The multigenerational home of a Singapore doctor and his seven-member family
For the home of a semi-retired paediatrician and his extended brood, RT+Q Architects’ TK Quek designed the 21,000-sq-ft residence as a tropical retreat with three different gardens and a multitude of restful spaces.
Dr Loh Hung Soo’s favourite time of the day is in the morning when he wakes very early to exercise in a tranquil Japanese garden and watch koi glide gracefully through the pond.
All this is in the comfort of his home, a hilltop house situated amid lush gardens, where he lives with his wife and their eldest daughter’s family of five.
The semi-retired paediatrician bought the 21,000 sq ft property in the 1990s. But it was only after the tenants had vacated the place in 2016 did he approach his friend TK Quek of RT+Q Architects to design a new family home out of it.
Quek, who had met Dr Loh while on holiday in Vietnam and had become good friends, chuckled as he said: “If a client comes to you to do a house, it's very important. But if a friend comes and asks you to do his house, it’s even more important and [there’s] more pressure for you to do well and not disappoint, because you must continue your friendship.”
He certainly didn’t disappoint, and the close friendship between the men evidently aided in creating a dream oasis in the tropics for the Lohs.
Quek worked closely with Dr Loh’s son-in-law, Leonard Ng, a renowned landscape designer, to design a house that is nestled in lush greenery.
The house has three gardens, each differentiated by unique plant compositions. The highlight is the Japanese garden, which is made up of a combination of local and tropical plants associated with Japanese landscape design.
Quek said: “The landscape view outside is very much as though the landscape was here for the last 25 years. It’s very natural. The species of plants vary from one another. Leonard did a landscape that is a garden free of any kind of specific species. It is very beautiful to walk around here.”
The house’s greenery regularly attracts butterflies, dragonflies and birds. Dr Loh quipped: “Every morning, we hear a lot of birds that wake us up. In fact, sometimes the frogs sing me to sleep when it's raining!”
The landscape is complemented by thoughtful features such as a shaded verandah and bodies of water that cool the environment around the house. In between the three residential blocks are linkways, which form restful, artistic spaces decorated by artworks and well-loved furniture. Screens around the house shield the structure from the harsh tropical climate while casting beautiful intricate shadows as sunlight gets filtered at different angles throughout the day.
The design-loving family has an eclectic collection of antique lamps and beds. On display in the second-floor entertainment room are antique porcelain pieces dating back to 1752 and 1822, which was salvaged from a Dutch ship that had sunk in the Pacific Ocean. Dr Loh shared: “There were two sets of this porcelain. One was kept by the Sultan of Brunei and we got the other set.”
Privacy and communal areas are equally important to the family, so there are separate wings for Dr Loh and his wife as well as for his daughter’s family respectively. The family would come together during mealtimes and if anyone had friends over, it wouldn’t affect the others.
A new bedroom was recently added to the top of Dr Loh’s wing for his grandson. The room was built as an extension of the existing architecture and outdoor landscaping, such that it would be filled with natural light.
Dr Loh said: “Being a paediatrician, your lifestyle can be quite hectic. When I come back here, the greenery and my grandchildren make us more relaxed and happier. It is a happy house because of the closeness of the family and also a very relaxing atmosphere.”
Adapted from the series Remarkable Living (Season 4). Watch full episodes on CNA, every Sunday at 8.30pm.