The house on Figaro Street is naturally ventilated throughout and opens up to the outdoors in a most delightful manner.
26 September 2022
Text by Stephanie Peh
This was not the house that the client originally wanted,” says Lawrence Puah, design director for akiHAUS Design Studio of this corner terrace house on Figaro Street. It is a far cry from the client’s initial intention to replace the original architecture with a modern rebuild, but the design approach that was ultimately taken was the result of careful consideration upon visiting the site. Lawrence and his team concluded that a rebuild would not have offered the family as much value as compared to conserving the one-of-a-kind house that possessed solid bones and details.
“We don’t see these kinds of interiors anymore,” says Lawrence. With this project, the design team made the decision to retain 70 per cent of the existing finishes, including the ornamental iron grilles, mosaic walls and terrazzo floors. Some were left alone and some were thoughtfully repurposed as panels for other parts of the house. “Having a conserved house then becomes the selling point of this property,” Lawrence quips.
Incidentally, this more environmentally-friendly approach aligns well with the wife’s preference to live with natural ventilation. In consideration of the family’s health and well-being, she did not want any air conditioners. The harsh tropical climate is then mitigated by opening the house from front to back, taking advantage of existing ventilation openings, and installing ceiling fans.
“The moment you come through the main door, you would be flooded with light,” says Lawrence. Natural light and airflow circulate freely – a stark contrast from the original architecture where walls hindered natural ventilation. With lots of daylight, the addition of recessed lighting could be omitted to maximise the ceiling height, which opens up the space vertically too. In case artificial illumination is required, wall lights were built.
Although the family did not require air conditioning, Lawrence and his team were mindful to cater for it nevertheless. This ensures that the house remains marketable for a potential sale in future. Air conditioner pipes were pre-installed and concealed in boxed-ups alongside other mechanical and engineering works. As if they were there before, the newly built boxed-ups with rounded corners run along the perimeters of the ground floor, camouflaging with original architectural beams. “These create the illusion that the original architecture has beams surrounding each space, thereby concealing the actual beams and giving definition to each area,” says Lawrence.
The biggest challenge for the design team was the integration of the original architecture and the introduction of modern, functional elements tailored to the family’s needs. Lawrence explains that conservation can sometimes go down the common “exposed pipes route”, which they wanted to avoid. “We wanted to make sure that there was a certain control and elegance to the design,” he adds. Newly introduced details such as hexagonal tiles, curvatures, walnut timber carpentry and vintage electrical switches sit seamlessly alongside the original features of this conserved house.
Upstairs, shared multipurpose rooms make the most out of the modest floor plate. There is a master bedroom, a room shared by the two children, and a multipurpose study that doubles up as a games room. A terrace with extensive greenery creates a calming environment that encourages outdoor activities.
“The way the house is designed makes it conducive for living and working. Despite the current pandemic situation, the family has no qualms being in the house for extended periods because we opened up the entire house to bring in more natural light and engaged the landscape.”
“Interior design can sometimes be a very inward-looking art and people fail to recognise the surrounding context,” he says. Within this house, indoor and outdoor realms blur, making it the ultimate sanctuary in a concrete jungle. One need not travel too far in search of a relaxing resort when home is the very definition of that.
akiHAUS Design Studio
This article first appeared in Lookbox Living issue 64
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