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The owner, a retiree in his 70s, has had the property for many years. He leased it out to a preschool when he and his wife relocated to Australia where their daughter was studying at the time.

The couple moved into an apartment when they returned to Singapore, while their daughter had her own matrimonial home. When they became grandparents, the owner and his wife felt that it was time to move back to their detached home so that three generations of the family can live under one roof.

With a growing family, more space was needed, which led to the decision to demolish the old house and rebuild so that the extended family can enjoy communal living while still having their own individual spaces.

Who Lives Here A multi-generation family
Home A detached home at Sunset Heights
Size 8,751 sq ft (land area); 9,192 sq ft (Gross Floor Area)
Interior Designer The Design Abode / Wkl Architects

Engagement with authorities needed

He commissioned The Design Abode for the project, a practice that his daughter, a freelance interior designer, had collaborated with previously when she was working for another firm.

One of the requirements in the homeowner’s brief that had implications on regulatory compliance was the relocation of the entrance driveway and car porch to the rear of the plot so that the main frontage of the corner plot can be maximised for the living room and front garden.

This entailed a fair amount of engagement with the relevant authorities, which was undertaken by The Design Abode’s in-house architectural arm, WKL Architects, before approval was eventually granted.

Two-in-one house

A view from bottom up of the blue sky peeking through in between 2 roofs
A central courtyard in between the two wings of the home provides natural cross-ventilation and also allows visual connection between the two.

The design concept revolves around a two-in-one house. The massing comprises two mirror-image wings – one for the owner and his wife, and the other for their daughter’s family.

“The living quarters are elevated over the communal spaces and are given a more solid form compared to the more porous ground level,” says Ewan Wong, director of The Design Abode.

The two wings are connected by a stair core and central courtyard that also serve to enhance the natural cross-ventilation across the two wings. The basement that houses a multi-purpose room, wine cellar and household shelter is also ventilated via the courtyard.

Split levels

Located on a hilltop, the site topography lends itself very naturally to the creation of split levels, which reinforces the architectural concept of duality.

Front view of both wings of the home, with 2 roofs sloping against each other
The architectural design concept is carried through to the roof form, which resembles the Chinese character that means “enter” and conveys a welcome gesture.

This staggering of the various floors within the two wings complements their programmatic functions and is carried through to the roof form – a pair of mono pitch roofs whose configuration resemble the Chinese character that means “enter” and symbolises a welcome gesture.

View of many plants and the verandah and living room
The dining room enjoys an elevated view over the living room, as well as the verandah and garden beyond.

On the first storey, the car porch, dining room, wet and dry kitchens and other service areas located in one wing are on a higher split level, while the living room and guest room in the other wing, along with the verandah and garden are at a lower level.

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A dry kitchen with a bar counter together with a round dining table with many chairs
The home has interesting tiered levels and the dining room and kitchens are located on a higher level, along with the car porch.

More privacy in living quarters

The living quarters are located one floor up and each wing has its own entrance doorway leading off the central stair core. This allows the two wings to be closed off when privacy is desired.

Within each wing, the homeowner and his wife, and his daughter and her family each have a master bedroom, family lounge and two ancillary rooms such as a study or prayer room.

A man opening windows facing the inside of the home
Windows that open into the central courtyard not only promote natural ventilation, but also allow the occupants from the two wings to maintain visual contact.

Inward-facing bay windows that overlook the central courtyard not only connect the rooms to the outdoors, but also maintain visual interaction across the split levels of the two wings.

A man walking along a shaded verandah
Verandahs around the upper levels provide an effective buffer against the harsh tropical elements.

Perforated brick walls

In response to our tropical climate, verandahs around the periphery of the living quarters on the second storey, spare bedrooms and home office on the attic level provide a buffer against harsh external elements such as the sun and rain.

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A lady walking along perforated brick walls
The various perforated brick walls and aluminium screens on the façade were designed according to the sun angles.

Perforated brick wall
Perforated brick walls are not only interesting to look at, but they also serve practical purposes in terms of sunshading and natural ventilation.

“The perforated brick walls and aluminium screens around the verandahs were designed in relation to the sun angles. They are more porous along the northern façade and less perforated on the eastern and western elevations,” Ewan explains.

A view of wide doorways and windows with big gaps
Internal and external openings enhance natural cross-ventilation throughout the home.
A double bed in front of a wall with tropical print
The living spaces are designed to embrace tropical living.

Tropical design

Tropical design considerations extend to the master bathrooms that are naturally-ventilated and naturally-lit from the skylights, perforated brick walls and louvered windows.

Open-air planters within the master bathrooms bring the greenery in and give the bathrooms a resort feel.

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Trees growing inside the bathroom

Even the master bathrooms enjoy natural light, natural ventilation and greenery.

Red brick walls

To provide a sense of familiarity between new and old, especially since the family has fond memories of the old house, Ewan incorporated elements from the previous home into the new design.

The red brick walls were inspired by the distinctive brick façade from before, along with geometric steel balustrades and oak herringbone flooring. The introduction of precast vent blocks and glass louvered windows from a similar era is a nod to the past and heightens the sense of continuity as the family looks to the future.

Working with a budget

The owner’s budget was adequate but not extravagant. On Ewan’s part, this entailed a strategy that would make it possible to achieve the desired design outcome in a cost – effective manner.

One was through the use of simple, rectilinear forms that are structurally-efficient.

Secondly, it was a knack for using affordable materials in a tasteful and curated manner. “It helped that the nostalgic concept had a bit of a rustic quality, which meant that the finishes need not be polished or opulent,” he points out.

18 Months Construction

The project took about 18 months to complete and the family moved into their new home in 2019.

The Design Abode prides itself on the crafting of honest environments and the creation of authentic experiences and this project exemplifies this ethos.

“The house is unpretentious and designed authentically according to how the owner and his family live and what they value, drawing references from the old family home,” says Ewan.

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