Cover Most of the fittings and finishings in this apartment were custom made in Chiang Mai, be they the tiles on the kitchen island or the built-in shelves in the living area

Craft traditions, earthy textures and tropical modernist influences make a harmonious mix in this soothing Singapore home designed by Goy Architects

Architect Goy Zhenru’s passion for craftmanship is at the heart of her eponymous Singapore-based practice—the principal founder of Goy Architects has made it her firm’s mission to celebrate the artisans and craft traditions of Southeast Asia in every project her team undertakes. This love of handmade artistry is evident in this tranquil duplex apartment in Singapore, which not only incorporates an ample use of natural materials but also a thoughtful array of custom ceramics and furnishings created in collaboration with the Chiangmai-based makers of Saraphi Ceramics Arts and Design.  

This four-bedroom apartment of a young couple and their three pets is situated on the first storey of a condominium complex in the breezy East Coast neighbourhood. The clients enjoy outdoor activities, and love to cook. The wife is also a yoga practitioner, so the owners desired their abode to be as uncluttered and spacious as possible to accommodate sessions on the mat, and also for their two pet dogs and cat to roam freely about their 2,000 sq ft home. 

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“The owners wanted their home to be very relaxed, homely and connected to nature. They were very interested in the processes that we did and with our focus on vernacular materials and furnishings, as it reflected their interest in the region and craftsmen in Southeast Asia,” shares Goy, who was delighted at the couple’s shared enthusiasm for artisanal work.  
 
This shared passion is celebrated through the earthy colour scheme and the mix of natural textures found throughout the apartment. Some of these design elements are a nod to the legacy of Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa and his contribution to tropical modernist architecture. One such notable element is the ceramic flooring created for the living room, which features a design that helps minimise production waste.  

“To soften the large-format ceramic tiles selected for the flooring, we added timber strips to run between these tiles,” shares Goy. “We like this cold and warm contrast. It's also inspired by Geoffrey Bawa’s tropical architectural work, where they did a separator line to cast the tiles batch by batch, so if any of it cracks [during the process], you can redo just that batch.”

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Taking the clients’ culinary passion into consideration, the firm made the kitchen the heart of the home with a custom island created in collaboration with Saraphi Ceramics Arts and Designs. With its curved form and ombre hues, the celadon tile-clad island is the apartment’s centrepiece. Shares Goy: “Pakawat ‘Aan’ Boonsong, the owner of Saraphi Ceramics Arts and Designs, is not only a ceramic artist but also a chef who runs the only restaurant in Chiang Mai that serves fresh soba noodles. Crafting and kneading both noodles and pottery by hand, his skills were used to hand-shape the tiles.”

The undulating form of the tiles also take a cue from the sea waves and the abode’s proximity to the beach at East Coast Park. Adds Goy: “The tiles are varied and speckled to resemble the textures of water. Every time you fire ceramic glaze, it can come out differently. Our team in Chiang Mai, led by architect Kulap ‘Sam’ Loetmanlikaphorn, worked closely with the artisans to test the use of tiles in many different forms, not just this curved shape. There were many variations, and this form was the one that the couple liked the most.”

Goy Architects also designed the home to maximise its connection to the outdoors and its soft natural lighting through the material palette and interior architectural elements. Sliding doors beside the open-plan living and dining areas open up to the terrace and views of the swimming pool.

“We used a lot of timber, wire-brushed teak veneer, which has a lot of textures to it; most of the materials and furnishings made and produced in Chiang Mai, and there were so many possibilities in creating custom furnishings for the home. We did this semi-rustic finish in which you can feel the grain of the coffee table. We also applied textured paint to the walls in the living room for a matte finish, so that it’s not so reflective and has an aged look to it.”

“The owners wanted to enlarge the master bathroom, so we expanded it with the main corridor space and curved this extension as we didn’t want to create an uncomfortable corner with a 90-degree turn,” explains Goy. “We were worried that there’s not enough ventilation, so we created a brick ventilation vent on top. We laid it with brick tiles so that it has this terracotta shade within this bathroom area.”

 

A set of sliding doors made of reclaimed teak timber serves as a spatial divider in the master bedroom, while adding warmth to the space. The firm also selected works by Singaporean textile artist Tiffany Loy for the master bedroom and living room. These magnet-framed wall hangings are from the Karasando series of linen fabric and paper collages that Loy designed exclusively for Grafunkt, and are made in Kyoto by Japanese textile manufacturer Kojima Orimono.

Altogether, the result is cosy and homely; the couple enjoy being in their kitchen the most, and moving with ease between the pool-facing dining area and the culinary zone between work and play. “The clients like the possibility of entertaining people while they are cooking; this is a new way of living that they are embracing. As such, the kitchen has become something like the ‘new’ living room for a lot of our projects,” explains Goy.

It is also the perfect embodiment of the firm’s creative ethos: “The dry kitchen really encompasses everything we are passionate about: from the tiles and ceramics to the open connection.”

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