A Filipino Designed This Space-Savvy Modern House in Singapore
It even has its own lap pool!
Michael Cu Fua leads two lives—literally. The Filipino-born, University of Santo Tomas-educated architect shuttles between Manila and his adopted country Singapore juggling multiple projects as director of international design firm ONG&ONG, while managing to create artwork and launching exhibits on the side.
Prior to joining ONG&ONG in 2014, Michael ran his own practice in Singapore, working on high-profile projects such as designing the interiors for the residence of Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Madame Ho Ching in 2000. But in spite of these projects, Michael loves to go back to designing residences for ordinary citizens and families, like this house on Brockhampton Drive.
The architect managed to design a house that maximized every bit of the 259sqm lot area, creating a multilevel structure that is equal parts sleek and modern, and warm and cozy. “Brockhampton Drive is located in Serangoon Gardens Estate…a private residential estate in Singapore,” says Michael, noting that it is one of the most ideal locations for family homes. “The estate was built to house the British officers based in Singapore. It was upgraded in 2001 as part of the Singapore Government's plan to improve the older private housing estates…open roadside drains were covered up, it has new streetlights and road signs, and the parks were also upgraded.”
Check out the photos below to see how well-articulated the spaces are in this modern minimalist marvel:
The main façade of the house shows a modern interplay of transparent and opaque volumes, and bands of horizontal and vertical lines. The sleek architecture is warmed up with natural wood and stone materials. “The area is controlled by URA to have a maximum level of two storeys with an attic,” explains Michael. “It’s a pretty standard Singaporean house that requires a guest room on the first floor (to be the grandparents’ room), and a maid’s room (to be saleable).”
The walkway from the carport to the main entrance is actually shielded from the elements by a glass canopy. Timber strips on the canopy act as a sunscreen—and a linear design detail—for the area.
“The challenge was the double volume space at the entrance,” says Michael. “The client was skeptic at first, [because] for a developer, lesser floor means lesser income…but I managed to convince them that this void will give quality space for the buyers. At first, they couldn’t get the idea, but when it was built, the ‘drama’ of the entrance is priceless.”
Adjacent to the entrance area is the open-plan living area, which looks out directly onto the front yard.
In spite of the modest footprint, the architect was able to squeeze in a lap pool outside the dining area. “It was really number one on the ‘wish list’ of my client,” admits Michael. “Proper structural design was needed, to carry the boundary wall and the foundation of the house was all integrated with the lap pool. The lap pool is about 1200mm deep.”
“[Having] a lap pool is a must nowadays; I’m happy to include this and when you’re having dinner, you could actually see your kid swimming.”
A minimalist flight of stairs (with a whitewashed balustrade) leads to the second and attic levels of the house.
The architect specified solid light oak timber strips on the upper levels’ floors for a light and airy feel. “The second floor needs to have at least three bedrooms and a study at the back—which can be converted to a fourth room,” says Michael. “The attic is the master bedroom with its own large balcony. This is the selling point for the buyer; it’s like their own private space.”
“For the master bathroom, I’ve specified white Carrara marble for the floor and wall, and Arabescato Orobico Grigio marble slab for the feature wall by the bathtub.”
This space opens to the entrance downstairs, and to the view beyond. Michael gives us more modern-friendly tips: “My advice is not to build to the max! Give ample space for gardens and ‘activity’ areas such as a pool, [or a] roof terrace. A sacrifice such as a double volume space is worth the gamble, it gives the space quality visual (and feel) play, especially when coming down from the second floor, you could see natural flooding in during the day time.”
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