A 1970s apartment updated for work, live and play

LAR+D creatively reworks this resale condominium, inserting ‘volumes’ to delineate yet connect various parts of the home.

  • A 1970s apartment updated for work, live and play

Text by Luo Jingmei

Built in the late 1970s, this private apartment in the eastern part of Singapore had a generous footprint – typical of condominiums designed during that time. It offered 1,572 square feet of space for the owners and their two young children to indulge in the manifold activities of family life.

LAR+D project

“The owners wanted spaces that could allow them to keep a watchful eye over their children when they were either working, cooking or engaged in chores. As the husband works from home often, they were keen to have a personal study area that would give him privacy but at the same time, be visually connected with the other family members when required,” shares Clifford See, who founded LAR+D (Local Architecture Research + Design) with Cheng Yu Ting, and who was engaged to renovate the home.

LAR+D project

The next best thing to the ample space was the neat plan with a regular structural grid that gave flexibility to the reorganisation of the layout. Says Clifford: “This allowed us to layer the various spaces of the house in an orderly and logical hierarchy, moving from more common areas to the more private spaces of the house [deeper in the plan].”

Rather than trying to hide the existing beams and columns, he purposefully expressed them to accentuate the structural grid. “Within this grid, the various functions of the house are defined and anchored through a combination of platforms, partitions and fixed furniture, placed within the open plan to allow for a free-flowing circulation from one space to another,” Clifford describes.

One enters the house to the kitchen on the left and a raised, semi-boxed up study area on the right. These segue into the dining and living further ahead, with various joinery elements loosely demarcating each space but not separating them entirely.  

LAR+D project

“We wanted to capitalise on the full extent of perimeter windows [along both sides of the apartment] to allow continuous passive ventilation across the space and let ample daylight in. The living area and study were placed along the windows facing the part of the block that is away from the main road, [giving them] quieter, scenic views suitable for these functions,” explains Clifford on the ideas guiding the layout.

On the other hand, the kitchen was placed to flow easily to the pantry and yard. “While hosting, the adults can enjoy themselves around the dining table that is adjacent to the kitchen. The children can spill into the living area but still be [visible to the adults],” comments Clifford on the pragmatic planning.

LAR+D project

The removal of walls and dividing components that do not touch the ceiling enable natural ventilation to circulate around the home when the windows on both sides of these common areas are opened. Clifford also integrated storage and seating into the study compartment that can be used and accessed by those in the adjacent foyer and living area.

He compares this study nook to a fort that “subtly conceals the user and provides privacy without fully enclosing the space.” Rounded edges of the joinery and walls, as well as curved surfaces here as well as around the home provide a safe environment for the young children to run about in while adding to the general amiable atmosphere.

LAR+D project

“The materiality is kept to a minimum, with the same light timber laminate used throughout the house as a base, allowing other materials such as marble and the owners’ collection of knick-knacks and mementos to stand out,” says Clifford. At the kitchen, the island and counters are clad with travertine marble, whose tonality harmonises with the laminate.

These are matched with elements such as a concrete bench at the dining area that invites gathering and observation of the activity at the open kitchen, and a translucent glass wall that divides the living room and an abutting bedroom. The latter is integrated with shelving, and helps with light distribution between the two spaces.

“The insertion of this semi-porous screen [quietly] distinguishes the living space and the bedroom, which is a quieter part of the home and is designed as an open, mutable space for playing, reading and lounging. It acts as a transitional space [between the gathering areas and other bedrooms],” shares Clifford. A murphy bed is integrated into the joinery to convert it into a guestroom when needed, such as when the grandparents decide to stay for the night.

In the master bedroom, he designed a vanity area with a floor-to-ceiling mirror and monolithic pink marble top. In the master bathroom, the palette is similar to the rest of the home save for a surprise in the wet areas. “The notion of ‘inserting volumes’ [within the overall plan such as with the study nook] continues toward the end of the bathroom,” Clifford says.

Here, a continuous plane of subway tiles unites the shower and bathtub into a singular ‘volume’, its deep burgundy colour throwing a playful and cosy counterpoint into the overall understated scheme. 

LAR+D project


Photography by Ong Chan Hao

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