Sep 13, 2008

architects &
their homes

Angle management

A slanted design for architect Rene Tan's home turned the terrace house into a light-filled one

By tay suan chiang, design correspondent

Large floor-to-ceiling windows help to let light into Mr Tan's home. -- ST PHOTOS: NG SOR LUAN

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Terrace homes, with neighbours sharing common walls on either side, can be dark places as windows can be put only at the front and back.

Not so at the home of architect Rene Tan, who thought outside the box when he designed it. Light streams into his twostorey-plus-attic terrace house, thanks to an ingenious slanted design.

Rather than being a rectangular box, the house is bent at an angle, hence enabling light to enter from the side. There are fewer common walls to share as well.

To make it look brighter, the entire interior is painted in variations of white.

Mr Tan, a partner at RT+Q Architects which he founded with architect T.K. Quek, admits that he treated designing his home like an experiment, testing out unusual designs that he would normally not do for clients' homes.

'This was something more unusual,' says the Penang-born permanent resident here. 'The shape was an instinctive response to the site.'

The 44-year-old shares the threebedroom Bukit Timah home with his wife Chuah Woei Woei, a vice-president at a bank, and their four-year-old daughter, Lara.

They moved in only about two months ago, after seven months of construction. They were previously living in a shophouse in Everton Road. He declined to disclose how much he paid for the 2,300 sq ft land, plus construction.

He says the conventional way to introduce light into a terrace home is to create a courtyard. But by slanting the house, light can enter from the side. The many large floor-to-ceiling windows also allow plenty of light to enter.

'Demanding' clients at home, too

His 'experiment' also includes the interiors. Visitors are amazed by how white the home is - from the walls and ceiling to the cabinets, shelves and flooring.

'There are 20 shades of white here,' he says with a laugh.

Another experiment involved the doors for two bedrooms on the second floor - they do not have frames. 'The doors now look like part of the walls,' he says. A doorstopper prevents them from swivelling too much.

He jokes that while experimenting with the home, he also had to satisfy the desires of his two most difficult clients - his wife and daughter.

Lara wanted a swimming pool, so he created a 10m by 2m by 1m lap pool on the ground floor. Entry is via a side passageway near the living room or by opening a sliding door in the room.

Ms Chuah wanted a big kitchen and lots of storage space. She, too, got her wish: There is a dry kitchen in the dining area with a marble-top island kitchen and a spacious wet one at the home's rear.

Instead of having numerous cupboards, he created plenty of built-in storage with sliding doors throughout the home, from the kitchen to the living room to the bedrooms. Having such storage saves space and also gives the home a cleaner look.

A spiral staircase in the 3,900 sq ft home links the two floors and the attic.

Another feature that links the attic to the first floor is a three-storey-high bookcase filled with books on architecture, literature and travel books. MrTan affectionately calls it the wall of knowledge.

Although he designed his home, he does not think it is perfect. 'If I could, there would be areas I would do differently, such as building a straight staircase.'

He was juggling various other projects while building his home and says 'my own home was the most neglected job'.

Not that anyone can tell.

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