S+Arch Design employs a curlicued façade for this Sembawang Hills terrace house

S+Arch Design employs a curlicued façade for this Sembawang Hills terrace house

S+Arch Design employs a curlicued façade for this Sembawang Hills terrace house

Pass this terrace house in Sembawang Hills too quickly and you might just miss its most interesting design element: a curlicued façade that gives it a graceful, monolithic form and an architecture that evokes calmness and tranquillity. Sitting on a plot of approximately 2,000sqft, it is designed by S+Arch Design, which demolished the original property on the site and built this new house to accommodate a total built-up area of 3,590sqft. 

The house’s thoughtfully curated material palette – lime wash plaster, micro cement, oak timber, brushed metal, bush hammered granite and honed marble – complements its curvilinear minimalist silhouette, while creating a highly textured backdrop for its pared-back, Mediterranean-inspired interiors. 

“The aesthetics are a fluid play of clean, straight lines and sensual curves. The façade’s serif swerves to shield against the heat of the western sun and provides the interiors with enhanced privacy, while double-height windows encourage interior ventilation and draw in natural light,” says S+Arch Design’s founder Stanley Tan. 

“We were looking for a pure sculptural form, a monolithic volume where the facade design is seamlessly moulded out. The curved facade walls were shaped into place using precast concrete panels. Close coordination with our builder, YMH Builder, was crucial in helping us achieve this construction,” he adds.

Friendly to the climate and residents

Aside from being pleasing on the eye, the curlicue design of the exterior walls also serves as a passive cooling strategy that mitigates the thermal gain common in tropical homes. Other sustainable elements incorporated into the design include solar panels on the roof, cross and stack ventilation via a central garden courtyard atrium, and multiple large windows and doors positioned to draw in cross breezes. 

The clients – a couple with a baby on the way – had asked for a four-bedroom home that would be comfortable and user-friendly for themselves, the baby’s grandmother, and a live-in domestic helper. They also entertain often and requested a wine cellar and spacious kitchen. Another item on their list was a study area that would allow both husband and wife to work comfortably from home. 

To meet their requests, Tan designed the house with two levels plus an attic. To address the space constraints – namely the site’s workable internal width of less than 20 feet – he kept all the service areas and vertical circulation to one side of the house to free up as much usable space as possible. Working closely with the engineers, he introduced a shear wall at the staircase, so the structural layout of the house would be column-free, thus allowing for an open floor plan and double-volume living space. Programmatic spaces were then planned around the circulation.   

On the first level are a car porch with a garden in the front, double-volume living area, dining room with a wine cellar, garden with olive trees, powder room, elongated kitchen, dry pantry, household shelter, the helper’s bedroom and bathroom, backyard garden and outdoor laundry area. 

On the second level is a prayer niche, and two ensuite bedrooms with adjoining balconies. The ensuite master bedroom, which includes a balcony and walk-in wardrobe, are located in the attic, as is the study room with butler’s pantry, lounge and powder room. Utilities, air-conditioning units, a water tank and pump and solar panels are all located on the roof level.

“This home is made up of private and public spaces, which are intrinsic to the residents’ daily rituals. The functional spaces were carefully located to harmonise with the clients’ daily routines and habits. Diagrammatically clear and simple in plan, the layout addresses the client’s brief in its entirety,” says Tan.

Blurring outdoors and in

The landscaping maximises use of the house’s terrace plot. Tan took advantage of the site’s length to expand the space visually through a series of small landscape interventions. These include a central courtyard garden with olive trees and glazed swing doors in the centre of the house. 

The courtyard garden not only breaks up the interior spaces, but also promotes cross and stack ventilation, while acting as a buffer separating the public and private domains of the home. Taller trees with softer foliage were planted in both the courtyard and backyard gardens, so the bedrooms on the upper level and attic look out to views of the tree canopy.

Together with the glazed sliding doors in the kitchen, which open up to the backyard garden, upon entering the house, one’s eye is naturally drawn to the garden foliage in both the courtyard and back gardens. 

“The double-height windows in the living room look out into the front garden, providing a garden view corridor straight across the floor, from the front garden, through the courtyard, and to the backyard. This intervention was key for cross ventilation, and it also visually stretches the space, bringing views of nature inside, and blurring the distinction between outdoors and indoors,” says Tan.

According to him, a holistic design approach was key to the success of this project. “The interiors were designed to complement the architecture and landscape of the house. The built-in millwork, internal walls, kitchen island counter, and skylights all have subtle curved edges that echo the curlicued facade. There is an understated elegance about this home with strong consistency in the refined detailing, materiality, and design language throughout the house,” says Tan.