Heritage Boutique Shop
HISTORY OF BUILDING, SIGNIFICANCE
Originally built in 1928 as a shop house, this two-storey structure stands as a unique testimony to Peranakan architecture – its almost 90-year old structure and layout still in place. Bebe comprehensively restored it in 2003, adding her own distinctly Peranakan features. Today it bears witness to lifestyle of the Peranakan gentry. The doors, windows, hall partitions and banisters of solid wood construction with hand-carved details, gold-gilding and much more, were all crafted by woodworkers who skilfully employed centuries-old craft skills. The tasteful furnishings and decor blend modern comfort with antique charm. Not surprisingly, this is a popular choice for visitors and is listed as a local heritage landmark.
The quaint charms of Katong lies within the shophouses, rich in history and memories, and Rumah Bebe is dedicated to preserve and showcase the traditional arts. Visitors are welcomed with a remarkable choreography of senses – the aromatic wafts of pineapple tarts baking in the oven, the sounds of ethnic "keronchong" music and the sights of colourful displays of beadwork, embroidery, batik, jewellery, silverware and porcelain, each unfolding stories of its originality and symbolism. Authentically kebaya-costumed staff carry out the daily activities of selling, beading and embroidering, amidst the tailor’s rhythmic sewing.
A quintessential highlight is exploring the diverse forms of beadwork in the quaint surroundings of Rumah Bebe. Beading is the traditional handicraft of the Peranakan women (called nyonya) for centuries but is no longer popular these days. However, it is still possible to see this fascinating domestic craft industry alive and thriving at Rumah Bebe. Take a guided in-house tour to view the artistry of Bebe Seet, the doyenne of Peranakan beadwork in Singapore. Watch how tiny glass beads are crafted into beautiful shoes. If you are inspired by your visit and want to try beading, she has all the materials and instructional book you will need to get started, or you may enrol to join a class to sew your own beaded slippers.
Rumah Bebe is also home to the Peranakan fashion of sarong and kebaya. Bespoke embroidered kebayas are her specialty; she is proud of the skilled embroiderers working with her. Come and find out how to wear a kebaya or try versatile ways of tying a sarong. The second-storey workshop-gallery is packed with beadwork and embroideries to evoke memories of bygone times. Bebe’s master-pieces of beaded shoes and handbags sit alongside antique beaded decorative items and embroideries, providing a natural home to this rare collection, with something to amaze, inspire and inform all ages.
Rest and relax in the cafe nook, which features daily specials made with her original recipes. Enjoy fresh-baked pineapple tarts, kueh and pastries, or take home a batch of curry puffs, baked daily.
Rumah Bebe is a small single-owner enterprise. It is little wonder that she has played host to several prominent figures, which include dignitaries from overseas, film-stars, television and media personalities. She has made her presence felt in a big way, not just in Singapore, but also in other countries, especially in Japan, adding a touch of exotica to the Peranakan heritage, which is itself enjoying a global renewal of interest.
A visit to Rumah Bebe is a journey through time to a period of the Peranakan history.