Breaking up the grid of a 35-year-old mass-produced terrace house was a turning point for owners Josephine and Alan Tan.
By tearing down walls and putting up glass divides, the once sombre house is now a sunbathed, cosy residence.
IMAGINE four adults having to share a single bathroom. That was what the Tan family did for over 20 years at their terrace home in East Coast.
"It was a nightmare each morning, when everyone had to use the bathroom at the same time," says homeowner Josephine Tan. Not any more.
A few years ago, Mrs Tan and her businessman husband, Alan, finally decided that it was time to give their 35-year-old home an upgrade. The timing could not have been more perfect.
From a family of four, it has now grown to six. Elder son, Marcus, got married in 2010 and his wife Priscilla moved in with the family. They have an eight-month-old baby named Russell.
And from having to squeeze into a two-storey home, now, each family member has a room of their own, that comes with very generously sized bathrooms.
Their architect, Goh Chioh Hui of Studiogoto, kept the home's structure but added an additional storey, extending its length at the same time.
"Homes like theirs were mass produced in the past, with few design elements. People bought them based on the number of rooms they needed," says Mr Goh.
With only windows at the front and back, and walls on the sides, terrace homes, like this one, tend to be dark.
"There was no natural light in the home and I was so surprised that all the lights had to be switched on, even at noon," says Mr Goh.
Now, Mrs Tan raves about how she no longer needs to have lights on during the day, after Mr Goh made it his mission to get more light in.
Where he could, he knocked down concrete walls on the ground floor, such as in the kitchen, which he replaced with glass panels.
The kitchen opens up to an informal dining area. The family members usually gather at the island table for their meals.
To let in light and breeze into this dining area, floor-to-ceiling glass doors were put in.
Mr Goh also moved the staircase from its old location in the centre of the dining area to the side. This opened up more living space. From a small dining area, Mr Goh created a larger dining space and also built a powder room.
As the elder Mr Tan and his son both love fish, Mr Goh created two fish ponds - a small one at the back, and a slightly larger one that runs down the length of the living room, and comes with a water feature.
"It is very soothing to listen to the sound of water cascading, and the pond also helps keep the living room cool," says Mrs Tan.
While some owners want to have as many rooms as possible, the Tans kept it to just what they needed.
There are only three bedrooms, and each very spacious. "All of them have their own little chill-out area," says Mr Goh.
A balcony which was previously under-utilised has been converted into an air-conditioned sitting area for younger daughter Denyse. From her sofa, she can look out onto the quiet neighbourhood.
The master bedroom is big enough to have its own study area.
In the past, Mr Tan would often do his paperwork on the dining room table, but now he does it here. Reconfiguring the bedroom also created more space for a walk-in wardrobe, a far cry from when Mrs Tan had to hang her clothes in the open.
With plenty of shelves built into the bathroom, Mrs Tan can now display her collection of miniature perfume bottles in there.
"I don't use perfume much these days, but at least now I have a space for them," she says .
The younger Mr Tan, his wife and son have their own little space on the third floor. It comes with an outdoor sitting area which has its own access. The area has been a hit with their friends, who come over for wine on weekends.
Their sleeping area is large enough to accommodate a bed and Russell's cot.
Having kept in mind that the family was likely to grow, from its design stage, Mr Goh planned a nursery at the back of the bedroom.For now, it is Russell's playroom as he sleeps with his parents, but when he is older, that will be his bedroom.
To encourage more light into the home, Mr Goh designed a linear skylight above the staircase. "From the top of the staircase, Marcus and Pris love to watch how the sky changes colours in the mornings," says Mrs Tan.
Mr Goh also picked off-white for the walls and built-in cupboards, again, to help make the home look brighter. The light brown wooden flooring adds contrast and warmth to the home.
Being fully aware that terrace homes are tightly built next to each other, Mr Goh paid special attention to the home's facade. Vertical and perforated aluminium screens at the front provide privacy, while still allowing light and breeze into the home.
The whitewashed walls complement the neighbouring houses.
"You don't want to build a home that would mess up the street's profile," says Mr Goh.
Now that her home is much brighter and more spacious, Mrs Tan is only too happy with the results. But the best compliment came from a neighbour.
"She had just renovated her home, but after seeing mine, she regretted not having hired Mr Goh to do the job," says Mrs Tan.
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