The property’s proximity to Windsor Nature Park was one of the main reasons that drew the couple to this estate located off Venus Drive. After returning from a four-year stint overseas, this seemed like the perfect location to build their home – one that was “modern and understated, and which blended in with the natural surroundings.”
The site conditions, however, were far from ideal. An existing drain cut through the rear of the property and there was a steep slope at the back of the house. The neighbour’s boundary wall also encroached on the plot.
Thankfully, Edmund Ng of Edmund Ng Architects managed to overcome all the technical challenges. With the original house demolished, the drainage diverted, the boundary issue resolved and the slope backfilled, construction proceeded without a hitch and the new house was completed in just 10 months.
The new owners moved in in September 2017. While many would lament the narrow frontage of the triangular plot surrounded by neighbouring houses on all three sides, this suits the homeowners well: “We value privacy and the configuration allows the creation of hidden family spaces within a home nestled among the neighbouring houses instead of towering over them.”
While little is visible from the outside, the inside is awe-inspiring. The owners’ son has nicknamed their home Tardis, after the police box-designed time machine that serves as a portal to an infinite number of rooms and dimensions in the British sci-fi TV series Dr Who.
Even better, a void along the party wall with the adjacent house creates a separation that heightens the notional sense of privacy. “It also makes the corner terrace appear like a detached house,” Edmund points out.
As the triangular-shaped land opens up towards the rear of the property, the experience of moving through the various spaces surrounded by greenery is like discovering a secret garden.
There are more than 50 varieties of tropical plants such as thunbergia, thalias, salas and cymbidiums. Planted along the boundary walls, the different heights, shapes, sizes and textures create a layered composition that softens the wall and enhances the sense of privacy.
As nature lovers with an environmentally-conscious lifestyle, the owners wished to embrace tropical living, so almost all the fenestrations extend from the floor to the ceiling, blurring the boundary between the interior and the outdoors. With the full-height glass doors around the living and dining areas open, the spaces feel like they are part of the surrounding garden.
In line with the homeowners’ belief in an environmentally-conscious lifestyle, most of the furniture are pieces they have collected over the years. Every piece of furniture and ornament has a story to tell. The sofa was purchased when the couple got married and has been reupholstered many times since.
This chest in the living room belonged to the wife’s grandmother. The six drawers were for each of her children. The armchair belonged to a friend and travelled the world with its previous owner before they “adopted” it.
Even the bedrooms, family lounge and study all open on to balconies that maintain the connection with nature and the outdoors.
The generous external openings also help to facilitate natural cross-ventilation throughout the home and adjustable vertical louvres on the east-facing facade minimise glare and heat from the sun, as well as keep curious eyes away.
The home is filled with clean, open and light-filled spaces interlinked with the exterior.
Despite the relatively deep plan, wrapping the garden around two sides of the house helped to bring natural light inside. On the third side, next to the party wall, another garden in the void draws light from the top, turning the Tadao Ando-inspired off-form concrete wall into a backdrop for an interesting play of light and shadow.
“All these outdoor spaces give the massing room to breathe and inject a sense of openness within the home,” explains Edmund. Inside, there are no dead ends. Every room is linked via two or more interconnecting doors
“We wanted every space to be well-connected and well-utilised. There should be no isolated spaces,” the homeowners emphasise. Creating a series of smaller, inter-connected layouts also makes them easier to cool and enhances energy efficiency throughout. Solar panels on the pitched roof power the home and any unused electricity is sold back to the grid. The panels also act as a double skin, providing additional insulation.
The two roof terraces at the attic level are potential urban farming plots. They already have tomatoes and okra growing, and are thinking of trying out hydroponics next.
The design of the home, an expression of wabi-sabi, the Japanese philosophy of finding and accepting beauty in imperfection and impermanence, is also a celebration of the organic beauty of natural materials.
The owners wanted modesty and intimacy, a modern interpretation of the tropical house.
The use of natural materials complemented by a natural colour palette creates an understated, harmonious interior.
The rawness of the off-form concrete walls and the Corten steel roof, as well as facade that will rust over time, are unpretentious.
Subtle and modest, the materials applied throughout embody not just the ethos of wabi-sabi, but also reflect the homeowners’ preference for an unassuming home and their pursuit of a non-ostentatious lifestyle.
Photography: Vee Chin
Art Direction: Nonie Chen & Kristy Quah
Text: Lynn Tan/Home & Decor