The Chic Home: History meets modernity in Joo Chiat

A perforated metal sliding door screens off the master suite’s sleeping area from the walk-in wardrobe and bathroom.
A perforated metal sliding door screens off the master suite’s sleeping area from the walk-in wardrobe and bathroom. PHOTO: TAN WEI TE
Floor-to-ceiling glass gives the master bathroom an outdoorsy feel.
Floor-to-ceiling glass gives the master bathroom an outdoorsy feel.PHOTO: TAN WEI TE
As if climbing the exposed brickwork of the party wall, a piece from Ode to Art finds a very appropriate place in the home.
As if climbing the exposed brickwork of the party wall, a piece from Ode to Art finds a very appropriate place in the home. PHOTO: TAN WEI TE

SINGAPORE - When Mr Ng Sier Han and his wife Jasmine Soh found this 3,460 sq ft terrace house in Joo Chiat, it was in its original 1970s condition - from the exterior and light fittings to the fans and grilles.

The mid-century architecture appealed to the couple, who wanted to retain as much of the original style as possible.

"We feel that not enough properties are being conserved today. Our vision was to respect the surrounding rows of inter-terraced houses from the same period while updating the interior for modern living," says Mr Ng.

The couple, who are 42 and 39 this year, work in the banking industry.

They engaged architecture firm Ong&Ong. Directors Diego Molina and Maria Arango helmed the design, while designer Ryan Manuel oversaw the day-to-day running of the project.

Apart from conserving the 1970s elements and updating the house to meet the needs of three generations - including two boys aged four and three, and Ms Soh's mother - the clients asked for an open design.

"This allows us to supervise the children at play while we are working, and for the kids to see us if we are entertaining friends," Ms Soh says.

To blend in with the neighbourhood, the designers set back the third storey and roof terrace so it appears to be two storeys when seen from street level.

The main entrance is accessed via a garden path to one side of the car porch. From the front of the house, it is possible to see from the living and dining rooms to the dry and wet kitchens as well as back garden.

As guests approach the dining area, elevated two steps above the living one, their attention shifts upwards to a triple-volume atrium. A skylight introduces natural light while mechanically operated windows at the top let out hot air to promote natural cross-ventilation.

The atrium's standout feature is a screen of concrete vent blocks that stretches from the second storey to the third.

It was inspired by the facade of a block of old walk-ups in Joo Chiat that Mr Ng had chanced upon.

The party walls flanking the property were stripped of their existing finish to expose the original brickwork, which has been plastered over while still revealing the bricks' profile and texture.

The home's other materials and finishes also maintain the mid-century theme.


The project took about two years and cost around $1.3 million. PHOTOS: TAN WEI TE

Mosaics on the wet kitchen floor and bedroom balconies are characteristic of the era.

The staircase and second storey feature old-school terrazzo flooring.

Many of the wall lights, ceiling fans and even the grille on the facade were salvaged from the old house, reinforcing a sense of the past meeting the new.

The children's rooms on the second storey mirror each other, with a shared bathroom.

The play area is an open space on the same level, on the other side of the atrium and in front of the room of Ms Soh's mother, and is visible from other parts of the house.


A garden path leads to the main entrance while the atrium, with a screen of concrete vent blocks, catches the eye. PHOTOS: TAN WEI TE

The master suite on the third storey is the couple's sanctuary. A sliding glass door and fixed glass panels with blinds allow adjustments for privacy.

The balcony outside the bedroom and attached bathroom leads to a roof terrace via a spiral staircase.

This is where Mr Ng grows plants and herbs, an extension of the edibles corner in the back garden outside the wet kitchen.

The project took about two years and cost around $1.3 million. The family moved in in November 2017.


Floor-to-ceiling glass gives the master bathroom an outdoorsy feel. PHOTO: TAN WEI TE

For the designers, it was about a sensitive approach to the renewal of an old property in a heritage neighbourhood, drawing on the past while addressing a modern family's needs.

• This article first appeared in the April 2021 issue of Home & Decor, which is published by SPH Magazines. Get the June and latest issue now at all newsstands or download the digital edition from the App Store, Magzter or Google Play. Also, see more inspiring homes at homeanddecor.com.sg