place like this”, referring to those who don’t mind the inconvenience. Luckily for her, she’s one of those people. 

Advice for those looking to live in shophouses

If you’re still unshaken in your desire to one day live in a shophouse after reading all this, here’s what Jade wants you to know. More than anything, know that living in a shophouse is a labour of love – it’s not for the non-committal, and will be a less than pleasant experience if you’re not prepared to deal with the inconveniences that are an inevitable part of shophouse life.

Jade says that if there’s one thing she wishes she knew before moving into her home, it would be the sheer amount of work that would need to be done. Being prepared to rewire circuits and repipe old, circa 1960 water pipes “would have been nice”, but still, she says that even if she had gone into it knowing all the work involved, it wouldn’t have changed her decision to move in.

It’s this very love for her home that is the reason why she doesn’t see herself selling the place, at least for the foreseeable future. While she has thrown around the idea of moving elsewhere for a change of scenery with her husband Terrence, doing so would just be “to try”, and not a permanent move. 

More for budding homeowners:

If you think your home is worthy of a feature, drop us an email at editorial@uchify.com.
Cover image adapted from : @jadeseah, @jadeseah

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