The GCB on Swettenham Road was built more than 20 years ago (Credit: Albert Chua/ The Edge Singapore)
Melina Yong, an accomplished cook, and her husband, retired heart surgeon turned wine connoisseur Dr N K Yong, have made entertaining an art form. One could say they are veterans, as they have been doing this for more than three decades.
The couple is famous for their home parties, whose guests include Michelin-starred chefs and wine enthusiasts, as well as for hosting glitzy charity events at luxury hotels that consist of a gala dinner and wine auction and tasting over a weekend. The events are usually held in January to coincide with Dr Yong’s milestone birthdays — the most recent was his 90th in 2017.
The couple’s home for the past 21 years has been a double-storey Good Class Bungalow (GCB) that occupies a 16,000 sq ft freehold site on Swettenham Road. Today, the house is up for sale at $25.5 million. The couple purchased the property at the beginning of the Asian financial crisis in August 1997. Prior to that, they were living in a walk-up apartment located on Draycott Drive, just off Ardmore Park, that was sold en bloc. “I believe it was the last en bloc sale just before the Asian financial crisis struck,” recounts Melina.
When they were house-hunting at the time, they wanted a place in the vicinity of the Botanic Gardens, as Dr Yong was still in private practice at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre and subsequently, Gleneagles Medical Centre. He retired in 2004. Dr Yong performed the first hole-in-heart surgery in Singapore in 1965.
The long driveway can accommodate 10 cars (Credit: Albert Chua/ The Edge Singapore)
A home designed for entertaining
The GCB on Swettenham Road has a driveway that is wide enough for two cars to pass through, and long enough to park 10 cars. The previous owners had built the house but never lived in it. Instead, they lived next door and only used the garage and driveway of the house to park their son’s supercars. They then decided to put the house up for sale. “They thought it would be difficult to sell the house because of the long driveway, but we liked it precisely because of that,” says Melina. “A wide driveway that allows two cars to come in and out easily, with parking for 10 cars, was ideal for us because we entertain at home a lot.”
After purchasing the GCB on Swettenham Road, the Yongs spent $1 million converting the 50m Olympic-sized swimming pool into a temperature-controlled wine cellar that contains more than 10,000 bottles of wine today. Even that is not large enough for their extensive wine collection, with more being stored in commercial wine storage facilities.
The house was also extended to accommodate a conservatory, a bigger dining room and a second kitchen as well as a barbecue area in the garden. The open space outside the conservatory is ideal for al fresco dining. “I have friends from overseas and they like to sit out there to have their breakfast in the morning or to have drinks in the evening,” says Melina.
The dining room is spacious enough to accommodate a dining table that can seat 20.
The wine cellar was once a swimming pool and contains more than 10,000 bottles of wine today (Credit: Albert Chua/ The Edge Singapore)
Melina’s paintings adorn the walls of the house. One of them is a painting of the driveway and exterior of the house.
The painting was done 12 years ago and printed on the cover of invitation cards. “At that time, we were organising a charity event for my husband’s 80th birthday,” says Melina. “All our friends were coming for the event, many of them from overseas, and we wanted to give them something they would recognise right away as they entered the driveway.”
After 21 years, the house is in need of a renovation. Melina had considered installing a home lift. “We’re getting on in years, and my husband is now using a walking aid,” she says. “I thought it was quite a challenge for him to go up and down the stairs every day, and when we entertain, he has to walk up the stairs from the living room to the dining area, and then down again.”
After consulting an architect friend about installing a lift, it dawned on Melina that they would have to move out of the house during the renovation. “Moving once is bad enough, but moving twice — that is going to be a challenge,” she says. “I was advised by my family members that it is better to just move once.”
That led to the decision to look for a new and smaller house more suited for their needs today.
The Yongs have decided to put the house on the market for sale with Jeffrey Sim, associate executive director of OrangeTee & Tie, a specialist in marketing luxury GCBs. Sim is the exclusive agent.
From the living room, steps lead up to the dining room and the two kitchens beyond (Credit: Albert Chua/ The Edge Singapore)
“The house sits on a rectangular-shaped, freehold site of 16,000 sq ft,” says Sim. The existing building has a built-up area of 6,000 sq ft. Those who want a bigger house can tear down the building and build a new home of 10,000 to 12,000 sq ft, he adds.
The $25.5 million price tag for the GCB translates into a land rate of $1,594 psf.
The Peirce Road-Swettenham Road-Ridout Road enclave, located off Holland Road, is one of the most prestigious GCB estates. Neighbours on Swettenham Road include property tycoon Simon Cheong of SC Global Developments, well-known plastic surgeon Woffles Wu and former deputy prime minister Wong Kan Seng, now chairman of Ascendas-Singbridge.
George Quek, founder and chairman of BreadTalk Group, lives on Ridout Road. Other residents in the Swettenham Road neighbourhood include Patrick Ngiam, CEO of listed IPC Corp, which is involved in property development and investments; as well as the Tan family of logistics and property company Cogent Holdings, who paid $91.7 million for a house on Ridout Road in 2015.
The most recent transaction on Swettenham Road was the sale of the house of Jean Yip, founder of the eponymous chain of hair and beauty salons. The GCB, which sits on a land area of 15,145 sq ft, fetched $23.8 million ($1,571 psf) in May last year, according to a caveat lodged with URA Realis.
The living room and conservatory of the GCB (Credit: Albert Chua/ The Edge Singapore)
The GCB adjacent to the Yongs’ home occupies a land area of 15,199 sq ft; it was sold for $19.28 million ($1,268 psf) in November 2017.
Another GCB in the Swettenham Road area is also on the market for sale. However, it sits on a larger site of 18,000 sq ft and has a higher price tag of $31 million.
Sim says the Yongs’ GCB is “a great plot”. The Swettenham Road area is a sought-after location for GCB house hunters and the property is attractively priced, he adds.
Having lived in the house for more than two decades, Melina feels it is time to move on. “We cherish the old, of course, even as we look forward to something new,” she says. “I’m sure the new owners will want to make extensive changes to the house to suit their needs, just like what we did when we first bought the house 21 years ago.”
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