Home Tour: A House That Pairs Californian Cool With A Rustic Beauty
Tucked away in a verdant enclave, this elegant abode boasts an enviably serene setting. Lush foliage forms the backdrop to its rustic brick façade, accompanied by the occasional sounds of bird calls—and little else.
During their search for their dream home, a family of four discovered this gem, nestled within the exclusive Bukit Timah residential area. The couple worked with Diego Molina and Maria Arango, directors at architecture firm Ong & Ong, to craft a home with plenty of communal spaces. They also wished to bring cadences of California and Provence to their home inside and out—the couple’s companies are based in these two locales, which are also destinations they love travelling to.
“The key to combining the regions was to identify their similarities—we had to contextualise these two foreign styles within the local environment,” elaborates Molina on the inspiration behind the “SoCal meets Southern France” abode.
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One of the reasons that convinced the homeowners and architects to do a reconstruction was the way the original house had completely turned its back on the verdant landscape behind it. The existing good class bungalow was almost 30 years old, with a brick façade and tiled pitched roofs similar to the neighbouring houses.
“We turned the house around so that it faces the natural backdrop—the service areas and kitchen were previously located next to the forested area of the drainage reserve,” explains Molina. Besides orientating the spaces to take full advantage of the lush foliage, the architects also created capacious living spaces that have a liberating effect on the previously congested floor plan. These spaces now flow seamlessly into one another, without resorting to utilitarian corridors or underutilised pockets of transitional spaces.
Large expanses of French windows can be found around the first-storey envelope. Fabricated from anodised aluminium, the windows are reminiscent of the bronze frames in Provencal homes. These floor-to-ceiling fenestrations let in abundant natural light, and when opened, allow natural cross-ventilation throughout the entire home.
The entrance foyer now leads directly to a solarium-like living and dining area. The space has been extended beyond the existing row of columns, creating an enclosed veranda that blurs the boundaries between the inside and out, and also serves to heighten the engagement with the landscape.
Another element that contextualises the home is the homeowners’ collection of Southeast Asian art including pieces by Yusof Ghani and Abdul Multhalib Musa, as well as homegrown artists such as Chua Ek Kay and Thomas Yeo.
“We love Southeast Asian art as we are living in this part of the world, so we should support these artists,” says the husband. Selected artworks and sculptures created by the elder daughter also take pride of place along the corridor and stairways, adding a personal touch to the family’s collection.
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Apart from aesthetic requirements, the abode’s material palette also factors in maintenance considerations. The interior flooring is predominantly eco-friendly engineered oak, which gives the home a sense of warmth.
Some areas such as the kitchen and main staircase have feature travertine flooring with a tumbled finish—it harks to the use of stone seen at Californian ranches and Provençal homes, while adding a rustic quality to the abode.
White sandblasted wood panels used on cabinet doors create the weathered country look without the maintenance woes. The walls of the home are covered with a bioclimatic plaster that prevents the growth of mould and algae, and also helps to keep the interior cool.
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The house itself is now an assemblage of carefully curated elements, materials, colours and textures. The pitched roofs—with their curved clay roof tiles and exposed rafters—look right at home whether they’re in California, Provence or Singapore.
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At the same time, every member of the family gets to enjoy their very own personalised space. The master bedroom is a portrait of serenity with a colour palette of grey, white and brown. Diffused cove lighting accentuates the height of the pitched roof and the exposed rafters, while a recessed alcove creates a cosy nook for reading—it’s also the preferred spot for mother-daughter bonding. Past the spacious walk-in wardrobe is its en-suite bathroom that features an outdoor bath and shower area with a stunning verdant view.
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The couple’s two daughters have bedrooms with almost identical layouts, incorporating minor adaptations that reflect their individual preferences. Both rooms feature an attic-like loft that makes full use of the triangulated pitch of the roof.
The elder daughter has a cosy bay window where she can read in her room, while the younger got the balcony that she always wanted. Even the family dog has his own favourite spot in the multipurpose guest room, which overlooks the outdoor pool and Jacuzzi.
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Despite the expansive size of the home, the couple feels the family has been brought even closer together—their favourite place to gather is the dry kitchen.
Located beside the pool, this is where the family shares most of their meals or catches up on their day while the younger daughter, who is the chef in the family, experiments with new recipes. It has the spatial quality of a breakfast room: bright and airy, surrounded by French windows, with a lofty pitched roof above.
“Our dry kitchen was conceived to be the heart of the home; it’s like a fireplace hearth where the family can hang out,” shares the husband. Looking at their beautiful new home, he concludes: “Despite this being a large house, I feel that the family is even more connected than before.”
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Styling Khairul Ali
Photography Koh Boon Wei, assisted by Tong Li
This story was adapted from Singapore Tatler Homes December 2017-January 2018.