How The Alkaff Mansion Was Redesigned As A Dream Wedding Venue
It’s an uphill task, pun fully intended, to get to the top of Telok Blangah Hill. But the lush tranquillity of its verdant environment makes it worthwhile; the locale feels miles away from the busy city streets. Once one of the highest points in Singapore, this hilltop area is where The Alkaff Mansion stands. The Tudor-style bungalow was constructed in 1918 as a weekend house of its prominent namesake family. In its heyday in the 1930s, the two-storey bungalow was abuzz with high-society festivities.
Today, the former residence houses three dining venues managed by the 1-Group: the Txa Pintxo Bar, a restaurant-bar serving Basque-style light bites next to the Wildseed Cafe on level one, while Basque fine-dining restaurant Una is sited on the second storey. Partnering Spanish culinary and lifestyle consultancy Basqvium to bring the authentic flavours of the Basque region to Singapore, this multi-concept venue also celebrates its verdant surroundings with tropical accents complete with a retro mood influenced by its historic setting; it will also soon host the Tatler Design Awards 2020 in February.
(Related: 5 Reasons To Dine At The Alkaff Mansion)
The mansion’s interior makeover was led by Wei Tan, director of Suite Interior Design, a frequent collaborator who has deftly transformed other inspiring heritage-rich venues for the 1-Group including The Garage at the Singapore Botanic Gardens and The Summerhouse, which is tucked away in Seletar. Tan swiftly designed the interiors and furnished both indoor and outdoor areas of The Alkaff Mansion within two months.
Here, he reveals more about its elegant transformation.
(Related: 5 Ways To Bring The Botanical Theme Into Your Home)
What was the brief given for The Alkaff Mansion?
Wei Tan (WT) The Alkaff Mansion was conceptualised as a multi-concept venue from the beginning. With these three different concepts in one structure, the design has to accommodate the various needs of each concept but still maintain a romantic feel throughout. In addition, the spaces and furniture should also be versatile and flexible enough to accommodate weddings and events of different capacities.
The look also has to complement the various architectural elements of the beautiful conservation building while being updated to suit the needs of guests today. This was probably one of the most difficult things in terms of the aesthetics—to bridge this gap between the historic and modern design elements.
Screens had to be made oversized so that they were in proportion to the ceiling height of the building. In Una, we customised the lighting fixtures so that they could be scaled to the space they were in. For instance, the lighting feature in the centre of Una’s dining space had to occupy the large airwell or void, and the volume of the ceiling. In Txa Pintxo Bar, we created a printed pattern for the glass ceiling to add texture and a subtle sense of modernity to the space.
(Related: Singapore’s Wedding Experts Share Their Bridal Trend Forecast For 2020)
Could you explain the design concept for each area within The Alkaff Mansion?
WT Txa Pintxo Bar is a Basque-style pintxo (snacks) bar. And one of the most important things of any pintxo experience is that feeling of fun and hedonism. So the design of the space needs to have this as a focal point; its casual and modern look is designed to be conducive for both big and small groups to make them feel comfortable letting their hair down.
Una is a more gastronomic experience, so the design needed to have a more sophisticated vibe. The mellow richness of the original century-old wood flooring and ceiling beams already laid the foundation for this and we simply built upon it. It was important for Una to still be approachable, so any additions in terms of furniture and furnishings were deliberately kept simple and clean. For example, we replaced the crystal chandeliers in the middle of the room with simpler lighting fixtures.
The third concept at The Alkaff Mansion is Wildseed Cafe, an all-day dining cafe. We’re quite familiar with this as this is the second Wildseed Cafe—we also designed the first (at The Summerhouse). The surroundings of The Alkaff Mansion are very lush and green; Wildseed’s floral concept suits the space really well. We took advantage of all the existing greenery to create a cosy al fresco space that could also accommodate groups of different sizes.
What was the most challenging aspect of this project?
WT The Alkaff Mansion was accorded conservation status by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) in 2005, so there are many strict conservation guidelines to which we had to adhere to in order to maintain the integrity of the building; it was a great privilege and pleasure but also a great responsibility. The multiple concepts in the mansion meant we needed to install additional plumbing, but the facade had to be completely maintained as it is. So when we were installing the plumbing, we had to be very careful to make sure that everything was perfectly concealed.
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Which areas did you enjoy designing the most?
WT As a whole concept, I enjoyed designing the Txa Pinxto Bar the most. It was a challenge to create a focal point that was both functional and beautiful, which could also anchor the design of the first storey. Eventually this focal point became the main bar, all in black, with its standalone shelf. The patterned glass ceiling supported this focus. It was also a wonderful challenge to create a beautiful eye-catching light feature for Una. I chose to create some drama by grouping hanging pendant lights of varying forms and lengths in a large group.
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The Alkaff Mansion will be holding a bridal fair on 16 February; visit 1-host.sg for more information.