In Singapore, a house tailor-made for a dance teacher and a pianist who loves Scandinavian design
This terrace house in Singapore has spaces for the family’s artistic pursuits, as well as for interaction between family members and nature.
Despite being sandwiched between neighbours, this terrace house located in the eastern part of Singapore feels spacious and airy due to the clever architecture by Charmaine Wong of Chalk Architects. It prioritises tropical living as well as the family’s artistic pursuits. The owner is a passionate pianist while his wife teaches dance. Their two teenage daughters are also avid dancers.
“We wanted a home where the flow for each level is specific for its purpose. More importantly, the spaces should not be segregated but enjoyed by the entire family,” said the owner. To this end, Wong focused on enhancing visual porosity and the seamless flow of space both horizontally and vertically through the house to encourage chanced encounters and connectivity. A lot of thought also went into ensuring the house is flushed with light.
As guests enter the car porch, there is a floor pattern of flamed granite slabs and pebbles that create a pleasant welcome. A platform of planters accompanies the journey up a short flight of steps to the main door. “This softens the edges of the staircase, which was needed as the house was raised to meet the minimum platform level for flood prevention,” shared Wong.
The home features an unusual layout. Instead of the living room, the first space encountered is a multipurpose area with a piano at one end and a full-height mirror at the other. This is where the owner tinkers at his piano daily, and where his wife and daughters practice dance. “The girls use the space for technique work with the portable barre and dance mat. My wife uses it for exercise and her conditioning routine as well,” said the owner.
A courtyard separates this space from a guestroom at the back. Wong shared that the couple intends to live here until they retire, with the guestroom eventually becoming their bedroom in their golden years. Thus, the courtyard is important in enlivening the atmosphere on the first storey. Glass slide-fold doors between the indoor and outdoor spaces ensure a constant view of greenery.
“The guestroom and bathroom’s transparency allows visual connection with the landscaped courtyard, enlarging the perception of space and crafting a private internal green enclave that can be enjoyed from many angles while the user is at rest or showering,” Wong elaborated. Retractable blinds take care of modesty when one is using the bathroom.
This courtyard connects the entire house in section. A skylight at the roof makes for an efficacious air well and light well. It separates the living and study on the second storey, and the daughters’ shared bedroom and the master bedroom at the attic where the owner enjoys the view of the sky or a feature wall at the courtyard when soaking in the bathtub.
While the first floor is for guests and for the family to indulge in their passions, the second storey lets them gather to lounge, study, dine or play. “We wanted the living room to be on the second storey to make better use of the terrace on top of the car porch roof. Even when we are not using the terrace, it visually adds to the living area’s ambience,” said the owner.
In many homes where the living room is located on the first storey, the car porch roof cuts off much light. Elevating the living room removes this problem. “We like that it is always bright and breezy, which makes it inviting. It feels like we are in a resort that we get to stay in forever! Sometimes in the evenings, we would lie on the terrace and watch the clouds float by,” enthused the owner.
The family also enjoys how the living room segues into the kitchen, where they congregate to cook or dine around the kitchen island. “There is a herb garden and lemon tree on the terrace, making it convenient to pluck a lemon and make lemon water on a hot day, or cut some basil leaves to cook up a spicy Thai basil pork dish for lunch,” shared the husband.
The master bedroom at the attic enjoys utmost privacy while letting the couple bask in the delights of the outdoors. This is thanks to a planter with a wall of Murraya Paniculata that functions like a green curtain, as well as the step up of the terrace into a raised platform where the wife enjoys yoga sessions. The transparent glass doors to the terrace are often kept open through the day to invite the sunrays and wind in.
Aside from the first storey bathroom, the other bathrooms are also privy to outdoor views. “The children shower with the clouds, rain and sun coming in through a glass skylight in the ceilings. In the master bathroom, the freestanding bathtub is screened at body height with blinds integrated within a double-glazed window unit, where a glass panel frames the sky and shrubs in the planter,” highlighted Wong.
The house is also sustainable. Wong points out a myriad features that add to this, including the high sloping ceiling at the second storey that creates a wind tunnel effect, channelling the breeze through large glass fenestrations, as well as rotatable aerofoil fins on the facades. The owners rarely switch on the air-conditioner as there is sufficient wind.
During the day, they can reduce reliance on artificial lighting as the courtyard, skylights and sliding glass doors flood the home with natural light. Additionally, an electric isolator is provided at the car porch in preparation for EV cars while the strategic location of openings ensure that the plants in the courtyards are well watered by rain to conserve water.
The white walls and use of light-coloured wood, such as oak veneer ceilings on the second storey and the engineered oak flooring at the attic, are the perfect foil for the owner’s collection of Scandinavian furniture and lighting. Among them are CH25 Wishbone dining chairs and twin vintage GE290 armchairs in the living room, both designed by legendary Danish designer Hans J Wegner. PH24 mini lamps from Louis Poulsen are centrepieces at the dining area while a Caravaggio P1 lamp from Fritz Hansen illuminates the master bathroom. In the study, the String modular shelving system affords adaptability.
“Scandinavian furniture always puts functionality as its intent. Though simple, you can clearly see the design intent. Among more flamboyant designs, they stand out with their quiet, understated beauty. And the simplicity is deceiving – more often than not, you’ll be surprised at the quality when you actually experience it. That’s something that replicas cannot duplicate,” said the owner, who eschews copies for authentic pieces.
It is clear that every aspect of the house is well used and works for everyone in the family. “My daughters enjoy the spaciousness as we had moved from a small apartment. Having a space to dance and inviting their friends over to practice together is awesome,” shared the owner. Their friends can also use the guestroom during sleepovers.
The master bedroom’s placement across the courtyard from the daughters’ bedroom also proved to be a good idea, not just during the day when the family members can see one another. “It’s nice to hear the girls’ chit-chat before bedtime, which fosters their bond even more,” said the husband satisfyingly.