A heated pool in the basement of this Singapore home serves as the ‘office’ for its owners
The 11m by 5m pool is where the owners – a dive instructor and his swimming instructor wife – give lessons. Architect Aamer Taher, who got diving lessons from the owner around 30 years ago, tore down the original building and built a new one for this family.
Located at one end of an intersection is a house designed by architect Aamer Taher. From the outside, it does not look out of place in the quiet residential estate it is situated in, but step inside and you’ll be enthralled.
At the basement is a swimming pool measuring 11m by 5m, which serves as the office for the owners – a dive instructor and his swimming instructor wife, who gives classes to babies. The pool is also heated so that the students – especially the babies – are kept warm while having their lessons.
The owner, a former naval and commando diver, runs a successful dive business – he operates two liveaboard diving vessels that take divers out to popular dive spots in the region such as Raja Ampat, Komodo, Sangalaki, Lembeh as well as the Banda and Celebes Seas.
The family used to stay in another house in the same vicinity but they wanted a much bigger pool where they could conduct lessons properly. When the owner acquired the current plot, he looked up Aamer Taher, whom he had taught diving to around 30 years ago when the Singaporean architect was a young practitioner working for a corporate firm.
Taher is now a well-known and respected name and his firm has garnered multiple accolades for its creative designs, such as the house at Siglap Road that has more curves than straight lines and the one at Merryn Road where a spiral staircase hinges outside the building so that the occupants are greeted with a lush greenery view every time they walk up or down.
Every house Taher designs is different – it is always a collaborative effort that addresses the owners’ needs and his design philosophy. “The brief for this house was to incorporate a deep pool and facilities for their classes in the basement,” Taher shared. “That meant that we had to build a new building since the one on site was quite old.”
The house has two elevations that face the road, with the original entrance situated along the higher end. In order for the students to have easy access to the basement pool from the road, Taher moved the main entrance for cars to the front on the lower side of the plot. He then positioned a pedestrian entrance at the original entrance location.
The students now use the new entrance so they can head straight to class without entering the main house, which starts from the first storey. “Cars can also drive in when it rains,” the owner said. “Not many houses have indoor pools like this; it is aligned to the road so it doesn’t get mouldy as fresh air still comes in.”
“When we planned this house, we made sure that our work is not affected by the elements,” the owner continued. He shared that the students and parents appreciate that they can have one-on-one classes here in peace, unlike a rowdy public swimming pool. During the pandemic, the owners could carry on with lessons because they have their own facility and did not have to rely on public pools that were closed.
There is also ample space for classroom briefings, refreshment breaks, as well as two bathrooms for students to change in. “The mums will drop the kids and have coffee while waiting. It’s like a community centre, if you like,” said Taher. “As they used to live just down the road, the owner and his wife are familiar with many of them living around here who send their kids to attend their classes.”
A large wall proudly displays newspaper clippings that laud the career highlights of the couple, while another features dozens of medals, testament to the family’s swimming achievements. The water is also where and how the family bonds. “I taught my wife how to dive, and we started teaching our daughters when they were eight years old,” said the proud father.
Even though the pool is in the basement, it is not dark. In fact, natural light comes in not only through the main entrance, it also streams in via a series of tall windows and skylights cut into the garden above. The light also illuminates the aquamarine fish ornaments made from glass that decorate the wall at the swimming pool. In addition, Taher’s design of floating timber staircase threads attached to a steel framework washes light down three levels.
The upper levels command unblocked views, especially the attic, which looks out to a beautiful landscape of the water catchment areas nearby. There is also a spacious deck that fronts the main communal area.
On the second storey are four bedrooms, a separate walk-in closet and pantry for their four daughters, while the attic level houses the master bedroom, as well as a bedroom for the grandmother. There is greenery and open terraces on every floor for the family to enjoy outdoor living.
As a family who enjoys water activities, the whole household is passionate about embracing the outdoors. “The owner’s love for nature is translated in the materials and plants throughout the house,” Taher said. “The colour and tones of natural wood and stone highlight parts of the house in a congenial way that reminds the client of the world under the sea.”
The use of off-form concrete, which has a raw appearance, complemented by the uneven brown-grey hue of slate bring to mind the seascape of coral and other water plants in the sea. Elsewhere, brown aluminium doors and window frames create a seamless flow between the indoor and outdoor. Slate is not an expensive material as compared to marble or granite but it has that beautiful natural texture and tone that reminds one of nature, Taher said. “Plus, the use of planters, such as in the bathrooms, give a sense of always being outdoors, always with nature.”
This is especially apparent in the master bathroom, where the architect has designed a jacuzzi by the window, enveloped by tall landscaping. Dark grey granite in the bathroom’s floor adds to the natural feel while screens at the window let in light and breeze.
Besides the thoughtful design, there are also other elements incorporated into the house to reduce impact on the environment. For example, the roof is laid almost to the edge with solar panels. “Deep overhanging roofs and ledges give ample shade and protection from the sun and rain,” said Taher. Carefully positioned openings also allow for excellent ventilation, reducing the need for air conditioning. Needless to say, the plants provide a biophilic effect that is not just beneficial for the environment, but also bodes well for the wellness of the family.