Expat couple Anjali and Vickram Mangalgiri first moved to Singapore in 2012 and started looking for a permanent home on the island in 2015. A graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Anjali had practised architecture and interior design in New York City before establishing her own firm, Grounded, in Goa, India, in 2009.

So, of course, she was looking for something special. “I could not imagine living in a gated community and was on the lookout for something unique with significant architectural character and cultural context,” she shares.

She went house hunting in Geylang and Joo Chiat shophouses before stumbling on a historic black-and-white walk-up apartment in Monk’s Hill Road in Newton. The four-storey, 100-year-old building of flats are managed and leased out by Singapore Land Authority (SLA) to a lucky few through an auction process.


HOME: 100-year-old walk-up apartment in Newton
SIZE: 2,500 sq ft
WHO LIVES HERE: An expat couple in their 40s, their two young daughters, and a helper

The couple won the bid for a second-floor unit and has been living in the property since. Today, the family has welcomed two daughters aged five and 18 months. And the apartment’s interior has been renovated into a bright and airy abode that is the epitome of barefoot luxury.

The home renovation was done in three phases over seven years; the final phase was completed in 2018 and cost around $50,000.

“I wanted a space that is comfortable, functional and easy to maintain,” says Anjali of the design brief that she gave to herself.

“Our renovated apartment had to have ample room for our kids to play, have a sense of connection throughout the house, and serve as a mirror of our lives and times within it,” says Anjali.

Anjali believes that simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. The focus of her architectural practice always involves maximising daylight and fresh air into spaces.

“I am constantly designing indoor-outdoor spaces that are rich in detail and texture. In this historic apartment, I found a place similar to my designs – a place rooted in its context and closely connected to nature,” she explains.

The existing apartment features a lofty 3.6m ceiling with windows on two or three sides of each room. “The high ceilings and multiple shaded windows keep the house cool and eliminate any need for air conditioning for most of the year,” she says.

The renovated apartment retains most of its original structure, except the walls between the kitchen and the dining area, which were removed to improve the usability of the space.

“The open plan suits the needs of my young family while the raw, loft-like character reminds me of my time spent in NYC,” shares Anjali.

Paying homage to the heritage building facade, Anjali used white surfaces with matte black trimmings throughout the interior. Then she injected warmth and personality with natural materials like wood, jute, paper and ceramic.

A large island with a wood counter connects the open kitchen with the living area.

A suar wood dining table from Indonesia and a rice paper lamp from Anjali’s favourite designer in Goa lend warmth to the dining area.

Linen curtains dancing in the breeze add a sense of movement to the space.

Here and there are collectibles accumulated from around the world. An antique Indian arched door, a reclaimed wood mirror, hand-embroidered Uzbekistan textile, Japanese noren, Chinese thrift store lights, and ceramic lamps from Vietnam are artfully displayed throughout the home.

“While my home is minimal, I also like to collect beautiful things. I have displayed these collected objects throughout my house, from the foyer to balcony and even the bathroom,” shares Anjali.

“They personalise my space as each object carries memory and a story. They become wonderful conversation starters while entertaining.”

One of Anjali’s favourite features of the home is the ribbon balconies that wrap around each room of the house. The family uses the areas for gardening and as way to connect the home with the surrounding trees.

The master bedroom features a wealth of textures and floral motifs that pay homage to the greenery outdoors.   

A full-height mirror doubles the spatial perception.

A mix of vintage and handmade furnishings lend warmth to the space.

Black trimming and graphic rug add visual interests to this all-white bathroom.

All in all, the home is a perfect marriage of the rustic and historic with modern comforts, contemporary forms and a progressive notion of luxury. It is also an excellent example of how to make an (almost) all-white interior exciting.

“Sometimes homes can be so clean and so perfect that one is afraid to live freely within the space. They are elegant from a distance but may not be particularly warm or inviting,” Anjali observes. “

I have consciously designed simple yet cosy spaces. I want my home and the spaces I design to create relaxing environments and embody earthy, barefoot luxury.”

photography Carli Teteris, courtesy of Grounded

This article was originally published on Home&Decor.