House Tour: Individual spaces for everyone in this three-storey terrace house in Serangoon Gardens

Looking into the entertainment room in the attic. PHOTO: DANIEL CHIA

From the outside, the home of Chris Chen and Tina Yeo looks like your garden variety terrace house in Serangoon Gardens, inhabited by a suburban couple and their young children. But once you're inside, you're wowed by its slick designer elements such as a dramatic inner courtyard and clever kid-friendly features that you need close examination to spot.

The couple were previously apartment dwellers who wanted more space for their growing family. They were expecting their second child when they found this two-storey terrace house, but felt that they needed a third floor so they could have more bedrooms.

Their architect, Pan Yi Cheng - co-founder of Produce - agreed to add an extra floor, but worried about the inevitable dark interiors since the long and narrow house only gets light from the front and back.

The solution, he figured, would be to create a courtyard - a common feature in old shophouses - with a skylight to let in natural light.

Looking upwards towards the skylight. PHOTO: DANIEL CHIA

There was a price to pay, though. His client's initial plans to have a family area on the second floor had to be scrapped to make way for the three storey airwell.

Mr Chen jokes that perhaps it was a blessing in disguise. "At least now, I can easily look up towards the kids' room and holler for them to get ready for school," he says.

The courtyard which is the heart of the home.  PHOTO: DANIEL CHIA

The family instead gathers around the large dining table in the middle of the courtyard.

"There's nothing like a home-cooked meal at the end of the day with loved ones," says Mr Chen. The dining area is also a hotspot for extended family and friends when the couple entertain.

The couple, who are now expecting a third child, run their own consultancy firm. Their two other kids are a five-year-old daughter, and a son who is aged three.

The bedrooms are placed around the courtyard. PHOTO: DANIEL CHIA

While Mr Chen's mother has her bedroom on the ground floor, the couple and their kids have their private spaces on the second. Mr Pan made the children's spacious, with two entrances. As the kids are still young, they share the bedroom.

Ms Yeo explains that the two doors will come in handy when the kids are older. "When the time comes, we will construct a wall in the bedroom, so that the boy will get his own room, while my girls will share theirs. Each room will have its own access," says Ms Yeo.

The master bedroom is also on the same floor, equipped with a large bathroom and walk-in wardrobe.

The attic houses a guest room, and the entertainment room for cosy karaoke sessions with friends.   

Colours and materials are intentionally kept simple. White, brown and grey dominate thanks to the marble floor, teak wall panelling and concrete brick walls.

The pitched roof in the guest room gives the space a lofty feel. PHOTO: DANIEL CHIA

The grey bricks were tougher to source than conventional red ones, so Mr Pan came up with the innovative idea to line the walls with specially cut paving bricks. An uneven pattern lends texture and the teak floors outside creates an optical illusion of verandahs overlooking the courtyard.

To break up the monotony of too much wood, the couple grew plants around the airwell on the second and third floors, creating lush 'curtains' of creepers for maximum visual impact from the ground level. While the plants are flourishing from the hours of direct sunlight, Mr Chen admits it took a lot of trial and error before they found the right plants.

Creepers add a soft touch to the wood and concrete. PHOTO: DANIEL CHIA

With the kids still young and another along the way, he and his wife wanted to make sure the home was child-friendly. Mr Pan obliged in subtle ways without compromising on the overall design. For example, he added a second staircase handrail to make it easier for the kids to go up the stairs. There is a seamless connection between the dining, living areas and the outdoor play area, so that the kids can run around freely, without worrying about tripping on steps.  The car porch is set slightly lower than the outdoor play area for safety reasons.

"It definitely meets our desire to create a home that would suit everyone in the family," says Mr Chen. Not only that, it's also built to meet their changing needs as a growing family.

This article was written by Tay Suan Chiang for The Business Times. Click here to read the original story