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A spacious walk-up apartment in ply

Carpentry, fabrication and a generous use of birch ply are key in this bright and spacious walk-up by Produce.

Home Type: Strata title walk-up

Floor Area: 1,571sqft

Images courtesy of Produce

Reno cost: $250,000
Includes changing of the existing roof and rectification works to existing concrete gutters, etc., on top of interior works

This walk-up along Sing Avenue belongs to a couple and their young family who had previously lived in an HDB intermediate terrace (and who were, therefore, used to spacious premises with access to outdoor spaces). Apart from functional requirements including the creation of a garden on the terrace and a new toilet on the mezzanine level, the family requested their home to be bright and airy while maintaining a level of privacy from its neighbours and the street. There was also a request to keep the colours of the interiors neutral — for the best part in white and grey, with a mix of wood.

Apart from these requests, a fair amount of creative latitude was afforded to Produce and its design team. This gave them an opportunity to experiment with carpentry work, which in this case, was mainly made of birch ply from Panelogue.

With the extensive application of this light-toned ply, and the introduction of daylight via ribbed glass windows (which also provides privacy) and a skylight over its main living area, this apartment is comfortably lit, spacious and private.

The use and exploration of the ‘Ply Premier Birch’ material is key to the project. Produce explains that “while most plywood are made of cheap wood that is inconsistent in finish and tonality due to its use as a substrate that is eventually covered, the quality of this birch plywood allows it to be used as a finishing material, with the appealing grain, shades and variations of natural wood.” This particular ply was also chosen for its affordability, eco-friendliness and low formaldehyde level.

The material was applied throughout the apartment – but never allowed to look flat or monotonous. Detailed gestures such as setting the room doors 300mm back from the threshold plane create depth. This threshold area is designed to incorporate a slim belt of storage (at one end, accessible and continuous with the study; and at the other, as an extension into an entertainment set console). This volume in turn creates a high ledge – a home for potted plants which can be accessed by the plant-loving family via a custom ladder.

The other highlight of the design is the system of operable timber shutters that the design team had fabricated for the rooms to regulate light, air-conditioning and natural ventilation (drawn in by their ceiling fans). These louvres are controlled by a wooden gear system (that allowed the louvres of each room to be adjusted as a set) whose mechanism was also prototyped in Produce’s workshop.

The schematics and the carpentry are impressive, given the challenges presented by the old building. As Produce recalls: “There were significant discrepancies between what was on site and the as-built drawings – which, when pulled from the archives, we discovered were hand drawn. The construction process was thus less linear and more reiterative in nature than usual, requiring on-the-fly adaptations to site conditions that surfaced. Also, the workmanship of the old building was not as refined, requiring construction tolerances to be taken into careful consideration. Many of the walls were not flat, making accuracy of carpentry difficult.”




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