Cover This striking home designed by Akihaus is a sight to behold with its clean colour palette and enviable panoramic views

This light-filled home designed by Akihaus in Singapore creates the feeling of being in a high-rise glasshouse in the open-plan living room, with its enviable green views and exposed timber beams

“As designers, it’s key for us to meet the spatial needs for our clients and address their wants,” says interior designer Lawrence Puah, founder and director of local design studio Akihaus. “Beyond that, another key aspect is to truly see the hidden potential of the space itself.”

The brimming possibilities that this 1,600 sqft unit immediately caught Puah’s attention when he first saw the home. Located on the top floor of a walk-up apartment along East Coast Road, the light-filled abode is dubbed the Light House for its white radiance and brightness.  

The homeowners, a couple in their 30s, tasked Akihaus to transform the original space into a modern haven with ample spaces for hosting guests. “The clients entertain a lot, so we've designed the space to be able to cater to large crowds of people,” says Puah. “They definitely wanted a home where they could feel very proud of, with lots of spaces for them to welcome family and friends over.” 

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For Puah, the design began with the roof. He sought to imbue character and a lofty ambience to the home by tearing down the entire ceiling to let the hidden beauty of the original roof shine through. “We couldn’t see the roof at all and wouldn’t know its true form until the actual teardown, so we had to study the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) drawings and project possibilities together with a structural engineer,” he recalls.  

To convince the clients, the passionate designer drew up three different design schemes—one with a flat ceiling, another with a pitched ceiling form, and a final design where the ceiling entirely opened up—for them to have a glimpse of the striking prospects.

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“We understood how homeowners can often be very apprehensive of big changes and things which they’re not familiar with,” explains Puah. “However, we saw the potential of the project, and knew that if we didn’t do the extra work to convince the client, we may miss the opportunity to create something that's really marvellous.”

The couple's well-timed vacation at a resort in Sentosa sealed their decision—they were charmed by the lofty feel of the roof, which also featured exposed timber beams and trusses, and wanted the same effect in their home.

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The design team cleaned up the irregularities of the previous work done by the home’s former owners and added new waterproofing, insulation, and plasterboard. In order to let the roof structure shine, they undertook a minimalist design approach and painted the beams white. 

“We chose a lighter colour palette to add a sense of freshness to the space,” explains Puah. “If we had kept to the original timber finishing, we were afraid that it’ll make the entire space look too busy and heavy.” To inject warmth into the dreamy abode, the team clad the walls with light wood finishings that also added a tactile appeal. 

Another key aspect of the home is the former balcony area. “These walk-up apartments typically have a long balcony by the side, but most homeowners—including the previous owners of this apartment—end up sealing it up,” says Puah. “Singapore is such a concrete jungle, and thus we proposed reclaiming the space back as a balcony to offer the clients a ‘garden in the sky’.” 

However, after the homeowners disclosed that they wished to maximise the interiors as much as possible, the design team envisioned a solarium-like indoors area instead, whilst retaining a small outdoor balcony space for relaxing evenings. The tranquil oasis was created with aluminium frames that mimic the roof rafters, in order to create an illusion where the roof continues all the way down to the glass-enclosed space. 

Expansive windows allow natural daylight to pour into the area, while mirrored infill panels on the ceilings instantly add depth and enhance the perception of space. “A keen understanding of materials and its method of application can add a very different dimension and depth to a space. In this case, it's the use of mirrors,” notes Puah.  

Furnished with a daybed that doubles as an inviting reading nook as well as a dining table and chair that forms an informal dining area, the stunning area serves as a cosy alternate communal space for hosting guests.

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Conscious of the homeowners’ love of entertaining, Puah designed the living area as a massive open-plan space for socialising, with nooks and areas cleverly defined with a mix of flexible furniture and design finesse. 

“The columns of the home were originally very slim and toothpick-like. We used carpentry works to beef up the structure of the columns, and added arches that soften the entire space up and serve as transitional marks from one area to the other,” the designer shares.

Similarly, design aspects such as a foldable screen between the living and dining area segment the spaces and create a sense of identity without disrupting the easy flow of conversation between the different areas. Several bar counters, which can be found installed at the dry kitchen area as well as the open home office that’s connected to the living room, serve as additional seating arrangements.

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In contrast to the lighter palette found in other parts of the home, the bedrooms feature darker hues that lend a moody and cosy ambience. Texture plays an important role in the design narrative, with a tactile mix of different wood finishings creating visual interest. 

Smart spatial reconfiguration was also required for the bedrooms. “There was one bedroom that was designed really weirdly; you could only access the bedroom from the back of the house. No one likes to walk through the backyard to enter their room, even if it’s a guest room,” says Puah.

The team reorganised the layout by artfully transforming that bedroom into a walk-in wardrobe that’s connected to the master bedroom. A multipurpose table at one end furnishes the space with a stylish yet practical attribute. 

Access to the master bathroom is also ingeniously concealed by the wardrobe doors. “Everything, right down to the bathrooms, is designed for design coherency,” notes Puah. The walls are lined with large format timber tiles—an aspect that Puah highlights as bathrooms typically feature smaller ceramic tiles—which channels the aura of a spa-like retreat.

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Being located on the fourth floor of a walk-up apartment, the project did present practical challenges as there wasn’t a lift available. Everything, including sanitary-ware, kitchenware and loose furniture had to be manually carried up, while waste had to be carried down to be thrown away. 

While designing the urban sanctuary had such challenges, the end result was definitely worth it for Puah. The homeowners were delighted as well. “They were quite blown away, to be honest,” he laughs. “They were amazed when they saw their roof for the first time, and was surprised that it could actually look like that.” 

For the designer, his favourite space is the solarium-like area, which “turned out to be the biggest, pleasant surprise way beyond our expectations” as it “created such lightness and transparency to the apartment”. 

Puah also attributes the success of the project to the clients. “It’s like the stars were all aligned,” he enthuses. “The architecture itself presented an opportunity; we saw the potential and what the space could be; and, at the same time, we had a very adventurous client who was willing to take that plunge.”

  • PhotographyWong Weiliang/328 Productions
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