L Architects experiments with bridging a landed house and apartment in this unit in UE Square Residences
In Singapore, ground floor units in residential developments are usually not as sought after as those on higher floors. L Architects, however, saw much potential in this 1,119sqft, level-one condominium unit in UE Square Residences. In doing so, it turned it into an apartment with interiors reminiscent of the inside of a house.
The apartment’s owner – a single, 30-something lawyer working in tech – wanted her home to be an oasis of calm and tranquillity, where she could recharge and recalibrate after hectic days at work. L Architects removed the unit’s false ceiling to reveal a high, airy space. The client asked if it could do anything with it and had toyed with the idea of building a loft. As the firm’s founder Lim Shing Hui contemplated this, the idea of an apartment that looked like a house was born.
“There is a stigma attached to ground floor units. They are not favoured because they don’t offer elevated views and afford less privacy than higher floor units. So we took on this project with a desire to change this perspective, and to show that a ground floor unit also has its own unique charm. It was the common area landscape, coupled with the tall, lofty ceiling, that seeded our design strategy for this project,” says Lim.
Three little houses in one space
When she first looked at the unit, Lim noticed that both the living and bedroom space open up to a common outdoor area with a water feature, trees and plants. The perspective of this spatial configuration was not dissimilar to being inside a single dwelling house, where doors and windows typically open out to a garden. So, Lim asked her client if she would be willing to work with this house-like feel to create interiors that simulated the atmosphere of a single-dwelling house.
“There are only approximately 69,000 landed houses in land-scarce Singapore, so to own a landed property remains unattainable for most people. We wanted to use this project as an experiment to bridge both typologies – landed house and apartment. By doing this, we realised that the negative aspects of a ground floor unit can be reimagined to be something as delightful as a landed house,” she says.
The apartment has a two-bedroom configuration with both the living and master bedroom facing a balcony that is linked to a communal garden and water feature. To further expand the landed home idea, Lim decided to split up the internal spaces into three major sections: living, dining and master bedroom. Each section has its own pitched ceiling profile that’s separated from the other sections.
“We wanted the feel of three little houses within the space. To further demarcate these three sections, on the floor, we created a threshold that consists of a bed of loose river pebbles and a granite stepping stone. It makes one feel as if they are crossing from one ‘house’ to the next,” she says.
An eco-friendly approach
In wanting the interiors to feel warm and cosy, Lim chose very simple colours and a minimalist material palette. The focus was really to draw people’s attention to the sloping ceiling and timber rafters. Matte grey tiles were used throughout the house for the main flooring as well as the bathroom finishes. Because she thought green was a delightful colour to help liven the space, she used it selectively for the kitchen worktop and vanity.
“We used Empress Green marble for the kitchen worktop, coffee table and vanity. We kept the original bedroom timber flooring and stained it to a darker shade to ease out any jarring tonality issues from the original timber floor. This really helped to quieten the interior space to make it a lot more calming and elegant,” says Lim.
With an experimental design like this, Lim could only show her client 3D visuals and 2D drawings, so the biggest challenge was ensuring that her client trusted her enough to allow L Architects to execute the design. She pitched the unusual “house apartment” scheme to her client and talked her out of the initial idea of wanting a loft, which would have been less eco-friendly.
“I think since this is an apartment for a single person, there is really no need for her to gain any more floor area. At L Architects, we generally don’t want to build anything excessive or redundant for our clients if there is no real need for it,” says Lim, who believes that building meaningfully and sustainably is really important at a time when the planet’s resources are limited.
“For me, establishing the design brief is the most exciting part of any given project, and for this project I think we’ve taken a very sensible direction. We hope that we have managed to reduce some of the stigma associated with ground floor units in residential blocks, so people can see some of the advantages of living in such spaces,” Lim concludes.