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Night Owl Cinematics CEO Sylvia recreates her childhood kampung home in Singapore's central district

Night Owl Cinematics CEO Sylvia recreates her childhood kampung home in Singapore's central district
Sylvia and her pet dog, Porky.
PHOTO: Isabelle Quek, Bryant Lee & Lin Hai Han

Bright, earthy, natural: that’s the feeling you get when you set foot in the shophouse that Night Owl Cinematics’ CEO Sylvia Chan calls home. It’s a biophiliac’s dream, with plenty of natural sunlight streaming in and a veritable rainforest of plants – over fifty of them, says Sylvia – scattered throughout the house.

Having just moved in in February this year, Sylvia and her brother decided to model this 1,700 sq ft shophouse after their childhood kampung home.

“There was no blueprint,” laughs Sylvia when asked what design challenges she faced. Nonetheless – or perhaps because of that? – the home is an authentic reflection of the siblings’ personalities.

They had chosen this shophouse for its central location. “It’s less than ten mins away from town, and the nearest MRT station is linked to both the Downtown and North-East lines,” says Sylvia.

Another fun fact: The first level of the shophouse also serves as an office for the Night Owl Cinematics team. You can’t miss it thanks to its distinctive signboard with the tongue-in-cheek (literally pronounced NOC).

We chat with Sylvia about her new home, and discover the thought process that went into the design.

At a glance

Who lives here: Sylvia, her brother, and their pets
Type of home: Shophouse in central Singapore
Size of home: 1,700 sq ft
ID: Rezt n Relax

Night Owl Cinematics CEO Sylvia recreates her childhood kampung home with a glass-roofed kitchen and over 50 plants

Tell us about your vision for the home.

It’s a shophouse, so we wanted to keep the traditional elements of the shophouse intact while lending them a modern twist.

One of my inspirations was my old Peranakan kampung house, which had an open roof. Similarly, for this house we let air and light in by removing the roof tiles and using glass and UV film in their place.

We also kept the old Peranakan pintu pagar (fence doors) intact and added more modern Peranakan tiles to the exterior wall. This complements the original floor tiles from the 1920s.

There’s also plenty of natural light in this home.

Yes, we wanted it to be environmentally friendly. One of my requirements was that the different areas in the home needed to be brightly lit, with good air ventilation. To achieve that, we made use of all existing windows for natural light, white paint and accents to reflect more light.

Like the old houses in Malaysia, we installed multiple ceiling fans in every room to direct airflow and keep the house cool without the need for air-conditioning most days. There are also a lot of plants in the house – over 50! They provide a natural air filter and greenery to liven up the space.

That’s a lot of plants! Were you already a plant lover before moving into this home?

Yes I needed a space where there is light for my plants to be healthy. The glass roof is amazing for them and they are growing so fast in this new space. I have been busy propagating baby pots as gifts to my friends as a result.

How did you choose the colour palette for the home?

I wanted it clean, bright, and neutral. I love colours but I understand that white is the most versatile and functional.

All four bathrooms are black and white themed. They are supposed to be “same-same but different”! I picked out the different tiles myself, did a mix-and-match and the end result is beautiful.

Every bathroom has a monochromatic minimalist vibe, but if you look carefully, the details are unique to each. I think that is special.

Does your work at Night Owl Cinematics influence the design of your home?

Yes. Every room needs to be functional in its own right. On a busy day, everyone in each room should feel that they have the space catered for their needs. 

To do this, the home has to be functional and adaptable to different uses. In the middle of the house is a photoshoot studio, a livestream studio and an editing room when no shoots are going on.

We also needed plenty of storage, which was fulfilled by the storage area underneath the stairs hidden behind two Commune shelves. The shelves themselves are roomy and hold lots of equipment, while maintaining an old-school vintage aesthetic within the home.

My brother cooks every day, so the kitchen had to have ample storage and be fully functional. We also hold team meetings in this room in the afternoons, so all cooking utensils and other kitchen things are tucked away in the customised kitchen cabinets out of sight once the cooking is done.

Even my bedroom was planned for potential shoots, with plenty of electricity tracks in all walls. There’s even a full-height curtain to hide items during shoots.

How did you select the furnishings for the home? I noticed a lot of wood and rattan.

I like these elements because they’re contemporary, yet they fit into the Peranakan aesthetic. The sofa is an interesting piece from Commune – it was one of their last display pieces as they had stopped making this particular vintage style. Very pleased that they made arrangements so I could still get it!

In fact, most of the furniture is from Commune. I like them as they focus on sustainability. If you noticed, there’s also no leather used in any of the designs we chose.

Favourite room in the house?

Definitely the kitchen. I am so pleased that we managed to recreate the open-roof concept of my previous home – I don’t think I have ever seen any other shophouse with a glass roof in their yard. It’s amazing because I never need to turn on the lights in the daytime.

When it rains, it looks beautiful too. It’s the room most used from family members to my colleagues to my guests.

Also, it reminds me of my childhood kampung house so that’s the best part. It is as authentic as it is functional and aesthetically pleasing.

For more details, check out the video below:


This article was first published in Home & Decor.

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