At a stately bungalow off Dunearn Road, Singapore, it’s hard to tell where the garden ends and the house begins.
The long passageway – designed to run down the side of the house for feng shui reasons – that leads to the main door is decorated with tropical plants such as the bright red Heliconia marginata, the blood banana plant with its patterned leaves, and an old white frangipani tree.
The roofs of the car porch and patio, which are next to each other, are blanketed with shrubs and small plants. A balcony on the second level overlooks this mini garden and has a long bench built in, where one can rest and enjoy the greenery.
Rows of Vernonia elliptica, a creeper, cascade from the patio roof, creating a green “curtain” that partially shields the house from the main road.
Beyond the patio is a garden that is now home to two old trees: A tall Dalbergia oliveri, with its droopy branches and leaves; and a dense and layered Bucida molineti, salvaged from an empty piece of land that was being prepared for a new development.
Towards the back of the house, a small courtyard is sandwiched between the living and dining rooms. A tall frangipani tree stands majestically in the centre, with a pond surrounding it.
The bungalow’s architect, Yong Ai Loon of architecture consultancy firm Timur Designs, explains that “The house is a backdrop for the garden”.
While many home owners shy away from having lots of greenery as plants can be hard to maintain, this owner – a businessman – pushed Yong for a plant-filled abode.
So she worked with John Tan, owner of Esmond Landscape and Horticultural, to make the owner’s green dream a reality.
Tan says: “The owner wanted plants to be a big part of his home, so I got involved right from the start. For him, getting the plants in was not an afterthought.”
The 929sq m house has two storeys, an attic, and a basement. The old house that stood in its place was torn down and the new building – now home to the owner, his wife and their two children – went up in about 15 months.
Yong and Tan’s collective greening effort was rewarded when the house recently won the Gold and Best of Category awards in the Design and Build segment at the Landscape Industry Association Singapore landscape award competition.
Greenery aside, the architect conceived a house with a seamless layout. The interiors are spacious, airy and bright, thanks to the large windows and openings in the facade that let sunlight through.
The first floor has been set aside for the living and dining rooms, which open up to a pool. At the end of the pool is a pavilion, from which you can take in the view of the quiet residential neighbourhood.
The bedrooms are on the second floor, while the attic is reserved for guests who stay the night.
In keeping with the nature theme, tones of green, brown and beige as well as natural materials such as wood and stone were picked for the furnishings and fittings. For example, the ceiling of the house is clad in teak, while a table in the patio is a live edgewood piece.
The owner, who declines to be named, says: “Even before the renovation, I decided that this house would have a huge garden and lots of plants. I wake up in the morning and I can hear birds singing in the garden. I love being close to nature.”
The House With Shadows
When it came to designing this bungalow off Farrer Road, architects from RT+Q Architects took a leaf from the shape and structure of huts, barns and old tropical houses.
With its pitched roof, raw fair-faced concrete walls and timber sun-shading screens, verandas and gardens, this house is a modern-day interpretation that combines various features of these humble buildings.
The 1,200sq m, two-storey house, which also has a basement, is home to a multi-generation family that includes two grandparents, their daughter and son-in-law and their three grandchildren.
To accommodate the need for the occupants’ own private time and communal gatherings, the architects carved out separate wings for the older folk and the younger generation. These wings, which are off to the sides of the building, house bedrooms and library nooks.
The whole family comes together in the long communal block that runs down the centre of the bungalow. On the spacious first level, the family gathers for meals or parties. The living room upstairs has a floor- to-ceiling house-shaped display cabinet filled with Chinese antiques.
While the interiors are impressive, the outdoor area, which boasts gardens, a pool and a pond, is also stunning.
The daughter’s wing is fronted by a manicured garden, dotted with two large mature Dalbergia oliveri trees. With their lush crowns and long branches, the 30-year-old trees form a screen between the house and the main road.
The architects also designed a double-height “dining box” on the first floor of this wing that opens up into this garden.
Tucked behind is a pool, where overhanging trees drape over the pool’s edge.
The true centrepiece of this house is a Japanese-themed garden and pond. The pond comes up to the sheltered veranda of the grandparents’ bedroom and can be seen from the dining room.
Keeping to the style of such traditional gardens, there are stepping stones, gravelled surfaces and a thriving koi pond.
These outdoor zones bring nature to the doorstep of the home’s occupants. The son-in-law, who is a landscape architect, collaborated with RT+Q on what would go into these garden spaces.
The firm’s director Rene Tan, who worked on the house with co-founder T.K. Quek and project architect Melvin Keng, says: “This house is unique for us because it is one of those rare moments where the form was largely driven by a landscape strategy, instead of an architectural one.”
While the gardens dominate the space, the property was christened “The House With Shadows” because of the different lines and shapes it casts during the day.
It is competing against 16 other projects in the House – Completed Buildings category at the prestigious World Architecture Festival Awards held in Berlin. The winner will be announced in November.
The Futuristic House
The rounded, grey facade of this house, with two skylights punched into its roof, makes it look as if a spaceship has landed on top of a hill in Siglap.
And though this futuristic-looking home is on a street chock-a-block with homes of varying sizes, the interiors are so spacious that its occupants say they do not feel they are so close to their neighbours.
The house belongs to a restaurateur and her husband. They have three children aged between 17 and 25 and both their mothers live with them. It has a built-up area of 852sq m and was completed earlier this year after a 20-month renovation.
Besides the usual features of a house – a living room, dining room and bedrooms – the architects have fitted in a pool, a gym, an entertainment area and a private theatre that can seat up to 25 people.
The multi-purpose, two-storey bungalow with an attic and basement is the creation of a team from architecture practice AD Lab.
Warren Liu, principal director at the firm, worked together on the house with associate director Lim Pin Jie and design executive Dawn Lim. He says: “It’s a self-contained home that has everything.”
The large family spends a lot of time at home and often entertains friends and family there, especially during the holiday season.
The restaurateur, who declines to be named, says: “I wanted to have a house that welcomes everyone. It’s nice when the boys ask their friends over to hang out.”
One of the nicest spaces in the house is the rooftop garden that is decorated with plants. A barbecue grill and an outdoor dining table with chairs complete the set-up.
While rooftop gardens are common in most houses today, this one steals the show with its view of the Marina Bay area and the Central Business District’s soaring skyscrapers in the distance.
The architects orientated the rooftop towards the cityscape to take advantage of the unblocked landscape. Even the bedroom and communal spaces on the first and second floors have snatches of the city views. Liu says: “We didn’t have to try too hard. We let the view dominate the space.” – The Straits Times/Asia News Network