A Singapore home with a three-storey ‘loudspeaker’ to call everyone to mealtimes
While looking for a new home, a family of six found the perfect place in this 13,000 sq ft bungalow designed by RT+Q Architects. The house – with an oculus that doubles as both a skylight and a loudspeaker – is now filled with light, music and love.
To build a dream home, many of us would expect to work from a blank slate to craft every architectural and design detail to our preferences. A fortunate few get theirs materialised without a single word. That was how the new owners of Oculus House felt, when they first set foot into the 13,293 sq ft two-storey bungalow that was designed by RT+Q Architects.
The couple, who have four children between the ages of 12 and 21, had been looking for a new family home for several years. The plan was to acquire an old house, tear it down and build a new one from scratch.
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Their hunt serendipitously brought them to the Oculus House last year just as the construction was nearing completion. Immediately, the basement lounge with a four-metre-high vaulted ceiling and adjacent glass-enclosed cellar caught their eye.
The husband, a business owner, said: “Most basements we saw were underground, which isn’t what we wanted. We wanted something brighter and a bit more upslope, so we won’t have water issues when there’s heavy rain.”
Then they saw the central oculus that allowed natural light to penetrate three storeys from the roof skylight to the basement. “It was the most impressive part,” shared the wife, a homemaker, as we stood right below the opening and gazed upwards from the basement. “We don't need an intercom, we can call the kids from here and they can hear us clearly from the top floor!”
At the entrance, the sloping driveway leads to a circular garage-porch with a funnel-shaped pillar and a facade clad in wood slat panels, giving the air of a boutique hotel welcome – another feature that the couple liked.
Double timber doors open into a warmly lit foyer. Flanking the right wall is the eye-catching cellar with more than 500 bottles of wine on display (and plenty of space for another 500 more) and the cosy lounge next to it.
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A PLACE FOR REST AND REPOSE
For the couple, who love wine, whisky and music, the lounge is their favourite wind-down place. They’d enjoy a glass or two at the seating area or hang out with their friends by the bar at the other end of the room where backlit open shelves display their favourite gins and whiskies.
A fair-faced concrete wall outside offers privacy yet functions as an air well for natural light to stream through the lounge. They said: “It’s quite cooling and not dark like the usual basements. We like relaxing here with wine and music at the end of the day.”
There were several construction challenges as the property sits on a slope. The basement had to be excavated to a suitable depth for a high ceiling while the architects found a way for sufficient natural light to reach it. The house also had to be designed in a way that would appeal to a broad spectrum of potential buyers.
RT+Q’s Rene Tan, who co-founded the company with TK Quek in 2003, said: “We wanted to keep the architecture free from any notions of ‘style’. We thought we’d reduce the architecture to a non-stylistic frame and enclosure and optimise the land rather than maximise it.”
The result is a home with six ensuite bedrooms, two study rooms, an entertainment room, and living and dining areas that reflects RT+Q’s sensitive blending of practical form and nature, with whimsical oculus elements inviting light and sparking discovery.
The layout was deliberately kept open with floor-to-ceiling glass sliding doors and windows to bring in views of the lush surrounding greenery and aid natural ventilation. Timber screens filter sunlight and provide privacy. Clerestory windows brighten up the dining room and illuminate the house like a jewel box in the night when the interior lights are switched on. The windows also “lift” the second-floor block, making the overall building look lighter and as if it were floating.
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LIGHTNESS OF BEING
Architectural designer Lee Dongsuk, who also worked on the project, added: “We used mostly aluminium and timber to give the house a modern, tropical feel. We avoided harsh-looking or dark materials and paint, choosing light greys, ivory and timber tones instead.”
Instead of an angular pitched roof, a flat, overhanging timber roof edged with an aluminium trellis lends a gentler, sleeker touch while its deep canopy shields the main structure from the sun and rain. Lee added: "We took advantage of the sloping site to incorporate conserved tembusu trees into the landscaping, creating a private garden for the bedrooms at the back of the house.”
Besides the central oculus, a circular wall opening in the basement breaks the rectangular monotony of the space. On the first floor, curved sliding doors divide the powder room into a wash basin area and a water closet, while discreetly concealing the compact space from the outside. Circular skylights channel sunlight into the master walk-in wardrobe – designed to look like a boutique store displaying the owners’ accessories – and the mosaic-tiled shower area in the master bathroom. Wood slat panels covering the windows shield daytime soaks in the freestanding bathtub while creating an interesting interplay of light and shadows in the bathroom.
The family moved into Oculus House early this year and till today, the couple still marvel at how every part of the house feels made for them from the lounge to the wide, green spaces.
The children and the couple have spacious ensuite bedrooms with high ceilings and overlooking greenery. Well-loved furniture and artwork amassed through the years fittingly found their place in different corners and rooms. The expansive wet kitchen dressed in beige and grey was coincidentally fitted with the wife’s favourite appliance brands, Miele and Fisher & Paykel. In the dry kitchen next to the dining room is a luxurious Sub-Zero refrigerator.
The family enjoys hanging out by the 14m lap pool and the garden – lit up at dusk by an Artemide “O” light – to soak in sunset panoramas and the quietness of the neighbourhood. Summing up their thoughts on their dream home, the owners said: “We are speechless and consider ourselves very blessed.”