The Carpenter’s Workshop taps Japanese kirigami to design this terrace house in East Coast

The Carpenter’s Workshop taps Japanese kirigami to design this terrace house in East Coast

The Carpenter’s Workshop taps Japanese kirigami to design this terrace house in East Coast

With its tall, recessed window flanked by square cut-outs of various sizes, the pure white façade of this terrace house in Singapore’s East Coast is immediately eye-catching. Designed by interiors firm The Carpenter’s Workshop, it is inspired by kirigami, the Japanese art of three-dimensional origami that also involves cutting.

The three-and-a-half storey house, sited on a compact plot of 1,733sqft, is home to a family of five and their helper. Among their asks was a high level of seclusion, bright and airy interiors, private spaces and communal areas to entertain. 

“The brief was to design a house, which provides privacy from the eyes of pedestrians or drivers on the main road, but that opens up from the inside,” says The Carpenter’s Workshop founder Victor Ting, who went on to allocate 4,400sqft to built-in space and 1,100sqft for outdoor spaces. 

East Coast terrace house by The Carpenter’s Workshop, facade
The façade of the terrace house has one tall window and small apertures to draw in sunlight in the day and ventilation.

Inspired by craft 

Ting chose white as the colour scheme, so the dramatic lines and folds of the home’s design would be emphasised. A set of window frames and breeze blocks near the entrance of the original terrace house were retained and repurposed. 

Divided into two, the terrace has a front and back section separated by a staircase that resembles a giant, folded piece of paper. In doing so, it allows light as well as airflow to filter between the levels. One wall of the stairwell was constructed with raw concrete, stretching up from the living room to the attic. This brings a Brutalist aesthetic to the interiors, providing a striking contrast to the white flights. 

The ancient art of kirigami that the staircase is inspired by is different from origami in that it involves not just folding but cutting too. Taking its cue from this, the different floors are designed to look like folds of paper, with the opening between the staircase appearing like the slits of kirigami paper craft.

The living area and kitchen are located on the ground floor. Near the entrance, a collection of antique European lights are hung against a textured white backdrop to create a unique feature wall. High ceilings give a sense of spaciousness, while large tiles in the living, dining and kitchen add to the sense of expansiveness.

East Coast terrace house by The Carpenter’s Workshop, collection of antique European lights
Near the entrance, a collection of antique European lights are hung against a textured white backdrop to create a unique feature wall.

The kitchen was constructed with a lower ceiling lined with repurposed wood to conceal a construction beam. Together with the granite backsplash and island, it forms a dark colour scheme to create a dramatic contrast to the minimalist white backdrop in the living area. 

Strong connection to all things natural 

Nature is very much a part of the house’s design, as landscaped outdoor and indoor spaces bring lush greenery to the concept. Ting created a balcony on the second level with plenty of plants, which serves as a screen between the property and road. 

He also included a glass-panelled indoor garden on one side of the family room on the third level. “This indoor garden opens up to the sky, allowing breeze and rain into the house, which makes for a strong connection to nature,” he adds. 

Contained within the upper levels are the family room, a home office, music room and four bedrooms. 

For both the home office and music room, Ting included horizontal windows on one wall, and panelled windows along the perpendicular wall to draw more light into these smaller spaces. Behind the perpendicular wall, Ting included recesses that serve as planters, so family members can look out to greenery from both rooms.  

East Coast terrace house by The Carpenter’s Workshop, music room
In the music room, a horizontal window is cut into one wall, while panelled windows along the perpendicular wall draw more light in.

Three of the bedrooms have breeze blocks that line the corner wall and flip doors that draw in breezes when opened and keep the air-conditioning in when closed. These cleverly designed features are situated behind the ventilation blocks and offer flexibility between natural ventilation and air-conditioning. 

“The use of cut-outs in the walls – which are actually breeze blocks placed in the rooms – allow air to flow through from the front to the back of the house. One issue was the reduced privacy of the rooms that they created, but we resolved these with the use of flip doors,” says Ting.

The master suite adjoins a terrace and garden. He explains, “The master bedroom opens onto a landscaped terrace, which provides a private retreat that’s hidden from the road. A horizontal window in the bedroom frames the garden view, while allowing for ventilation and privacy.”

In the attic is a gym and a multi-purpose room with an attached bathroom and two roof terraces.

According to Ting, the biggest challenge with this project was creating the reinforced concrete structural wall that supports the staircase. As a terrace house, it shares a common boundary wall with the neighbour, so great care had to be taken to ensure that it was not affected when the structural wall was built.

“The house is like a folded piece of craft, where the facade is folded with angled walls. The front of the house was designed like a piece of paper folded inwards with a window to draw in the natural breeze. From the cross-sectional view, the house looks like it’s folded into layers between the front and the back,” says Ting. 

Guided by kirigami, this house is a unique example of how intelligent design can both conceal and open up a home.