Cover A Minotti sofa and the Flos Arco floor lamp in the living room are among the pieces the family brought over from their previous abode, which featured an interior also designed by Peter Tay Studio

The house not only has enviable views of the Singapore Botanic Gardens—it has also been designed by notable local firms RT+Q Architects and Peter Tay Studio

In the House of Terracing Courtyards, a courtyard with a staggered profile slices through the side elevation of the house, becoming its main architectural feature. Designed by RT+Q Architects for a couple with three young children, this striking design brings wind, natural light and views of the sky and treetops into the abode.

The corner semi-detached house has the advantage of facing a curtain of trees, with views that also include the surrounding greenery; it sits on a long, rectilinear plot beside the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

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“Given the prominent location and high traffic of the site, the staggered courtyard also helps to deflect the ambient noise rather than trapping it,” says Rene Tan, who co-founded RT+Q Architects with partner TK Quek in 2003. For this project, the homegrown firm teamed up with Peter Tay Studio for the interior design to create a holistic look inside and out.

“The brief was to build a home that takes advantage of its proximity to the lush landscape of the Botanic Gardens,” says Koh Kai Li, an associate at RT+Q Architects. “On the ground floor, the full-height glass doors of the courtyard open up and create a seamless connection between the living room and the dining area.” 

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On the first floor, Peter Tay Studio incorporated the firm’s trademark reflective surfaces on the living and dining room ceiling to amplify the landscaping and sense of space. “The owners have a simple, humble lifestyle and wanted an understated interior; nothing ostentatious,” says Peter Tay, the architect-founder of his eponymous design firm.

Hence, Tay relies on the striking textures of natural materials to add decorative flair to this abode, thereby creating an interior that is both elegant and soothing. Contrasting dark and light timber throughout aims to channel the feeling of a luxurious island resort.

With the furniture, Tay composed an assemblage for comfort and quietude, while selecting more playful pieces for the children. In the living room, a Minotti sofa set that Tay chose for the couple when he designed their previous home followed them here. A large Antolini marble feature wall in the living room becomes a piece of art with its sinewy veins mimicking the twists and turns of tree branches. 

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Similarly, in the adjacent culinary zone, the bold pattern of the leathered-finish granite dining table catches the eye as visitors step further into the home.

In the dining room, a Louis Poulsen Artichoke lamp’s contemporary exuberance juxtaposes with antique Chinese wooden screens—family heirlooms—spanning a wall. Built-in display shelves featuring the owners’ favourite antique objects continue the modern Asian theme.

RT+Q Architects’ pursuit of counter-intuitive design, in which it introduces an unexpected touch in the most unlikely of places, is played out in the powder room. Here, a curved door opens to an oval-shaped space wrapped in dark timber walls by Peter Tay Studio to create an intimate cocoon.

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The staircase is another key feature. “The staircase is wide for a private residence, being inspired by the Scala Regia by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. It invites users to pause and linger with a book or for children to explore and play,” says Tan, referring to the flight of steps in the Vatican City that forms part of the formal entrance to the Vatican. The influence of classical architecture is common in the architecture firm’s designs, but applied in a modern way in their projects.

Squares of varied sizes punctuate the wall between the staircase and corridors; some are windows, some are balconies and others are lighting features. This interesting scene makes the steps more visually intriguing, while creating a physical and visual connection between spaces, explains Koh. A skylight illuminates the space and brings a sense of the outdoors deep into the plan.

The staircase, service areas and storage spaces are neatly lined together so that the main areas are sleek and functional. “The owners requested for spaces to regularly host their friends and family, but also separate private spaces for their children to go about their activities of playing and learning while guests are in the house,” says Koh.

Divided by the courtyard, the first storey’s common spaces aid in this, being able to hold separate groups of people in different zones but within sight of one another. Likewise at the attic, adults can converse in the family room while the children do their homework in their study on the same floor.

On the open-sided facade and boundary wall, shades of grey paint provide neutrality to the verdant surroundings, and large aluminium-and-glass doors and windows define the front and rear facades. A pivoting aluminium screen with timber-lookalike panels shields the second-storey master bedroom facing the road.

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The kids’ rooms on the second storey feature beds with treehouse-inspired designs for a whimsical touch, while the platform incorporates polka dots and circular cut-outs that are a fun nod to British artist Damien Hirst’s works in its use of the circle motif.

In the son’s room, a dinosaur-themed wallpaper and animal plushies showcase his personality. “Good pieces of furniture will follow you wherever you go. Things of sentimental value, things that you enjoy and will continue to enjoy, create a feeling of nostalgia,” Tay comments.

The overall interior design is less decorative and more emotive, with elements thoughtfully positioned at eye level and with fitting proportions—much like the elemental architecture that delights with its strong material and tectonic sensibilities.

  • Art DirectionCharlene Lee
  • PhotographyWong Wei Liang (Interior)
  • PhotographyMasano Kawana (Exterior)
  • Stylist's AssistantCheryl Lai-Lim
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