Hubert Burda Media

XXL

Home to a large family, this larger-than-life dwelling makes a statement without resorting to clichés.

XXL

While others are downsizing to shoebox apartments and weekday pied-à-terres within walking distances of their 45th-floor glass-fronted corner offices, one family has found themselves a slice of paradise in the suburban north-east.
A fine specimen of contemporary Singapore architecture, the newly built home stands on two contiguous plots, which has now been subsumed into one. With not one or two, but four generations to house, the building is suitably large. “One, two, three…12, 13, 14…I've lost count of the number of rooms,” its architect Brenda Ang says with an apologetic smile.
There are bedrooms and guest rooms. Living spaces and dining areas. A gym, theatrette, golf simulator, prayer room, rooftop meditation spot and a poolside pergola replete with a cascading fountain. In essence, it combines the amenities of a country club with both a sense of place and the intimacy of a family dwelling.
Ensconced behind a chengal wood screen, which acts like an armour against the equatorial sun, the street-facing facade is impermeable and unassuming, while the back-facing elevation is open and airy with its full expanse of sliding glass windows. Up above, the cantilevered roof juts out some 2m, sheltering the house and its inhabitants from the heat and rain.
“The architectural style is contemporary; it registers this day and age. Their previous home had classic features, so we didn't want to go down that road. The classic style represents their past, while what you see here is for now,” says Ang, director of LAB Architects. Those familiar with her Vue House project, which was featured in the Robert Powell book Singapore Houses (2009), will recognise her signature timber-lined roofing that points towards the sky. It was, in fact, thumbing through the pages of that seminal tome that swayed the homeowner — an F&B entrepreneur — into enlisting Ang for this massive undertaking.
“It's for a big family. They want to house everyone together yet each of them needs [his or her] own enclave and privacy. So the challenge was to break up the spaces without making the house seem as though it was split into a few smaller houses. What we did was to design the vertical connection — a spiral staircase at the centre that swings everyone up and around the house,” says Ang whose flight of stairs defy gravity with its self-sustaining structure.
Bordered to the back by an expanse of rustic greenery — the grounds of an old school — the three-storey home, with its multitude of open verandas, was also designed to capitalise on the land just yonder. “Everyone appreciates a big garden. What we did was to site the swimming pool along the house to act as a connector to the open field. So what the eye sees is water and beyond that, a natural garden. We're borrowing the view,” she says.
By working with a team from furnishings specialist Marquis HQO right from the early stages of the build, Ang has also managed to achieve a certain harmony between architecture and the softer touches of interior design. Take, for example, the high ceilings that allow for light to stream in and air to circulate. Without the careful selection of cascading chandeliers, or, say, a strategically placed high-back armchair to fill the void between floor and ceiling, everyday furniture could easily be dwarfed by the scale of such a sizeable home.
“Usually a homeowner would go around town to all the showrooms but to move things along, we came in and said: ‘Why don't we do a complete proposal for you right down to the rugs?'” Sharon Wu, director of Marquis HQO, tells us. Working with Ang's scheme of whites and beiges accented with touches of gold, luxe statement-making furnishings in complementary colours have been drawn from across the group's collections, including Visionnaire, Minotti and Cantori.
“The owner and his family are successful but humble. They are not the types you'd find in a glossy magazine; they don't have a need to show off. They just want to enjoy the good things in life and they want to enjoy it with family,” says Wu.
Among the good things in life are modern chesterfield sofas, lit onyx console tables, chromed Brunlide sconces, smoked Murano glass and chainmail chandeliers, as well as a shallow pond that begins by the staircase landing and extends out (under a series of window panes) into the front garden. Upstairs, in the “Princess Room” (so named for the owner's teenage daughter) is even a bear-shaped chaise longue and in the master en suite, gold travertine walls. As communal dining is important in a multi-generational household such as this, the sophisticated Toulouse dining table from Italian brand Minotti sits 12 and comes fitted with a custom-made lazy Susan.
Newly hung on the walls are also vibrant floral-themed canvases picked up at the most recent international art fair by the architect on behalf of the family to bring in a dash of colour to the otherwise simple colour palette.
“For a big house, it's easy to run wild and go out of control, which was why I wanted to keep the scheme simple,” says Ang.
Photographer / Edward Hendricks from CI&A Photography