Family Matters Architect Tan Cher Ming explains how he upgraded his parents' intergenerational home. WHEN RETIRED PHARMACIST Lim Cheng See and her husband wanted to rebuild their home at Sunset Way a few years ago, they knew instantly who would be the best person for the job - their son, Tan Cher Ming. Mr Tan designed the house when he was with his previous architecture firm, but has since gone on to set up his own practice, Ming Architects. The family had been living in their old home since 1991 and felt it was time for an upgrade. "The layout of the rooms was bad, and with my sister's family growing, there just wasn't enough space for everyone," says Mr Tan. The initial plan was for Mr Tan to live with his parents and his sister, but by the time the house was completed about four years ago, there wasn't enough space for Mr Tan and his own family. So, together with his wife and three children, they moved into an apartment in Bukit Timah. Mr Tan's parents, his sister and brother-in-law and their children now live in the new two-storey home. To ensure that the two families get their own privacy, Mr Tan designed an L-shaped house. One wing on the first floor is where the dining and living rooms are, while the other wing is where the kitchen is. Large sliding doors at the living and dining areas mean that the space is constantly naturally lit and make the house feel much bigger than it is. A lap pool flanks one side of the living room, and the pool has been very popular with all the kids. On the other side of the living room is a small garden, where the elder Mr Tan has been busy with his gardening. "Dad's a kampung boy and loves growing vegetables and fruits," says Mr Tan. There is also an outdoor kitchen, where the elder Mr Tan whips up a mean Penang char kway teow. Madam Lim, meanwhile, is pleased with the indoor kitchen from where she can look out onto the garden while she cooks. On the second floor, one wing has two bedrooms and a connecting bathroom for Mr Tan's sister and her family. At the other wing, there is a bedroom for Mr Tan's parents, and a spare bedroom, which may be used by the kids in the future. Even though he doesn't live here, Mr Tan has incorporated his favourite materials into the home. "Even though Dad is my client, he's left most of the design decisions to me," he notes. When it comes to materials, Mr Tan used a lot of timber inside and outside of the house. On the inside, Burmese teak wood is used for the flooring, wall panels and even on the living room ceiling. On the outside, Mr Tan has clad the house with Borneo ironwood. "These two types of wood are hardy and very suited for the tropical climate, and I personally like wood for its warm feel," he explains. "Wood ages well with time too." Even the staircase is clad in teak. It is a steel cantilevered structure that resembles a piece of art. The open staircase appears to float, and there is an instant connection between the two floors, which Mr Tan intended for. Over the course of his career, Mr Tan has designed several intergenerational homes. "For these homes, it is very important to have private spaces for each family group, in addition to the shared space," he points out. Mr Tan elaborates that if there are no private spaces for each family, "the house will feel very congested due to lack of privacy." He adds: "At the same time, there must be common spaces as well for the family to come together when they want to, or have family gatherings." Four years on, his mum is still a happy client. "I can hang out with my grandchildren around the pool, but I can retreat to the privacy of my bedroom when I want to," says Madam Lim.