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ARCHITECT TAN CHER MING’S APPROACH TO CONTEMPORISING AN EXISTING NEOCLASSICAL STYLE GOOD CLASS BUNGALOW IS ALL ABOUT RESPECT
The homeowners have been residing in this Good Class Bungalow since their return to Singapore back in 1999. However, after more than a decade, they recently decided it was time to refurbish the home. “While rebuilding would have been an easier option, we decided to go for an Additions and Alterations (A&A) as we wanted to retain the property’s neoclassical architecture with its stately columns and decorative mouldings,” say the homeowners. They also wanted to maintain the current balance between house, land and pool, as well as the existing interior where the second storey overlooks the double volume entrance hall and living room.
The homeowners visited houses under construction and newly completed projects to better understand their needs for their own space. In addition, they also kept a look out for architects whom they thought would be able to match their expectations. They felt that young professionals are sometimes not given sufficient opportunities to demonstrate their capabilities, so when they visited a newly completed home that was designed by
Tan Cher Ming, principal architect at Ming Architects, they decided to entrust their project to him. “We were impressed by the house, and his openness and willingness to explore new ideas won us over,” the homeowners recall. For Tan, the project was about enhancing the current design while maintaining a sense of respect for the existing architecture. “I set out to try and improve upon it rather than fight with it,” he explains.
Tan added a new chandelier outside the main entrance, which comprises a series of cascading cylindrical forms. Seen from ground level, the lighting design injects a contemporary touch without disturbing the symmetry and formality
of the two-storey neoclassical columns and pediment roof of the car porch. A sweeping glance from the entrance hall to the living room, all the way across to the dining room gives a sense of how Tan has managed to harmonise new and old. The existing mouldings along the second storey that overlooks the first storey were restored and the sculptural form of the staircase has been retained. But the original timber balustrades have been replaced with an elegant wrought
iron railing with an intricate spiral motif that extends from the staircase all the way up along the second storey, framing the view when looking up the double volume space. The stair core was previously rather dimly lit so Tan added crystal marble panels to the curved wall alongside the staircase which bring in diffused light.
The lift and wine cellar are new additions to meet the homeowners’ requirements. Tan adopted a totally contemporary language using glass and metal to create elements that are sleek and almost minimalist. The wine cellar located beside the dining room is a glass enclosure set against a crystal marble backdrop. It is quite a spectacular installation, yet this modern addition blends well rather than clash with the original architecture. “We wanted an island in the dry kitchen that we can use for cooking and entertaining small groups,” say the homeowners. What Tan did was to design an island using a Midnight Forest marble with dramatic veins that create a focus for the dry kitchen against a more toned down palette of dark veneers and stainless steel. The dry kitchen is one of the homeowners’ favourite spaces within the home. “Since the addition of the island, we’ve had many meals with family members and close friends around it,” they say. The dry kitchen and dining room look out onto the pool where a new garden pavilion has been erected. Its octagonal shape complements the main house and it is perfect for parties around the pool, especially when the homeowners’ two sons, who live in the US, visit with their families in tow. “Our four grandchildren can have their snacks in the garden pavilion while watching their favourite television programme without having to change out of their swimming attires,” share the homeowners.
The master bedroom on the second storey used to be one big room but Tan proposed a new hotel suite concept comprising a master living, pantry, walk-in closet, master bedroom and master bathroom that appealed to the well-travelled homeowners. The doors to the walk-in closet and master bathroom have been designed as part of a feature wall made up of Medium-Density Fibreboard (MDF) panels and hand polished to an intricately-designed geometric motif that increases in density from top to bottom. Thai floral motifs can be found on the wooden cabinets and panels in the master bathroom. All these showcase the level of detailing that Tan invested into the design of every component within the house. A new structure was erected over the existing car porch at the rear of the house to accommodate a home theatre. “From the exterior, this appears totally modern because I perceive the home theatre as an ultra-modern space,” explains Tan. The home theatre is equipped with a Bang&Olufsen television and sound system, remote-controlled black-out drapes and lighting system, all of which have been designed to enhance the visual and
acoustics effect comparable to a luxury cinematic experience. Sliding panels screen the television off when not in use and again, the patterns on the screen were specially designed to complement the marble wall behind. Tan even went as far as to study how the patterns would work when the panels overlap. The A&A has given the homeowners the opportunity to modify their existing home to better reflect their tastes and suit their lifestyle. What made the project even more memorable was the interactions with the team of consultants and contractors. “We chose to be very hands-on. Through weekly site meetings and updates, we learnt about the issues that may arise in the building process, and understood more about materials and costs,” say the owners.