This house is a half a century old single storey terrace with an attic and is located in a huge residential zone with a plot ratio of 1.4. The occupant is a small nuclear family, consisting of the couple, 2 pre-school kids and a domestic helper. Thus, the decision to retain the main structure is made.
There are 3 main agendas the designer wanted to achieve with this house. First, the retrofitting has to be cost effective. Secondly, as responsible earthlings, it has to be a sustainable design. Last but not least, to create a symbiosis of Art and Design.
The total built-in area is a mere 147 sqm to start with. Original living room measures only 6m by 3.4 m and divided by old masonry walls on both ends and worsen by a low flat ceiling which makes the space incredibly small. The front and rear walls of the living room were demolished. In their places were 2 sets of new full-height timber-framed clear glass pivot panels. This allows good cross ventilation across the length of the house when doors are opened. When closed, it allows the air conditioning unit to work more efficiently as they act as air envelops. Flat ceiling was also removed to expose the huge space under the high pitch roof. High ceiling keeps the habitable space cooler especially when it’s 6 m at its highest. The front yard was a narrow 2.5m corridor which is hard to furnish. A second wall fronting the original living room wall was also demolished to create the new L- shaped Patio. The 2 bedrooms were retained with some modifications. A Doorway was introduced between the 2 Bedrooms to allow direct access to the front kids’ room. The small window in the master bedroom fronting the air well is transformed into a large doorway to allow occupant to enjoy natural air and greenery from the bed day and night.
The interior is characterized by a few major elements. First, the 15m long cement-screed wall with simple line design leads one from the patio visually across the living to the end of the dinning space in an unobscured manner. This replaces the need for expensive wall cladding. The attic space is transformed into a home office with inexpensive raw plywood cladding. The attic window facing kitchen is given the same ply-wood treatment to give one the illusion of a floating “pod”.
At the other end, the patio is characterized by well-aged balau wood trellis which are the old flat ceiling support. The chenghai wood floor boards were also recycled from the pool deck of another house under renovation works. The laminates used for the build-in furniture as well as the laminated floorboards in both bedrooms are also certified eco-friendly recyclable products. Generally, white paint is used for the entire house as it is a lot easier to maintain/ touch-up and can minimize future wastage. Besides, white provides a natural, harmonious contrast against the built-ins and furniture. Only environmentally- friendly organic wall plaster are used in the entire house.
The centre piece of the house is the honey-comb shelve which houses the TV console, display module, air-con fan coil unit, as well as books and display spaces. The grid layout of the shelf has managed to group these typically hard to match objects together in an integrated way. Up to 4 meter high wardrobes and shelves were created to provide vertical storage, compensating for the lack of floor spaces. The kitchen is extremely small and every inch counts. The carpentry wall with integrated stairs handrail is infact a full height shelving system. The space under the stairs houses the water heater tanks and pull-out cabinet system which expand the kitchen storage capability. The tapered design of the kitchen cabinet was not just a stylistic approach but a deliberate attempt to avoid some of the original cultural elements, like the glass-block windows. The rear door and the 2 bathroom doors were replaced with marine-plywood Balinese-styled doors. This type of plywood is inexpensive, highly resistant to water and aged gracefully with nice patina that give one no excuse to replace them, saving future resources.
Recycled and adaptive- reused objects can be very unique and beautiful at the same time. Take for instant, old Indonesian teakwood log, cultivation trough and lumber are adaptively- reused as patio long bench, planter and dining table top respectively. The steel plant stand at the patio adds on to the industrial-mechanical feel of the house and it’s modified from a pair of car brake drums.
Ceiling fans are installed in the main areas as they induce air flow and most importantly, consume very low energy to operate. Air-conditioning System is installed merely as a back-up when the occasional heat waves strike. Energy efficient LED light fittings are used throughout the house.
Plants are introduced to the semi-outdoor Patio as well as the air-well. The patio is designed like an outdoor area with cover. Thus, being in the patio allows one to enjoy the greenery and fresh air without worrying about the heat or the rain. One corner of the patio is reserved for a mini herbs garden. This is a small test bed to demonstrate that everyone can play a part in urban agriculture. Granite well at the rear lane collects grey water for washing and plant-watering.
Design provided the space for Art, while Art enhances the overall value of the Design. Wall murals, paintings and sculptures are carefully integrated throughout the entire house.Location: Singapore
Company: Nota Design Group
Designer: Keat Ong Project name: House at Hillside