The home of Astrie Sunindar-Ratner is every bit as charming and impeccable as one would expect of someone who champions the refinement of qualities little seen but deeply felt. Wide double doors open to an entryway lined with the etiquette consultant’s collection of straw hats picked up from her travels around the world. The foyer leads to a spacious, open-concept living area with floor-to-ceiling windows that run the entire length of the room, flooding the space with light and offering up stunning views of Orchard Road from 23 floors above ground. Off to one end of the living area is a cosily tucked-away family corner and a suite of bedrooms; to the other, the kitchen, the dining area and another two of the house’s six bedrooms.
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“I fell in love with this place because of the space and layout,” shares the 41-year-old. “Our previous apartment had two levels, which was nice, but I wanted a one-level. Here, I can always see the kids or hear them. In our old place, I was always wondering or worrying about them. And with windows like these, the views and the light are just amazing.” With so much uninterrupted space in the centre of the house, she has carved it up into sections—a hulking table piled with flowers and books divides the room into a sitting area with big cream couches and soft grey armchairs, and a cocktail corner with a wooden bar cabinet, low‐slung armchairs and a brass‐and‐marble cocktail table.
“When I host,” says Sunindar‐Ratner, “it’s usually afternoon tea, so we’ll have a casual set‐up in the sitting area. The bar is where we have aperitivos and then we move to the dining area, where I get to do my table settings. I love creating beautiful tablescapes.” The dining area is elevated, anchored by an ornate chandelier, and surrounded by art that both harmonises with and contrasts against her flower‐filled table settings. On the wall above the sideboard, she has hung a series of lush paintings of plants and fruits; on one side of the kitchen door is a triptych of an old map of Paris and on the other, a giant drawing of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan. “Paris is my mother’s favourite city and Milan was my late father’s, so I’ve put them side by side,” she explains. “The way I decorate, I like to have things with meaning all around the house.”
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It’s no surprise then that in a house filled with art, her favourites are the ones done by her children. She has hung a small selection in one of her best‐loved corners in the house: A small nook off the dining area with a grand view over the city, where she sits in the mornings to plan out her day’s activities. But the bulk of the children’s work is in the family area, a cosy space anchored by a plush, creamy sectional, and decorated by a grid of black‐and‐white family portraits on one wall and a burst of the children’s paintings on the other. “This is where we spend the most time as a unit,” she reveals. “There’s a little library, so we sit and read here before the kids go to bed. We have a projector, so we watch movies here as well; my youngest son would sit in his little tepee on movie nights. The art wall is an ongoing project—we’re constantly adding more pieces. It’s so interesting when we look back at them over the years.”
Just like how the children’s work takes pride of place, their priorities guide Sunindar‐Ratner’s approach to her interior design. “With three children, comfort definitely comes first,” she says. “Everything in this house has to be comfortable for the children.” But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t carefully consider the aesthetics as well. “It also has to be chic,” she adds, “and chic, to me, is something that looks effortless—it’s that beautiful look you get when you don’t look like you’ve tried too hard.”
She claims that her approach to both interiors and fashion are one and the same: “When it comes to fashion, it’s about being effortless as well. That comes from knowing what looks good on you and feeling good in it, whatever it is. It could be a simple white t-shirt. Some people look absolutely amazing and chic in just a white tee, like Victoria Beckham—it’s in the way she carries herself.” Today, Sunindar-Ratner is a huge fan of Maria Grazia Chiuri’s Dior. “I love it because it’s so feminine,” she says. “Galliano was, at times, a bit over the top for me. But now, I know I can walk into Dior and find something beautiful because everything is just so dreamy, so delicate.” She lets on that she has been collecting the brand’s Bar jackets recently: “I want one in every single colour. It’s just such a timeless investment piece—something I can imagine passing down to my daughter.”
Her love for Dior extends beyond fashion. “I also have this beautiful jewellery cabinet by Dior that I love so much,” she shares. “It’s so rare, they don’t even have it here—I had it shipped over from Paris.” That’s another thing she will be passing down to her daughter (together with the precious pieces inside), along with her collection of Hermès bags, some of which were passed to her by her own mother. “I actually like my mum’s old bags much more than the ones I recently got,” she states. “The quality is just different and I love that very vintage look—I think it’s so chic and so French.”
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Her mother might have kick-started her passion for fashion from a young age, but Sunindar-Ratner took that ardour further when she studied fashion design at the Parsons School of Design in New York. Back then, she was all about the American greats: “When I was studying design, I really admired designers like Ralph Lauren, Oscar de la Renta and Carolina Herrera. They’re very traditional designers, but they create really beautiful basics and staples that last forever. I have a Ralph Lauren sweater that I’ve had since I was 14 and I still wear it today. Carolina Herrera’s white shirts are a must-have and Oscar de la Renta’s ball gowns are just a dream.”
As much as she loves fashion, it was her other field of study that fuels much of what she does today. “I did my undergraduate in child psychology because I really wanted to pursue that. But I think I’m far too emotional,” she admits. “I’ll probably cry in all my sessions, which wouldn’t be good for the children.” And so, she found another way to work with children: By cultivating good manners in them. “Etiquette has been a lifelong passion. I went to boarding school in Switzerland, where it was part of the curriculum, but it was mostly my parents, especially my late father, who really instilled in me the importance of good manners,” she discloses. “I didn’t quite get it then, but it has helped me in everything I do—my life, my career, my journey.”
She brings up table manners as an example of how something that people sometimes take for granted can actually be of utmost importance. “Some people don’t take table manners seriously, but if you walk into a restaurant and you feel good, it makes a difference,” she asserts. “I remember my first job interview; I was so nervous about sitting down to lunch with my potential boss, but I felt confident because I knew how to eat properly and I think that extra confidence helped me get the job.”
Beyond the boost of confidence that comes from knowing how to behave in social situations, Sunindar-Ratner is passionate about etiquette because she believes that good manners is the basis of a good human being. “More than anything else, etiquette,” she says, “is about being thoughtful, kind and polite. It’s about how you make other people feel and I love the fact that you’re always trying to think of the other person— it’s not just about you. Unfortunately, most children these days are being taught to think only of themselves. I feel like people are starting to forget the importance of good manners; they don’t really teach that anymore. Whereas I think it should be the first and most important thing that parents should teach their children—good etiquette will take them far in life. You can be the most successful person in the world, but if you don’t have manners, it’s just so off-putting.” Sunindar-Ratner clearly believes it’s the heart of things that matter the most and her home is beautiful proof of that.
Photographed by Phyllicia Wang
Styled by Daphne Tso
Makeup and hair: Aung Apichai using Tom Ford Beauty and Kevin.Murphy
Makeup artist and hairstylist’s assistant: Toh Yishien
- A Fashionable Life