It’s not every day that clients insist that you design them a house with a strong street presence. So when architect Robin Tan, co-founder of Wallflower Architecture + Design was tasked with the job, he let his creativity run wild.
“All clients implicitly don’t want a boring house that looks worse than their neighbours’. However, this client was quite explicit in his request to have something exciting that stands out from the streetscape. His brief immediately gave us the licence to do something wow,” says Mr Tan.
The client, a property developer, had spent over a decade searching for the perfect plot of land, and wanted this to be the family’s forever home. Hence, the desire to make his residence stand out among the other houses in this dense residential estate near Serangoon Gardens.
Indeed, it does. The 10,800 sq ft house – a two-storey building with a basement and roof terrace – is hard to miss, especially since it is also located on an elevated plot, 4m above the street level. Passersby have been known to stop in front of the house to admire its architecture.
While he may have asked for a home with street presence, he also wanted privacy. To achieve this, Mr Tan placed the basement on street level, and raised the upper floors. Standing outside the house, visitors would only be able to see some terraced planters, and two cantilevered wings where the living areas are.
In contrast to the dark slate covered planters, the wings of the house are clad in beige and silver travertine. In addition, horizontal aluminium fins on one of the wings provide sun shading and privacy from the street and the adjacent properties.
Visitors who are lucky enough to go past the gates are in for a visual treat.
The gates open up to a stone-lined, cave-like garage that is designed to fit six cars comfortably. Smack in the middle of the garage is a sky light, which looks up to a frangipani tree.
A skylight isn’t expected in a garage, and Mr Tan explains that this feature brings light and ventilation into the otherwise dark space.
Step indoors and the entrance foyer leads to the basement which holds a walk-in wine cellar and a spacious entertainment-cum-games room.
While the facade of the house is eye-catching, the true wow factor comes as visitors head up to the first floor, where they immediately see the aforementioned frangipani tree, which appears to float in the T-shaped pool.
Since they are on elevated land, visitors also get unobstructed views of the city skyline in the distance. “Visitors are always pleasantly surprised by this dramatic view,” says Mr Tan.
Meanwhile, the living and dining areas are each housed in the separate wings. These common areas are designed with minimal walls and structures, so that regardless of where the family members are, they can always look out onto the 25m lap pool.
On days when the family entertains, the large sliding doors are thrown open, and guests can fully enjoy the seamless indoor and outdoor experience. A pathway wraps around the pool and connects the living and dining areas for easy access.
On the second floor are bedrooms for the client and his wife, their son, and as well as a study. “The family is small and they don’t believe in having more bedrooms than necessary, so there is plenty of space and privacy for them,” says Mr Tan.
And when the family wants an even more dramatic view of their surroundings, they head up to the uppermost floor, which opens up to a roof terrace and garden, and is comfortable enough for alfresco dining.
While Mr Tan was given creative freedom, he didn’t want to create a house that would be an eyesore in the neighbourhood. “It is a thin line between creating a home that stands out versus one that sticks out,” he says.
His choice of beige and silver travertine for the facade blends well with the landscape, while the pointed tips and angling of the two wings make them a standout but also provide the bedrooms with some sun shading and privacy. In addition, the cantilevers form overhangs over the dining and living areas, keeping them shaded and cool.
Designing two wings instead of a singular massive block also makes the bungalow look imposing rather than intimidating.
Most importantly, “since the family plan to live here for many years to come, the architecture has to be such that it can still be appreciated in the future”, says Mr Tan.
This article was originally published in The Business Times.