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Touches of the Orient

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The classical European form of this home is individualised with subtle Oriental touches

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An empty piece of land on the side of a river and no restrictions other than budget provides an architect with a rare design opportunity.

Architect Graham Taylor rose to the challenge when designing his own home on the banks of a river in a city filled with an eclectic mixture of architectural styles from traditional South-east Asian, to Chinese, Art Deco and French Colonial styles.

"We decided on a classical European style, partly to give it a point of difference. This architectural style is also highly functional and suited the climatic conditions," says Taylor.

The exterior walls are 45cm thick, built using a cavity wall construction system. This helps to keep the house cool and allows all piping to be concealed within the walls.

Small windows are recessed as deeply as possible into the walls to provide maximum shade from the sun. Inside, high ceilings allow the heat to rise and disperse.

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"The original idea for the house was to design a cube in its most basic form, where the height, width and length were the same dimension," he says.

The result is a two-storey, 12m-high cube with an open-plan living and dining room, separate television room and study on the ground floor. Domestic staff quarters and the kitchen and laundry are also on the ground floor, with four bedrooms and bathrooms located on the upper level.

Simple, classical European principles have been applied to the exterior design, with subtle Oriental touches that make reference to the location. To ensure the house has a peaceful living environment, the architect worked closely with feng shui consultants.

Outside, solid marble Fu dogs guard the front entrance to the house, while inside a priest has determined the orientation of the staircase, the position of the beds in each bedroom and the cooking range in the kitchen. Outside, the fall of water from a statue into the pool conforms to the principles of feng shui.

"Once we established these parameters, we were able to work on the finer details of the design," Taylor says. "One basic design criteria was that every material, finish and piece of furniture should be sourced locally."

Apart from some items of kitchen equipment and a few accessories, everything in the house has been custom-made or produced locally.

For the interior, Taylor wanted a decorative style that would be practical yet provide indications of the personal taste of its occupants.

"We decided to create a timeless, neutral shell. As a contrast to this, we have filled the house with heavily decorated furniture, light fittings and accessories," the architect says.

"The neutral walls make it easier to change or rearrange our furnishings, and provide a great backdrop for art and accessories."

A striking feature of the house is the central roof-light which brings light into its heart. This is decorated with four Art Deco 2m-tall bronze figurines, which appear to hold up the glass. These were copied from a small bronze artifact already in the owners' possession.

The main living areas on the ground floor are in one large, open-plan zone. However, to ensure that the television does not dominate the space, this part of the room can be divided off with sliding doors.

Once divided off, the television room can be air conditioned. The rest of the ground floor living spaces receive natural ventilation through front, back and side doors.

Access to the garden and swimming pool from the living spaces is through large French doors. This outdoor living space is protected from the weather by a large balcony which opens off the master suite upstairs. Rattan blinds can be lowered around the perimeter of the patio to provide additional shading.

A spacious, landscaped garden including an 18m-long swimming pool runs the length of one side of the house. Between the house and the river are plantings selected to provide an abundance of colour that stands out against the neutral granite tones of the building.

First published date: 14 May 2004

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Credit List

Architect Graham Taylor Designs (Singapore)
Interior and kitchen design Graham Taylor Designs
Main contractor Hoa Binh Corporation
Roof, tiling, flooring Dong Tam Ceramics
Window and door joinery and hardware Hoa Binh Corporation
Paint Dulux ICI
Home audio Sony
Furniture Gentries Time-proof Originals
Kitchen manufacturer Hoa Binh Corporation
Benchtop and splashback Granite
Sink Teka
Taps American Standard
Hob Sakura
Microwave National
Ventilation Elica
Refrigerator Samsung
Lighting Custom-made