In High-Rise Happy Singapore, a Luxury Single-Family Home Bucks the Trend
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In High-Rise Happy Singapore, a Luxury Single-Family Home Bucks the Trend

A local couple tore down their bungalow to create a four-story, seven-bedroom house for a total cost of $4.2 million

Thu, Aug 31, 2023 8:36amGrey Clock 4 min

A single-family home is the exception to the rule in high-rise Singapore, where most of the city-state’s 5.5 million residents live in apartments. So when it came time for Mark Tan and Stella Gwee to trade in their starter bungalow for something larger and grander, they decided to stay put, tear down and begin again on their rare 1/10th-acre lot.

In 2009, Tan, now 48, and Gwee, 46, paid 2.2 million Singapore dollars, or about US$1.6 million, for their original 1,500-square-foot house, located in a single-family enclave in Singapore’s North-East region. The couple then spent $2.6 million to replace the three-bedroom, semidetached structure, built in a Balinese-fusion style, with a four-story, seven-bedroom brick house that combines Asian and Western elements across 7,400 square feet.

In all, Tan and Gwee have invested just over $4.2 million in their new home. Multi-bedroom Singapore homes of a similar size could sell now for twice that.

The couple—Gwee works with her husband, a local entrepreneur—began demolition in 2020, relocating with their two children, Xavier, now 17, and Andrea, 13, to a nearby rental for the two years of construction. The family, along with dogs Furry and Brownie, moved into the finished house in early 2022.

The new home’s standout feature is a landscaped vertical courtyard, rising nearly 40 feet. “A lot of Singaporeans won’t sacrifice the space to build a courtyard like this,” says Tan, a Singapore native, who grew up nearby.

Enclosed by a skylight, the space is outfitted at the top with a large industrial fan 8 feet in diameter that is powerful enough to ventilate a factory floor. Made by Southern California’s MacroAir, the fan helps the family keep cool in Singapore’s year-round tropical weather. It is part of a $74,000 climate-control system that allows every room individual air-conditioning units.

The flora-rich courtyard, featuring an indoor koi pond and fronted by an open-air outdoor swimming pool, opens to the street at its base between the pool and the pond. The house can be closed off and revert entirely to air conditioning on especially hot days.

The open-plan first floor includes living and dining areas, and has space enough for a Steinway piano for music student Andrea. The second floor is given over to a mahjong room that doubles as a guest bedroom and a study. The bedrooms are on the third floor. The fourth floor serves as a penthouse recreation room for the kids and their friends.

The elevator makes for easy transitions, but Tan says his health-conscious wife takes the stairs.

Windows and terraces orient the house around the courtyard. Designing an expansive vertical courtyard was a challenge, says the couple’s architect Han Loke Kwang, principal in Singapore’s HYLA Architects, which specializes in upscale single-family projects (or landed properties, as locals call them). Immense vertical spaces like this are seen in commercial structures but are unusual in a residential setting, says Han.

The goal in the Tan-Gwee home, he says, was “to make sure the scale of the courtyard wasn’t overwhelming.”

Foliage—chosen to flourish in the courtyard’s shaded conditions and kept fresh with an elaborate irrigation system—and the koi pond help ornament the space. The pond gives the first floor a waterfront feel.

The couple spent $148,000 on the pool and pond areas. Tan filled the pond with $59,000 worth of top-dwelling adult koi, mostly imported from Japan, and several bottom-dwelling freshwater stingrays, costing $22,000.

Singapore, which is smaller than Los Angeles County, is a blending of cultures, bringing together East Asian, South Asian and European influences. The Tan-Gwee home has a decidedly cosmopolitan flair, combining Italian designer furniture, British and Canadian lighting, kitchen appliances from Germany’s Miele, and bathroom details inspired by vacations in Dubai and the Maldives.

The fortresslike facade, which preserves the privacy of the home, is in keeping with Asian residential models, says Han.

Many of Han’s clients have two kitchens—an open area for Western-style cooking and a closed-off Asian-style cooking space with wok stations, requiring extra ventilation. While finishing the house, Tan and Gwee decided to forgo the planned Asian kitchen, converting it into a kitchen terrace equipped with an $11,000 barbecue.

Back inside, the kitchen was outfitted with a steam oven, two conventional ovens of different sizes and a built-in Miele coffee machine.

These are booming times in Singapore. The city-state now has a per capita GDP of more than $91,000, higher than anywhere else in Asia and one of the world’s strongest residential markets.

Overall residential real-estate prices rose 7.5% between the second quarters of 2022 and 2023, with those of landed residences increasing by 9.4% in the same period, says Nicholas Keong, senior director of Knight Frank’s Singapore affiliate. Also, Singapore came in first in Knight Frank’s Prime Global Rental Index—far exceeding London, New York, Monaco and Tokyo—with rent prices rising 28% in 2022.

The couple seem to have exhausted their wish list. When you have everything from three ovens to a stingray budget, there isn’t much left. What about a home spa? “No sauna here,” counters Tan, who relies on the primary bedroom’s three air conditioners to maintain comfort. “It’s already too hot in Singapore.”


Foundation and framing: $589,400

Electrical work: $148,000

Designer Lighting: $74,000

Elevator: $88,400

Kitchen (including appliances): $222,000

Bathrooms (7): 148,000

Brickwork/masonry: $222,000

Glazing, including windows and sliding glass doors: $222,000

Landscaping, including indoor plants and irrigation: $73,700


Consumers are going to gravitate toward applications powered by the buzzy new technology, analyst Michael Wolf predicts

Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

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Going warm and fuzzy for the 2024 Pantone Colour of the Year

Prepare yourself for the year of the peach

Fri, Dec 8, 2023 2 min

Pantone has released its 2024 Colour of the Year — and it’s warm and fuzzy.

Peach Fuzz has been named as the colour to sum up the year ahead, chosen to imbue a sense of “kindness and tenderness, communicating a message of caring and sharing, community and collaboration” said vice president of the Pantone Color Institute, Laurie Pressman.

“A warm and cosy shade highlighting our desire for togetherness with others or for enjoying a moment of stillness and the feeling of sanctuary this creates, PANTONE 13-1023 Peach Fuzz presents a fresh approach to a new softness,” she said.

Pantone Colour of the Year is often a reflection of world mood and events

The choice of a soft pastel will come as little surprise to those who follow the Pantone releases, which are often a reflection of world affairs and community mood. Typically, when economies are buoyant and international security is assured, colours tend to the bolder spectrum. Given the ongoing war in Ukraine, the Israeli-Gaza conflict and talk of recession in many countries, the choice of a softer, more reassuring colour is predictable. 

“At a time of turmoil in many aspects of our lives, our need for nurturing, empathy and compassion grows ever stronger as does our imaginings of a more peaceful future,” she said. “We are reminded that a vital part of living a full life is having the good health, stamina, and strength to enjoy it.”

The colour also reflects a desire to turn inward and exercise self care in an increasingly frenetic world.

“As we navigate the present and build toward a new world, we are reevaluating what is important,” she said. “Reframing how we want to live, we are expressing ourselves with greater intentionality and consideration. 

“Recalibrating our priorities to align with our internal values, we are focusing on health and wellbeing, both mental and physical, and cherishing what’s special — the warmth and comfort of spending time with friends and family, or simply taking a moment of time to ourselves.”

Each year since 2000, Pantone has released a colour of the year as a trendsetting tool for marketers and branding agents. It is widely taken up in the fashion and interior design industries, influencing collections across the spectrum. 


Consumers are going to gravitate toward applications powered by the buzzy new technology, analyst Michael Wolf predicts

Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

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