House Tour: LAR+D Enhances The Charm of This 60s-built Bungalow In Adam Road District

Lar+D’s sensitive nip-and-tuck to this 1960s bungalow in Singapore results in a beloved home for a young family.
by Luo Jingmei

Photo: Studio Periphery

When Mabel Liaw visited this house, she was most enamoured by a flourishing Tembusu tree at the driveway. “I remembered that it was a hot day, so the shadow cast by the canopy of the tree (was so nice) when we drove in,” says the owner of this 60s-built house in Singapore.

She and her husband, who declines to be named, were also instantly attached to the existing bungalow on the land, which had a mid-century modern-meets-tropical style rarely found in houses today.

The couple was especially attracted to the mature Tembusu tree in the driveway. (Photo: Studio Periphery)

“We wanted to keep the house as it was (as much as possible). We really like its details, like how the building curves on the outside. We just had to make it more functional for our family,” says Liaw, who engaged Local Architecture Research + Design (LAR+D) for the renovation job.

This meant more space for the couple and their two preschool-age children, as well as opening up the interiors to the capacious gardens surrounding the house.

The house had good bones. “It had a regular grid, well-placed stairs, and generous bedroom sizes,” highlights Cheng Yu Thing, who runs LAR+D with co-founder Clifford See.

Less is more

The terracotta wall becomes an anchor in the first-storey open plan and the surface for the couple’s artworks. (Photo: Studio Periphery)

The existing house was divided into two parts: the main living quarters and a service quarter that contained a driver’s rest area, helpers’ bedrooms, and kitchen. On the first storey, the design team reworked the plan to create a seamless connection between the different parts of the house.

The study is now a playroom for the children, with its windows enlarged so that natural light streams through floor-to-ceiling sliding doors that allow easy access to the landscaped backyard for outdoor play.

The former study room is now a playroom, with floor-to-ceiling windows that open to the rear garden. (Photo: Studio Periphery)

The renovation took on a careful, less-is-more strategy, reflecting both the owners and architects’ affection for the house. Cheung christened the abode “Attachment House” to reflect “the approach of attaching components to the (existing) house proportionately and not superfluously to adequately fulfil the owners’ needs”.

A thoughtful weaving of old and new spaces now presents spaces neatly laid out in a row in the rear on the first storey — the playroom, a new powder room, a new dry kitchen, and then the wet kitchen and helpers’ bedrooms that are easily accessible from the carpark via the side of the house.

The new dry kitchen in the newly configured plan has a striking lamp from Apparatus Studio. (Photo: Studio Periphery)

A cabinet from Japanese lifestyle shop Atomi was brought over from the couple’s former home. (Photo: Studio Periphery)

One “attachment” is an extension to the dry kitchen in the form of a sheltered “glass house” that beckons informal dining or snack time. The glass walls borrow the greenery from outside to become a kind of natural wallpaper — verdant, mutable, and tropical.

Other “attachments” are subtler. For example, an existing column between the living area and powder room was concealed within a wall, which now acts as a screen between the living area and the spaces behind. Clad in earthy terracotta tiles that mirror the tone of the existing marble flooring on the first storey, it also provides more wall space for the couple to hang their growing art collection.

A glass extension to the dry kitchen is another seating space for gatherings. (Photo: Studio Periphery)

“We like to think that the house not only satisfies the family in terms of the functions of their daily routines but also uplifts their spirits, which is what we try to achieve in all of our projects,” says Cheung about the more connected layout.

Accentuating character

To minimise mechanical and electrical work, existing water closet locations were retained. “This was also partly to keep the original cast iron pipes, which contribute to the heritage and charm of the house,” Cheung shares.

The stairwell contains a lot of atmosphere in terms of texture and spatial quality. Surrounding breezeblocks were replaced with glass blocks that brighten this space while helping with the modern comforts of air-conditioning. (Photo: Studio Periphery)

Mosaics on the staircase floor, a solid timber staircase handrail, and lithe steel balustrades at the second-storey balcony are other elements that were preserved to respect the character of the original house. The add-on materials — terrazzo flooring at the play area, glass blocks in the powder room and stairwell, and terracotta tiles — were carefully chosen to complement this palette.

Upstairs, the plan is simple, with only three bedrooms — each well-sized and well-lit. “The original bedrooms were relatively untouched, besides changing the orientation of the master bedroom to create a walk-through wardrobe that connects more seamlessly to the extended master bathroom,” says Cheung.

Landscaping in front of the master bathroom provides privacy and a green view. (Photo: Studio Periphery)

Half of the second storey was originally a terrace “big enough to play badminton,” muses Liaw. Another “attachment” — this time a roof and walls — was plonked on the terrace to create a family room, leaving a small balcony for the family to come out to the open to enjoy the view of the landscaping and new fibre-glass pool at the front of the plot.

The new family room on the second storey is built over an existing terrace. (Photo: Studio Periphery)

The new pitched roof could not be cantilevered in this new room due to the span. As such, a slim column was added, painted in a bright yellow shade that Cheung describes as “the most prosperous colour”. It is a playful punctuation mark to the house’s dominantly tranquil earth-toned colours, framed by a monochrome shell.

The existing house embodies a modest, authentic spirit. (Photo: Studio Periphery)

Pattern is applied sparingly and in cohesion with the architecture, such as a wall of concrete breezeblocks between the solid parapet and metal railing that Cheung aptly describes as “capturing the zeitgeist of the house”.

This story originally published on The Peak Singapore.

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