Mention single-storey intermediate and people would associate a house that gets warm in the afternoons and lacking in light. But to architects like Fabian Tan, it’s all in the design. Located in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Jose House was a typical single-storey terrace house measuring 23’ x 75’ (7m x 23m) in size.

The owner had wanted to change it to incorporate an open plan on one side of the dividing central wall and private rooms on the other side. More importantly, he wanted to pay homage to his late, beloved grandmother, who had green fingers and enjoyed being near light, nature and cats.

“Trying to understand his needs, I designed the house around the eyes of his grandmother who seemed to love nature and light within the house and being around the family. The ideas are explored and distilled to create careful framing of view, light and plants,” Tan adds.

“The client also wanted something unique, open, bright, has clever storage and a rooftop view to entertain. He also wanted a tranquil space that blends with nature. A combination of privacy and aesthetic balance was also high on his requirement,” he explains.

Privacy on the roof deck is ensured as it is hidden from street view.

Tan admits that he was inspired by the Peranakan house in designing the space.

“In many ways, the Peranakan house works in practical ways to get light and ventilation to the middle of an intermediate house. I’ve always disliked the dark dining room in the middle of the house in most intermediate terrace houses.”

Renovation work was completed in 2017. The final result sees open concept spaces and three skylights throughout the house, that brighten the interior. A unique part of the three-bedroom, one home office space is the presence of a tree planted in the middle of the house, situated below a skylight.

The skylight cleverly doubles as a glass table on the rooftop, a great place for a barbecue or just drinks and snacks. Privacy is ensured as you relax on the U-shaped concrete seats as the rooftop deck is hidden from street view.

To keep within the given budget, Tan utilised the existing structure as much as possible. To create layers of space, he added a half loft floor, which used to be the existing floor slab for an old water tank.

To create layers of space, Tan added a half loft floor to the house.

Tan’s key challenge in designing the space was to meet the owner’s requirements within the size of the house. “I took a while to design the house as I wanted it to have very simple lines. The rooftop viewing deck also was challenging to build over the existing structure.”

Well, Tan is happy with the end result.

“I’ve always liked architecture to portray that sense of subtlety. So to describe the house as minimalist may be too simple. I’d prefer something like ‘essentialist’ because it embodies the form of humans, volume, proportion, light and material.

“I think the best thing about the design is the flow of the house, which is open and splashed with just enough light, view and security. Visitors would describe the house as comfortable when they enter although they can’t pinpoint what makes them feel good,” he concludes.