Land ownership is highly prized on the island nation of Singapore, where space is finite and “kiasu” (roughly translated as “to be anxious about missing out”) is widespread. The most creative landed properties weave stylish elements of Singapore’s exciting past and prosperous future into the structural design. However, every construction project must proceed from a closed set of practical design choices that make the most sense given the tropical climate.
Property designers got great news last year when the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) released new, more flexible guidelines on what is acceptable for landed property. Many owners have torn down their existing structures to start building more dramatic and livable spaces in Singapore.
Among the most significant changes is that it is no longer required for the third level to be set back at least one metre from the first and second levels. That means more room for creative design, but also more physical room for practical concerns. Along the same lines, the floor-to-floor height requirements have been completely removed, putting mezzanine floors and lofts back on the table.
Here are nine essential concepts for inspirational property design in a place that is part urban financial hub and part tropical paradise.
- Follow the Feng Shui
Each individual building project needs to be evaluated for the feng shui of its own destiny. Make sure that the main door of the building faces in an auspicious direction given its surroundings and that the project is protected from external forces in the area. Prioritize minimalistic design that mimics and responds to nature. Consult hexagrams of the I Ching for advice on the interplay of elements that the property will require.
- It’s Not the Heat, It’s the Humidity
Add plenty of sun to plenty of water and the result is usually plenty of fun. The price in Singapore is a humidity level of 70 to 90 percent all year long. That promotes the growth of mold, condensation on cooler surfaces and the rapid decomposition of common building materials. Incorporate ceiling fans into the interior design, and hide quiet exhaust fans inside the walls of kitchen and bathroom spaces.
- Be Cool
Everyone in Singapore loves air conditioning. Beloved former leader Lee Kuan Yew went so far as to say that, “Air conditioning was a most important invention for us, perhaps one of the signal inventions of history. It changed the nature of civilization by making development possible in the tropics.” Make the air conditioning central to the design. Resist the temptation for wide exposed patios in favor of glassed in vistas.
- Let the Outside In
Enclosed doesn’t mean boxy. The weather is beautiful most of the time, so designers are free to open up and expose the inner envelope of the building. Overhangs and inner courtyards convey the feeling of a wider expanse for the living area and create valuable shady spots on the property.
- Cook Up a Cultural Stew
Singapore was built from a swirl of cultures and influences, including Malay, Javanese, Portuguese, Chinese, Indian, British Colonial and Arabic. It’s not out of the ordinarily to see Indonesian batik window treatments over an Islamic tile mosaic flooring. Bring the diverse cultural design concepts together in an original stew of visual and highly tactile designs.
- Plant an English Garden
The Botanic Gardens and the Garden Dome remain two of the biggest tourist attractions in Singapore. Designers can win praise while boosting property values with a nod to these popular destinations using flower gardens of their own. Flowers that naturally enjoy the balmy weather of Singapore include the orchid, red-tree vines, the rose myrtle and mistletoe figs. There is even some government funding available to support the greening of the city.
- Just Add Water and Stir
The Earth is mostly water and people are mostly water. Why not make water a bigger part of the property? Water structures outside the home makes the property more dynamic and energetic. In addition, many clever designers in Singapore have built running waterways inside homes as well. This is a more elegant way to keep rooms cool, especially interiors heated by the sun through glass walls.
- Strive for Emptiness
One thing that every home owner in Singapore craves is more storage space. Amid all the excitement about visually appealing interiors and tactically pleasing surfaces, don’t forget to use empty spaces for hiding whatever shouldn’t be seen. Floor-to-ceiling shelves can serve as indicators of room division but also double as a storage/display area. Build desks into walls and don’t waste the space beneath stairs.
- Throw a Curve
What do classical, baroque and ultra-modern design have in common? A love for curves, slopes and waves. A curved, raised platform creates the impression of a stage for entertaining or a second room within a central living space. Larger, structural waves mirror the form of the ocean and communicate a sense of unstoppable forward motion for the entire property. Get into the flow and soften the hard corners.
Constraints boost creativity. Nowhere on Earth demonstrates that as well as the tightly packed island nation of Singapore, the capital of creative living design. Remember to start with feng shui and let the destiny of the property guide stylistic choices. There are many techniques to make a small space feel expansive and a hot place feel cool. Get inspired by the past and build the kind of landed property that will serve as an inspiration for others.