House Tour: Contemporary-style terrace house off Upper Serangoon Road with a green wall on the facade
Privacy is at a premium when you're hemmed in by buildings on either side but when faced with the realities of urban living in land-scarce Singapore, homeowners can usually be relied upon to come up with creative solutions to their new housing projects.
Take the Tang residence off Upper Serangoon Road, for example. After acquiring a tired-looking 1950s terrace house just a few doors down from their existing home, Celia Tai and husband KC Tang decided to demolish the existing two-story building and replace it with something a little more contemporary.
Their brief to Casey Chua of ADX Architects was to come up with a design that was spacious, comfortable and filled with natural light. More importantly, they wanted it be surrounded by greenery – not a simple task when your neighbours are mere metres away.
When your horizons are limited, go vertical. Mr Chua took this theory to heart and built a green wall on one side of the property, not merely as a shield to maintain a sense of privacy but also to bring nature closer to home. A three-metre-wide, nine-metre-high wall rises alongside the front half of the three-and-a-half-storey house, towering above it and seemingly separated from the building's outer wall.
A narrow gap between the wall and the side of the house allows for vertical planting, complete with auto-irrigation system. Occupants of the rooms facing the wall – the master bathroom on the second floor and the bathroom of a large bedroom directly above it on the third floor – are the primary beneficiaries. Sliding glass doors can be opened to allow for natural ventilation and bring the greenery into the home, while a row of vertical timber fins screens the bathrooms off from the street below. Not surprisingly, says Ms Tai with a laugh, her husband spends an inordinate amount of time in the bathroom admiring the view.
"We looked at the orientation of the house," says Mr Chua. "The western sun comes across the front of the house at an angle so we wanted to have a shield from the sun."
He adds: "It's always a challenge for a semi-detached house but we decided on a wall with a small gap between the neighbour's house and this one – the wall is connected to the neighbour but with the gap the house appears to be detached."
The house, on a 3,600 square feet plot, was completed in 2015 and has a built-up area of about 6,000 square feet. That's enough for six ensuite bedrooms, an entertainment room and games area in the attic, and plenty of space to move around in for the owners and their two children, a son and daughter in their early 20s. There's even a decent gym area on an open third-floor space between bedrooms. The house is located on a slightly elevated section, and a rooftop terrace offers fine views across the neighbourhood.
Most of the bedrooms are on the upper floors, while the ground level living area is where the family gathers for meals. Half of the marble-floored room is distinguished by a double-height ceiling that gives a strong impression of volume, and natural light floods the room thanks to full-height glass windows on one side. There is an open kitchen and dining table at one end, with another marble-topped table beneath a pair of modern hand-blown glass chandeliers.
The Green Wall House, as it has come to be known, is bright, airy and functional with a high level of comfort throughout – just what its owners ordered. The family has lived on the same street for the past 20 years and there are no plans just yet to renovate their original 1990s-era home five doors away. "I like this area a lot and since we are familiar with the area – I wouldn't want to move anywhere else," adds Ms Tai.