On some given nights a caravan of cars deposits its passengers in front of a handsome pre-war townhouse in a very good neighbourhood close to Orchard Road. There they enjoy the relaxed yet warm hospitality that has become the trademark of their hosts Wendy Long and her husband Martin Siah.
With her highly imaginative tablescapes, inventive menus with hidden references, and an eclectic guest list, society hostess Wendy Long has demonstrated her home entertaining prowess.
Of late, such gatherings have taken on a layer of intentionality. Rather than being another excuse to make merry, they are turning into platforms for doing good. Wendy’s friends, many of whom sit on the fundraising committees of various charities, have approached her to co-host fundraisers. She has obliged, of course, and, to date, opened her lovely home to select intimate gatherings, from high teas to trunk shows, that benefitted charitable causes.
“These initiatives pique my interest in fundraising and my love for entertaining—something which I have been doing for years at my homes,” Wendy says. “They allow me to pursue my passion with a meaningful angle – doing good while having fun. It’s the best of both worlds!”
The Ways to Entertain
Wendy’s current home, The Olive House, is one in a row that would have appeared identical to its neighbours had she not insisted on some vital yet subtle changes. At night, especially, her home is bright and welcoming, an olive tree under a dedicated lamppost, which gave it its name, its distinct landmark.
In the front courtyard, under a constellation of Michael Anastassiades lights, is a group of designer furniture – “I’m not one for wicker chairs,” Wendy intimated to me once. By the gate is a metal sculpture by the Dutch artist Helen Vergouwen, and nearby is a very old stone bench that is original to the house.
Working with her friend, the designer Terence Chan, with whom she completed the outfitting of her London townhouse as well as the interior design of her former apartment somewhere in Marina Bay, Wendy has created a home that is perfect for entertaining.
Most of her parties begin with cocktails at the loft, around the bespoke bar and a black billiards table. Dinner is served at the piece de resistance of a dining table for 16, marble-topped and surrounded by chairs from Christian Liaigre, Cassina, and Poltrona Frau. Guests can regroup for postprandial drinks in the mood-lit front living room or the aforementioned courtyard for fresh air.
Connecting for Causes
“I like the idea of connecting people, so an intimate dinner party at my place with guests from various backgrounds and interests, along with representatives of a charity organisation, is one that I like to host.”
Arts-related gatherings, either for the performing or visual arts, appeal to her. She also hopes to organise a health-, wellness-, beauty-related event with a panel of nutritionists, aesthetic doctors, and anti-ageing experts for an exchange of knowledge. And her home will be a perfect venue for them.
“I will not limit the type of events, but rather challenge myself to think out of the box in merging party-planning, home-entertaining, and raising awareness on behalf of meaningful causes.”
Wendy prefers supporting charities that “fly under the radar and will benefit most from extra funds and deeper awareness”. “I believe that we should extend our help to support their causes and works. For instance, she raises funds for Babes, a non-profit that journeys with pregnant teenagers with emotional support and resources to help them make responsible decisions during their pregnancy.
Together with her husband, she recently set up the Martin and Wendy Siah Bursary for the students of Downing College at the University of Cambridge, Martin’s alma mater, to provide financial assistance to students for their schooling and living needs.
Martin, who attended Downing on a scholarship, believes in doing his part to help students who are in the same situation that he was. “We deeply believe in meritocracy,” Wendy says, “and that if anyone has what it takes to succeed, they should not be denied an equal chance because of where they came from. We hope that our contribution can help level the playing field.”
From the Heart
Wendy pays close attention to details, from taking note of dietary restrictions to remembering what repeat guests like, and changing the menu every so often to ensure it feels fresh. “It’s not about serving the most expensive wine and food, but the generosity and sincerity – making the effort and showing appreciation for your guests’ time.”
She carefully curates the menu, playlist, floral design and table setting, poring over tiny details where she can inject nuances and clever references. For a dinner she hosted for the architect Ernesto Bedmar, who designed the main structure of the house for its previous owner, Wendy served Argentinian beef with an Asian inspired sauce—a nod to the architect’s Argentinian roots. For her New Year’s Eve party, to which most of the guests were regular Gunthers and Les Amis patrons, she put Gunther’s baguette and an assortment of her favourite bread and butter on the menu as an homage to their favourite restaurants.
“Ultimately, the art of hosting is about genuinely wanting your guests to have a great time,” Wendy explains, “and when you do it from your heart, your guests will feel your sincerity.”
Art Direction by Leyna Poh; Photography by Zulfadli Rahman, assisted by Tracey Nguyen; Hair and Makeup by Shah Shamsi