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By masking this home from the bustling street, a private tropical hideaway is created in the city

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Living in the city has many benefits, but some drawbacks can be constant noise and a lack of privacy. When designing city homes, architects are always looking for new solutions to these age-old problems.

These were the issues faced by HYLA Architects when designing this multi-storey house on a busy corner site. On one side is a main street that is used almost constantly by both foot and vehicle traffic. However, the view throughout the home is directed towards a more pleasant outlook of a park across the road, on the less busy side of the house, or towards a pond on the deck of the second floor.

The front entrance is masked by a dividing wall, which hides the living space from the gaze of passers-by. The inside face of this wall doubles as a shoe cabinet with teak panels, making it a decorative feature – and as it doesn't reach the full height of the room, natural light still floods the living space.

Han Loke Kwang of HYLA Architects says a water feature was designed outside the south-facing wall to block the busy road on this side of the house.

"The pond on the second-floor balcony cascades onto a stone wall outside the glass walls on the first floor. This makes up one side of the living space, and provides a pleasant outlook, while blocking out the sounds of traffic and people outside."

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External roller blinds protect against heat, as well as allowing for privacy from the street. These enclose the top and road side of the deck space, and are also used throughout the house. When closed off at night, the lights behind these blinds give the house an opaque glow when viewed from a distance.

"There is an expansive condominium block nearby, but these blinds screen it out. Also, the blinds are translucent, so create a soft, diffused light inside when the sun is behind them," says Han.

The lower floor of this house consists of an open-plan living area, housing the kitchen, dining and lounge room, as well as a storage and laundry space, a powder room and a spare bedroom. With glass sliding walls, this floor is light and airy.

The kitchen was custom built by HYLA Architects. The front of the freestanding island bench is made from the same granite as the water feature outside, but slightly bigger slabs are used. Han says the colour palette throughout the home was deliberately limited.

"Back-painted glass cabinets behind the kitchen counter are the same colour as the aluminium windows and doors. Teak flooring provides some visual warmth throughout the home."

The neutral palette allowed the owners to showcase their own furniture, injecting some of their personalities into the space.

The kitchen cabinets make up the front wall of a box that Han says floats within the living space. This glass-walled area contains the laundry, storeroom and wet kitchen, accessible through glass doors on either side of the cabinets.

"These doors make the space appear more open, but allow for efficient air conditioning," says Han.

Three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a family room make up the second floor. One bedroom faces the leafy view on the park side of the house. The family room and the other bedrooms look out onto the pond. This provides a nice outlook on the busy side of the house.

The second floor of the house is smaller than the lower floor, which acts as a base. The attic floor above is smaller still. Han says this reduction in size provides the upper floors with some balcony space, on what is a fairly tight site.

The homeowners wanted the master suite to be contained in the attic floor. This area consists of a bedroom, bathroom and study. The whole space faces in the direction of the park, and the room is open to a balcony.

HYLA Architects designed the bed head to incorporate a study desk, so that both the bed and the study area could face the park.

The bathroom is built under the sloped attic roof, two steps down behind the bedroom. Glass sliding doors between the two spaces make them appear as one room, while motorised blinds allow for privacy if necessary.

"The sunken bath is the centrepiece of the bathroom. The top of this bath is level with the bedroom floor, so there is a smooth transition between these two rooms," says Han.

Greenery is planted in troughs behind the basins, so a leafy view can be seen at both ends of the master suite. Awning windows provide ventilation in this wet area. Flooring is tropical balau timber boards, which give the bathroom an outdoor feel.

First published date: 06 November 2007

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Credit List

Architect Han Loke Kwang, Vincent Lee and Chian Lan Pin, HYLA Architects (Singapore)
Builder Praxis Contractors
Structural engineer PKP Consultants
Kitchen manufacturer Thung Interior Contractor
Cladding, doors and windows Clear glass and off-white powder-coated aluminium frame from AP Trading
Roofing Lysaght by BHP Steel Building Products
Flooring Teak in natural matt varnish by Cheap & Beauty
Wall coatings Armourcoat by Prospect Far East
Wallpaper Tunca Series by Vessom
Lighting Erco; Wever & Ducre; Fabbian; Llite and Antares by Luxlight
Furniture Space
Blinds Somfy; I-Shade by AK Brothers Trading
Cabinetry Custom back-painted glass and white laminated panels with aluminium lining by Thung Interior
Kitchen sink Custom non-directional stainless steel by Thung Interior
Oven and ventilation Gaggenau
Dishwasher Miele
Refrigeration Sub-Zero
Countertop Custom non-directional stainless steel by Thung Interior
Basins Wan Tai & Co
Toilet Johnson Suisse
Taps and shower fittings Hansgrohe
Tiling Technoquartz Hard Black, Silver, Ampurias Gris and Krypton Grigio tiles by Surface Project