Home Tour: A Modern Tropical House In Singapore That's Designed With Family In Mind
Prakash Raja, a corporate lawyer and his wife Sharline Suhumaran, a developmental pediatrician, wanted a private sanctuary that could offer them respite from their busy lives.
“My ideal home is a space that’s safe, familiar, beautiful and comfortable,” says Sharline. For her husband, home is a place he comes back to unwind, and to spend quality time with his wife and their two young children every day. “It is a place that the kids will enjoy growing up in for at least the next 10 to 15 years,” he says.
The couple entrusted the design of their home to their friend Luther Seet, an architect and partner at Singapore-based practice AL+ and a co-founder of London-based studio Inully. He took the creative freedom he was given and enthusiastically drafted some 80 drawings for the house, a quantity greater than what is usually done for residential projects of this size.
“From the start, the owners and I had a common vision—that the central open-air courtyard was a necessary device to bring daylight into the heart of the house,” says Seet. “Some owners see it as a waste of usable space, but the quality of light and ventilation is something you cannot really measure or sell. But for this house, it was a very conscious design feature. For narrow and deep places, the courtyard is something more vernacularly informed.”
The house in question is an inter-terrace unit that was Prakash’s family abode. The decision was to tear down the old building and construct a new house. Design planning took a long-term view of creating a supportive multi-generation family home that is nurturing for children and in which the grandparents might come to stay comfortably. Considerations were therefore practical and honest—such as opting for tiles in the children’s rooms and living areas where a bit of rough and tumble is expected and designing a staircase wide enough to accommodate a stairlift in the future.
Keeping It Cool
It is important that the architecture keeps the west-facing house cool and comfortable. In this aspect, the central courtyard channels heat out so air can be drawn in to cool the house. The front facade and roof are double layered with an air gap for insulation.
To shelter the house from the afternoon and evening sun, screens are placed along all three floors—constructed in pine on the ground floor where it is relatively more shaded, and in more resilient aluminum on the upper levels where the house bears the brunt of the strong rays.
A palette of dark grey and timber is applied to both the home’s exterior and interior. “We did not want the sun heating up concrete or brick walls, which will radiate heat back into the internal spaces at night,” says Seet.
Textured and natural materials like teak, coarse-veined stone (a beautiful green forest marble from India is used in the kitchen), and rough cement finishes were selected for a more informal quality to make the owners feel at ease at home. “It is always my goal to create spaces that are comfortable to be in,” shares the architect. “The home is not so pristine and maybe it can even get a bit messy. That is generally my design thinking for homes.”
(Related: How To Design Rooms Made For Your Family)
Tailored To Fit
While Seet had free rein over the design, the couple had a hand in selecting the furniture and fittings. “On a trip to Bali, we came across a number of small craft shops,” shares Prakash. “My wife worked directly with these craftsmen and we coordinated the shipping through a local agent. This way, we were able to create beautiful custom-made pieces to fit our space.” The couple adores traditional Balinese design, especially in rattan, as well as mid-century modern furniture.
“The most nerve-wracking part of the process was waiting for the furniture to arrive and hoping that it would all look and work out as planned—thankfully, everything turned out beautifully,” says Prakash. One lovely piece in the master suite is the headboard in a Balinese-style lotus design, placed to face the open his-and-hers wardrobe Seet had designed for the couple. “Overall, the best thing is that the space has been fully customised to our tastes and needs,” say the owners.
- Art DirectionKhairul Ali
- PhotographyJasper Yu
- Photographer's AssistantTan Ming Yuan