Houzz Tour: Old Meets New in a Restored Pre-War Shophouse
Traditions are revived, even as innovations are introduced, in the restoration-and-renovation of this conservation home
In the gazetted – and now trendy – enclave that is Joo Chiat, shophouses are “richly decorated and exemplify Singapore’s pre-war architecture by the mix of Malay, Chinese and European influences,” says Jane Iyer, who coordinates and conducts heritage tours for local legend Jane’s Tours. It’s in said neighbourhood that a lawyer-couple found their dream shophouse-home.
Houzz at a Glance
Who lives here: Married lawyers in their 40s
Where is it: Singapore’s first heritage town, Joo Chiat
Size: 197.12 square metres (approx. 2,120 square feet); 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms
Project duration: 15 months
Architect/Interior designer: EZRA Architects (Keith Khoo, Ram Vignesh, Richell Chiu, Terrence Ho)
Consultants, builder and contractors*: Mandala Landsape, JS Tan Pte Ltd, WS Surveyorship Ptd Ltd, Sage Builders Pte Ltd, Wong Interior Pte Ltd, Rice
The couple purchased the shophouse on Onan Road in poor condition, says Keith Khoo of EZRA Architects, who was commissioned to transform it. “We first had to remove lots of partitions and walls that cut the internal spaces into multiple small rooms as the previous owner rented out rooms, like a dormitory. Ceiling works and the partitions had also enclosed the height of the spaces,” he says.
Signage Design: Stylistique Ads (S) Pte Ltd
Shophouses in the Joo Chiat area were typically “two-storey terraces, steeped in cultural heritage as seen in the ornate Chinese Baroque façades, intricate motifs and bright ceramic tiles,” Iyer says. Onan Road, however, is a quieter street parallel to Joo Chiat Road itself, and has humbler shophouses.
“This shophouse was a plain Jane, but with the potential to revive the original architecture and add an extension that would enhance the enjoyment of this pre-war house,” Khoo says.
As a conservation shophouse, URA renovation and addition guidelines had to be followed. Khoo explains: “As a ‘secondary settlement’ (according to Conservation Guidelines), the entire front of the house must be retained; even restored, if necessary.
Galen Lim, executive manager of URA’s Strategic Communications and Media Relations, says: “URA has a Conservation Portal that captures information on the conservation buildings and districts in Singapore. The portal includes write-ups on the buildings, images and other resources. We also have online resources on the guidelines for restoration and renovation.”
“For shophouses, it’s really the facade which has to be protected; generally you can do whatever you like inside or even at the rear,” Iyer adds.
For this renovation, Khoo planned an extension in the rear, and a loft feature within the original structure, which needed to be reinforced internally.
“The rafters, original to the shophouse (some of them are not straight), were carefully removed, treated and reinstalled with new concealed steel brackets,” Khoo says.
Lighting: Niche Modern and Light Basic Studio Pte Ltd
Above the master bedroom is the newly added loft, which the owners use as a home office.
The owners also collect vintage furniture, in addition to antiques and artworks, says Khoo.
“Even before my appointment as their architect, the owners already had a collection of antique furniture, vintage fan and even post-war switches and regulators that are no longer in production. I had to incorporate these into the design. Honestly, it was like a dream come true to do this project as a lot of our client’s preferences mirror mine as well,” he says.
“I wanted [to bring in] original ‘old’ spiral stairs. I actually went to Penang in Malaysia, which is also famous for their pre-war shophouse settlement, to source for the wrought iron spiral stairs. I was extremely delighted when I found one that was perfect. It is regrettable that I could not confirm on the spot as I wanted to get my client’s approval first. The very next day, the scrap steel collector had melted it away to resell the steel! Anyway, we found the last wrought iron specialist in Singapore to do the work eventually. The staircase is new but it is done in the old-fashioned way,” Khoo says.
Mild steel crafted railing: Luen Soon Iron Works
Khoo designed a fish-scale-patterned grille for the roof terrace railing. “It’s inspired by the half-round profile of traditional shophouse roof tiles stacked on top of each other,” he says.
Mild steel crafted railing: Luen Soon Iron Works
Pivot glass doors on both sides of the dining room provide cross-ventilation (when they are open) and plenty of natural light (even when they are closed).
*Consultants, builder and contractors
Landscaper: Mandala Landsape
Structural Engineer: JS Tan Pte Ltd
Quantity Surveyor: WS Surveyorship Ptd Ltd
Main Contractor: Sage Builders Pte Ltd
Carpentry: Wong Interior Pte Ltd
Granite and stone: Rice
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