YWA Studio contrasts the fortress-like façade of this semi-detached house in Telok Blangah with open interiors 

YWA Studio contrasts the fortress-like façade of this semi-detached house in Telok Blangah with open interiors 

YWA Studio contrasts the fortress-like façade of this semi-detached house in Telok Blangah with open interiors 

So successful was YWA Studio in applying a monochromatic palette to parts of this semi-detached house in Telok Blangah that the photographer had to come back to do a reshoot. The reason? “All I saw was a big black mess,” laughs Tan Yue Wei, the Principal Architect and Founder of the design firm. 

Done in response to the clients’ brief of keeping things clean and minimalist, the three-and-a-half-storey home also reflects their love for the Japanese street style and grunge aesthetic. The result is entire rooms and swathes of feature walls that are covered in dark grey or black laminates. 

Mirroring this is the austere front façade design, composed of a solid graphite-coloured wall and a slim, inverted-L-shaped cutout on the side. Conceived at the clients’ insistence, it is overt in its message about the high value they place on privacy. No surprise then that Tan named the project Maison Forteresse. “Apart from the balcony on top, everything else is just pretty closed up at the front,” he says. 

Light and bright

Enter the house though and any lair-like impressions are quickly dispelled. The first storey has an open floor plan, with the living room flowing seamlessly into a balcony and, at the rear, the dry kitchen and main dining room. Matt, sand-coloured tiles lie underfoot and the Almond Yugen Oak laminate wraps fluted panels on two walls.

Further providing illumination is the balcony that has an organically shaped air well rising three floors and topped with a skylight. Awash in pure white, its form on every level is articulated with recessed lights to draw attention to the curves. 

“Even as it breaks away from the linear design of the rest of the house, we wanted this to be the central axis where, when people come in, it’s like a talking point and an icebreaker,” explains Tan, who adds that he worked hard to convince the client to include this unique feature. 

That the air well is stacked above a balcony than a courtyard hints at how the site is not quite flat. In fact, it slopes significantly from front to back, resulting in a height difference of 4.5m (or one entire level), so that the house has a “lower first storey”, as the authorities prefer to call it. 

Yet, it all works out perfectly because the dining room is then in the fortuitous position of having a view of the luxuriant foliage of rows of mature tropical trees. Easily mistaken for a park, it is actually the carpark of a neighbouring condominium. “Since there was the opportunity to look at all that greenery, we used floor-to-ceiling glass sliding doors and kept it open to evoke the feel of dining in the canopy,” says Tan.

Semi-detached house in Telok Blangah by YWA Studio, dry kitchen and dining room
The dining room is in the fortuitous position of having a view of the luxuriant foliage of rows of mature tropical trees in the carpark of a neighbouring condominium.

Dark and brooding

If it is not obvious by now, another important consideration that influenced the design was the clients’ lifestyle of having guests over. Tan elaborates, “They love to entertain, so we focused on ensuring the zoning is split with good spaces to entertain downstairs and not disturb the private places upstairs.”

When not dining on the first floor, guests are ushered down a level to where the man-cave-like entertainment room is. Gaming tables, a plush sofa and massage chair occupy the space, edged with carpentry wrapped in Anthracite Eames Teak laminate and displaying an impressive Bearbrick collection. Beyond this room is a terrace with a barbecue pit and, thereafter, a swimming pool that spans the width of the site. 

So hospitable are Tan’s clients that they have even provided three guest rooms on the second floor. Friends who wish to have an extended stay in their home are welcome to spend the night or use one of the rooms for a nap during the day. 

Across all the bedrooms, a similar minimalist style is used, albeit with some differentiating elements. For instance, one has a more “playful and experimental” approach with a mural on the bedhead wall. “The design goal was to achieve a sense of welcoming embrace with little elements,” shares Tan.

Semi-detached house in Telok Blangah by YWA Studio, guest room
Designed to be welcoming and cosy, this guest room’s design is deliberately muted so that the framed view of the tree canopy can be enjoyed.

A junior master occupies the same level, this time for the clients’ son. On the third floor sits the master suite, entirely swathed in Black Oregon Teak laminates. There is definitely no way to navigate the room at night without any lights on. 

Topping off the house is the attic, which is a surprise departure from the rest of the house, as instructed by the feng shui master. Clad in blonde-toned Ibiza Nogal laminates, it is a bright gym that can double as a study. A balcony completes the space, demarcating the base of the inverted L found on the façade of the house. 

In designing this house, Tan has masterfully balanced the clients’ desire for a minimalist, grunge aesthetic with the practical needs of a comfortable and welcoming home. The striking monochromatic palette, which initially posed a photographic challenge, sets a dramatic tone that is cleverly softened by lighter elements and interesting design features. 

“We’ve been friends a long time,” he explains. “Knowing their character and personality, it was easy to reflect that in the design of their house.”

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