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Inside The HDB Maisonette Of A Singapore Doll Maker: A Fascinating Gallery of Vintage Curiosities

3 January 2024 | BY

With handcrafted dolls and antiques tucked into every corner, this Singapore dollmaker’s home is a fascinating gallery of vintage curiosities.

Inside The HDB Maisonette Of A Singapore Doll Maker: A Fascinating Gallery of Vintage Curiosities

A labyrinth of handcrafted dolls, antiques, and vintage collectibles, this HDB maisonette is an eclectic tapestry that piques whimsical wonder at every turn. Equipped with a dedicated doll-crafting corner and adorned with an extensive book collection and quirky picture frame walls, this Singapore doll maker’s home (@umami_baby) is a fascinating gallery of vintage curiosities that we can’t wait to explore.

A self-designed whimsical vintage HDB maisonette

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As an author, corporate editor, and full-time mum, Janice juggles her responsibilities from the comfort of her 4-room HDB maisonette. Designed without a specific aesthetic in mind, the maisonette’s whimsical vintage theme evolved organically over time.
“With 3 kids and working from home, the design essentially revolves around art we love, adapting to accommodate kid-centric spaces,” Janice explained, underscoring the importance of practicality. Her natural penchant for collecting unconventional art played a pivotal role in shaping the home’s design, resulting in an array of curiosities and oddities displayed throughout the maisonette.

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Since her family does not plan to live in their maisonette forever, Janice and her husband allocated only $23K to enhance the kitchen and bathroom areas. “Our renovations were minimal, and we did a lot of it ourselves. But the art and collectibles that decorate our home are, to us, priceless,” she highlighted their emphasis on decor and artwork rather than major structural renovations.

A home studio for doll crafting

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After becoming a stay-at-home mom with the birth of her first child, Janice sought a passion project to fill her free time. While occasionally engaging in writing and editing, she wanted to tap into her lifelong love for crafting, and began to sew children’s toys.
Subsequently, inspired by the memory of a doll she regularly chanced upon during her previous office job, Janice decided to teach herself how to carve – kickstarting a journey of creating one-of-a-kind dolls, which eventually evolved into her business, Umami Baby Dolls.


Amongst all the dolls in her home, only five are Janice’s own handmade Umami Baby dolls. “All the dolls I make are for sale, but people are sometimes unable to complete their instalment payments – and by then, the dolls have been with me long enough for me to develop an attachment,” she shared, revealing the sentiment behind keeping her creations.

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Other times, Janice chooses to take down her shop listing and keep a doll when a particular creation speaks to her and resonates with her. Notable examples include her dolls Clementine and Josie, with the latter doll serving as the muse for the main character in Janice’s book.

DIORAMAClementine the doll, featured in Janice’s story dioramas on Instagram.
Image credit: @umami_baby

While each of Janice’s dolls have their individual personalities and quirks, the doll she uses the most is Clementine. “Clem sort of represents me on social media; my followers on Instagram are very familiar with her because she features in all the story dioramas I create there,” Janice said, describing Clementine as a dark and quirky yet compassionate doll, with peculiar ideas and a curious outlook on life.

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A corner near the balcony is designated as Janice’s Umami Baby workshop, where she keeps her chisels, knives, paints, and other tools within easy reach while she does her doll-making. “Since I prefer working when there’s full light, it had to be in an area that got the most sun,” she explained.

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Adjacent to the crafting space, Janice stores the props for her Umami Baby doll photoshoots, as well as the essential equipment she uses to make her dioramas. The repository is organised into neatly labelled containers of clothes, shoes, and furniture that the doll maker has painstakingly handcrafted over the years.

Collection of vintage toys, dolls and other curiosities


Janice’s natural inclination toward quirky, unusual, and slightly dark artwork directly translated into her home decor. As a creator who believes in supporting small businesses and fellow independent artists, much of Janice’s collection was acquired through connections with artisans and unique vendors.

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Her living room doubles as a haven for vintage and antique treasures; a life-sized HMV Nipper the Dog is displayed alongside an assortment of dolls, toys, bears, and other curiosities dating back to the Victorian era.

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While her current residence accommodates a portion of her possessions, Janice stores the majority of her collection in her childhood home – the display in her maisonette is merely a fraction of what she has amassed over the years.

Inside The HDB Maisonette Of A Singapore Doll Maker: A Fascinating Gallery of Vintage Curiosities

Extensive book collection & picture frame walls

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An extensive collection of books lines the shelves in Janice’s home, coexisting alongside her dolls and vintage treasures.

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“It was a practical decision really, dictated by space,” Janice confesses. Nevertheless, the blend of books, vintage collections, and quirky artwork transforms her home into a captivating gallery that’s worth hours of exploration.

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The picture wall lining the maisonette’s staircase is another testament to Janice’s eclectic taste in art. Preferring originals, Janice explained that most of her artwork was acquired from art galleries or directly from artists themselves.

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Among her framed treasures are several preserved insects and bats, sourced from sanctuaries where the animals had naturally passed away. “They’re beautiful and educational; my kids get to see them up close and develop an ease with being around them,” she elaborated.

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Reflecting on the dark aesthetic of her collection, Janice observed, “While they’re all by different artists, the works I’ve collected over the years have a common thread running through them – so they just display nicely together.”
Though she can’t single out a favourite, Janice is particularly fond of artworks featuring marine animals – with the oarfish painting by Michelle Knowlen and the octopus painting by Emily Martin ranking among her top choices.

Fascinating gallery of vintage curiosities within HDB maisonette home

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An amalgamation of handcrafted dolls, antique treasures, and unconventional artwork, Janice’s maisonette home holds an enigmatic charm. With curiosities tucked into every corner, the residence of this Singapore doll maker is a fascinating gallery of vintage curiosities that comes together to create a quirky and whimsical tableau.

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