The homeowners' collection of contemporary Asian art inspired the interior design of this modern house

In embarking on a search for their new home, Bob and Fern Yap had one key criterion—it had to be in the same neighbourhood as their previous abode, where they lived next door to Bob’s parents. “Our family is really close to my parents in-law—we have dinner with them at their home every night,” says the wife. “So our new home had to be located close to theirs, ideally within the same neighbourhood.”

Together with their two children, Brennan and Claudia, the couple was won over by a three-storey house in the northeastern part of Singapore with its location and its striking interior architecture. Built as part of a row of four semi-detached houses, it featured a dramatic double-volume hall that the family absolutely loved.

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“We found the house very airy, bright and spacious because of that particular detail,” explains Mrs Yap. “We entertain our friends and family quite often, so we wanted this communal area to be spacious enough to accommodate our frequent gatherings.”

To turn the house into a home, the family sought the help of Design Rebirth, the same firm that worked on their previous residence. The local practice, co-founded by Victor Loh and Yap Khoon Wah, had given the old terrace house the facelift that they desired, so the couple had full confidence that they would be able to do the same for their new abode.

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A Y-shaped, 3.2-metre-long suar wood table was specially made for the dining area. Its organic curves were inspired by the tree it originated from while playfully referencing the Yap family name. The same material is used for the bar countertop in the dry kitchen—it’s where Mr Yap, an oenophile and avid gourmand, whips up his top dishes for family and friends.

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The homeowners’ collection of contemporary art served as the starting point for the project. “They’re really proud of their art collection—the challenge was to integrate these cohesively into the space, and have pockets of artistic corners and light effects customised for each art object,” shares Loh. 

The family’s favourite art pieces can be found throughout the home, including sculptures by Chinese artist Wu Liang Yan that were purchased from local gallery Ode To Art. “My husband and I really love these, as they reminded us of our children when they were younger,” explains the lady of the house.

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As impressive as the grand living area appeared to be, Loh felt there was still room for improvement. “There were certain ugly areas such as the staircase, which was originally a stainless steel and glass structure,” shares the designer. “It was built with basic finishes and glass railings that come with a green tint. That was one of the first things that we really thought should go.”

The stainless steel details were replaced with black metal trimming and oak wood cladding that runs the length of the staircase—it leads the eye upwards to appreciate the sheer vertical scale of the space. The same dark wood cladding is used along the corridor and in the entrance, along with mirrored panels and black trimmings that add to the sleek lines and geometry of the space.

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In contrast to the grand communal area, the bedrooms employ a more pared-down look. Claudia’s bedroom and dance studio are bright spaces, while the room of her younger brother is in darker shades of grey.

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For the master bedroom, the couple left the design scheme entirely to Loh. The designer replaced the original cabinetry with compartments customised for the couple; he also made the adjoining walk-in wardrobe more spacious by replacing parts of the cabinetry with open shelving. “I didn’t want the walk-in wardrobe to feel too boxed in or claustrophobic,” explains Loh. “I also changed the door from wood to tinted glass, which allows for more light to enter the space.”


A full year after moving in, the family adores living in their home—and the couple has been bitten by the decorating bug, too. “My husband enjoys buying things for the house, be it furniture, art, lighting or plants,” shares Mrs Yap. She looks back fondly on the experience. “The end result was what we wanted. We love the dining area most of all—it’s where we have our meals together, catch up on our day, and where we host our family and friends.”

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Art direction and styling: Khairul Ali

Photography: Jasper Yu, assisted by Tan Ming Yuan

This story was adapted from Singapore Tatler Homes February-March 2018.