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


This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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A Killer Golf Swing Is a Hot Job Skill Now

Companies are eager to hire strong players who use hybrid work schedules to schmooze clients on the course

Fri, Jun 14, 2024 5 min

Standout golfers who aren’t quite PGA Tour material now have somewhere else to play professionally: Corporate America.

People who can smash 300-yard drives and sink birdie putts are sought-after hires in finance, consulting, sales and other industries, recruiters say. In the hybrid work era, the business golf outing is back in a big way.

Executive recruiter Shawn Cole says he gets so many requests to find ace golfers that he records candidates’ handicaps, an index based on average number of strokes over par, in the information packets he submits to clients. Golf alone can’t get you a plum job, he says—but not playing could cost you one.

“I know a guy that literally flies around the world in a private jet loaded with French wine, and he golfs and lands hundred-million-dollar deals,” Cole says.

Tee times and networking sessions have long gone hand-in-golf-glove. Despite criticism that doing business on the course undermines diversity, equity and inclusion efforts—and the fact that golf clubs haven’t always been open to women and minorities —people who mix golf and work say the outings are one of the last reprieves from 30-minute calendar blocks

Stars like Tiger Woods and Michelle Wie West helped expand participation in the sport. Still, just 22% of golfers are nonwhite and 26% are women, according to the National Golf Foundation.

To lure more people, clubs have relaxed rules against mobile-phone use on the course, embracing white-collar professionals who want to entertain clients on the links without disconnecting from the office. It’s no longer taboo to check email from your cart or take a quick call at the halfway turn.

With so much other business conducted virtually, shaking hands on the green and schmoozing over clubhouse beers is now seen as making an extra effort, not slacking off.

Americans played a record 531 million rounds last year. Weekday play has nearly doubled since 2019, with much of the action during business hours , according to research by Stanford University economist Nicholas Bloom .

“It would’ve been scandalous in 2019 to be having multiple meetings a week on the golf course,” Bloom says. “In 2024, if you’re producing results, no one’s going to see anything wrong with it.”

A financial adviser at a major Wall Street bank who competes on the amateur circuit told me he completes 90% of his tasks by 10 a.m. because he manages long-term investment plans that change infrequently. The rest of his workday often involves golfing with clients and prospects. He’s a member of a private club with a multiyear waiting list, and people jump at the chance to join him on a course they normally can’t access.

There is an art to bringing in business this way. He never initiates shoptalk, telling his playing partners the round is about having fun and getting to know each other. They can’t resist asking about investment strategies by the back nine, he says.

Work hard, play hard

Matt Parziale golfed professionally on minor-league tours for several years, but when his dream of making the big time ended, he had to get a regular job. He became a firefighter, like his dad.

A few years later he won one of the biggest amateur tournaments in the country, earning spots in the 2018 Masters and U.S. Open, where he tied for first among non-pros.

The brush with celebrity brought introductions to business types that Parziale, 35 years old, says he wouldn’t have met otherwise. One connection led to a job with a large insurance broker. In 2022 he jumped to Deland, Gibson Insurance Associates in Wellesley, Mass., which recognised his golf game as a tool to help win large accounts.

He rescheduled our interview because he was hosting clients at a private club on Cape Cod, and squeezed me in the next morning, before teeing off with a business group in Newport, R.I.

A short time ago, Parziale couldn’t imagine making a living this way. Now he’s the norm in elite amateur golf circles.

“I look around at the guys at the events I play, and they all have these jobs ,” he says.

His boss, Chief Executive Chip Gibson, says Parziale is good at bringing in business because he puts as much effort into building relationships as honing his game. A golf outing is merely an opportunity to build trust that can eventually lead to a deal, and it’s a misconception that people who golf during work hours don’t work hard, he says.

Barry Allison’s single-digit handicap is an asset in his role as a management consultant at Accenture , where he specialises in travel and hospitality. He splits time between Washington, D.C., and The Villages, Fla., a golf mecca that boasts more than 50 courses.

It can be hard to get to know people in distributed work environments, he says. Go golfing and you’ll learn a lot about someone’s temperament—especially after a bad shot.

“If you see a guy snap a club over his knee, you don’t know what he’s going to snap next,” Allison says.

Special access

On a recent afternoon I was a lunch guest at Brae Burn Country Club, a private enclave outside Boston that was the site of U.S. Golf Association championships won by legends like Walter Hagen and Bobby Jones. I parked in the second lot because the first one was full—on a Wednesday.

My host was Cullen Onstott, managing director of the Onstott Group executive search firm and a former collegiate golfer at Fairfield University. He explained one reason companies prize excellent golfers is they can put well-practiced swings on autopilot and devote most of their attention to chitchat.

It’s hard to talk with potential customers about their needs and interests when you’re hunting for errant shots in the woods. It’s also challenging if you show off.

The first hole at Brae Burn is a 318-yard par 4 that slopes down, enabling big hitters like Onstott to reach the putting green in a single stroke. But to stay close to his playing partners and keep the conversation flowing, he sometimes hits a shorter shot.

Having an “in” at an exclusive club can make you a catch. Bo Burch, an executive recruiter in North Carolina, says clubs in his region tend to attract members according to their business sectors. One might be chock-full of real-estate investors while another has potential buyers of industrial manufacturing equipment.

Burch looks for candidates who are members of clubs that align with his clients’ industries, though he stresses that business acumen comes first when filling positions.

Tami McQueen, a former Division I tennis player and current chief marketing officer at Atlanta investment firm BIP Capital, signed up for private golf lessons this year. She had noticed colleagues were wearing polos with course logos and bringing their clubs to work. She wanted in.

McQueen joined business associates on the golf course for the first time in March at the PGA National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. She has lowered her handicap to a respectable 26 and says her new skill lends a professional edge.

“To be able to say, ‘I can play with you and we can have those business meetings on the course’ definitely opens a lot more doors,” she says.


This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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