Stacey Leong Interiors updates the ground floor of an inter-terrace to fulfil the needs of its multi-generational residents
Walk through the ground floor of House 19 with its graceful minimalism, refined detailing and elegant restraint and one would never imagine it used to be vastly different. Transformed with the help of Stacey Leong Interiors, it is now a perfect reflection of its inhabitants’ lifestyles.
Over 15 years, the three-storey inter-terrace saw its residents increase to now house three generations of a family. While the upper floors could adapt accordingly, the first level increasingly became challenging to live in.
“They struggled with the impractical layout and lack of order on the first floor,” shares the founder of the eponymous design firm. Additionally, there was very little storage space and natural light, the bathroom was too small, and the rooms were not working to fulfil the needs of a multi-generational family.
Fortunately for Leong, she had a muse of sorts from the get-go. “My client is a self-taught artist who dabbles in modern pop art using ink as a medium on the weekends,” she says.
“She has a passion for beautiful vintage collectible bags and porcelainware, including antique objects passed down as heirlooms, [so I strove to create] the perfect backdrop for her evolving taste in art and collectibles.”
Space planning and attention to detail
One of Leong’s main changes was to make the bathroom family-sized by taking in 2sqm of space from the backyard. The second was to combat the problem of darkness that plagues a lot of inter-terrace houses.
“We went with full-height windows and doors throughout level one to lend more depth and volume by optimising the natural light,” she says. “We also installed a series of slim-framed aluminium windows, which run to the ceiling frame and divide the dry kitchen from the bright wet kitchen.”
The third change was to open up the dry kitchen so that it flowed into the dining room, through a 2.4m-long island. “This serves as the proverbial heart of the house,” says Leong. “This is where the children have lunches after school and friends perch for coffee, wine and long conversations.”
The result is a harmonious space that transits seamlessly, and fulfils all the functions that the family needs — for relaxation, for entertaining, for bonding. Most notably, there is now a family room that pulls double duty, acting as an additional study room for the kids, and a games room on mahjong evenings.
All this required a major overhaul that took eight months and was far from simple. “The quest for a crisp and flawless aesthetic isn’t always straightforward in a renovation,” shares Leong. “[For instance,] ceiling heights in an existing house are limited by the original structure.”
In this case, the architecture had Tudor references, with a steep pitched roof and wood-framed windows and doors, which led Leong to work them into her design.
“Gently curved elements like the arched niche and cove ceilings complement the charm inherent in the older architecture,” she says. “Low beams created opportunities to frame a room, like the ebony-stained door frame in the entryway.”
The attention to detail adds nuance, depth and texture to the overall feel of the ground level. The checkerboard flooring in the entryway — fashioned out of Bianco Macchietta and Nero Marquina marble — is mirrored in the porcelain tiles of the wet kitchen, to tie both ends of the house together.
The book-matched slabs of Italian Calacatta Fantastico marble that form the island in the dry kitchen are also used in the small arched alcove in the dining room.
Bespoke carpentry results in flawless joinery and smooth chamfered edges in the kitchen cabinets as well as the elegant boiserie wall-panelling in the living and dining rooms.
The latter was spray-painted the same hue as the ceilings and walls to create depth and dimension, and achieve a result “that is a modern and effortless take of what many associate with traditional European architecture”.
Curated with care
Adding a layer of richness to the interior are the thoughtful selections of furniture and décor. Adding a layer of richness to the interior are the thoughtful selections of furniture and décor. Pierre Frey wallpaper adds interest to custom-built shelves and a Louis Poulsen pendant lamp lights the table in the family room. Leong and her team sourced everything, from the rugs to the lighting to the curtains.
Most notably, artworks created by the client herself take pride of place in the living room. Like everything else, this was carefully planned. “Art pieces were earmarked for each space,” Leong says. “Along with the client, we identified the walls and framed out the wall panelling to fit the artworks.”
The designer is articulate in describing her process. “Design is a language I use to tell a story, weave a tale, create connections, integrate the intangibles like memories and experiences lived into a space,” she muses.
“The finished aesthetic is only one part of the transformation. The home has to stand up to the daily rhythm and ritual of real life, not some pretend aspirational life.
“Each project is collaborative and based on reality. A significant amount of time and effort is dedicated to distilling the concept, finding the flow, visualising how people move in spaces or how they find stillness,” she says.
“Although a big part of what we do is creating functional spaces, I like to build on these desires and extend them, drawing out the concept and seeing how far we can go with each project.”