This semi-detached house in Serangoon Garden eschews the typical rectangular building footprint
In Serangoon Garden, estate life radiates from its iconic circus – a roundabout surrounded by eateries, increasingly trendy shops and a charming spider web of landed properties. A quick five-minute stroll from the neighbouring Chomp Chomp food centre is Half Moon House, a two-storey-with-attic semi-detached building by LATO Architects/Design. Lived in by a long-time resident and his wife, it has been rebuilt on the site of his former single-level childhood home.
The reason for its name is clear: the house is a semi-circular building with the party wall making up the straight line. Some might even venture that Half Moon’s circle-like form is apt for a neighbourhood laid out around a traffic circle. Lim Ai Tiong, Founder of LATO Architects/Design, reveals how the challenges of a narrow front and wide back presented by the 4,200sqft triangular site resulted in this unique solution.
“The house the husband grew up in was too old and small for them. I reckon it was built in the 1970s,” shares Lim, of the owners who are in their 60s and retired. Beyond briefing him about the rooms they required and their hobbies – golf and rearing koi fish – the couple gave the architect free rein. “That’s why the house design could be unique,” he adds.
On the geometric scheme, Lim explains, “A semi-circular shape fits well [into the plot] as it tapers in and ‘widens’ the front facade in a very beautiful and subtle way.”
The owner’s fondness for ornamental carp also gave him the idea of wrapping a koi pond around the house. Not only does the ribbon of water accentuate the home’s curvaceous form, it also gives it the perception of floating on water. One even has to cross a clear glass bridge, over the perimeter pond, to access the front door – everything is designed to reflect an appreciation for tranquillity and aesthetic flair.
Just inside, the open-plan living, dining and kitchen spaces fully face the pond, with slide-fold doors blurring any boundary between the indoor and outdoor. A plush, double-sided sofa, positioned right by the edge of the living room, affords the owners and guests the ability to stretch their legs out to the garden, or inwards to the TV room and soaring triple-height foyer topped by a skylight.
“The owners enjoy the openness of the living spaces and spend much time enjoying the koi and borrowed garden space,” Lim reveals.
Right in the centre of the living area, a gently sweeping staircase – fabricated in steel and encased in a warm timber veneer – seemingly dances its way up to the upper floors. Light and sculptural in form, and with handrails over glass balustrades, its feel is palpably balletic. Also connecting all three levels is a glistening, glass-encased elevator by the entrance.
Up on the second floor, the master suite is endowed with a continuous, one-metre-wide balcony that overhangs the koi pond below. Here, in the hemicycle, a private sleeping area is bookended by a cosy reading nook and on the other end, an ample walk-in closet and bath. Again, slide-fold doors open to the natural environment, but this time, vertical aluminium fins on the facade offer privacy and sunscreen, while accentuating the home’s geometric form.
“The screens give the protruding second storey more mass, and create an open-close-open massing for the first, second and attic floors. The vertical fins are employed not only for aesthetics but also to suit the use of the different levels for public, private and public spaces,” Lim elaborates.
Separating the master suite from two ensuite guest rooms, which tuck against the party wall, is a long corridor with doors at either end to enable cross-ventilation. This is, after all, the tropics, and warm, humid weather calls for solutions that encourage thermal comfort. It’s also in this intersection that the staircase winds upwards once more.
The attic, like with so many contemporary landed homes these days, is not simply a storage area. The size of a studio apartment and outfitted with an enviable entertainment system, it basks in sunlight filtered by the roof’s deep overhanging eave. Just adjacent, the roof terrace is alternately purposed as an alfresco dining spot and putting green. Needless to say, the view the owners now have of Serangoon Gardens is something the husband wouldn’t have dreamt of as a child.
Sustainability considerations have also been employed in this new build. Solar panels on the roof allow the owners to play their part in decarbonising the energy grid, while providing attractive electricity cost savings.
With the home’s atypical design scheme, one can’t help but wonder if it was the challenges of the site, other inspiring builds, the owners’ carte blanche – or a combination of all – that gave Lim’s team liberty to (literally) think out of the box. “Not really. All design decisions came about as serving a function – whether it was the shape of the house, the use of the aluminium fins, etc,” replies Lim, with nary a pause.
As someone who similarly grew up in the neighbourhood, it’s heartening each time to see residents deepen roots within the community. And when their architectural pursuits go right, add to its placemaking.