Discover Mindfulness and Slow Living in this Plant-Filled Tiong Bahru Apartment

shares

This apartment in Tiong Bahru was designed to encourage mindful slow living.

Turn down the tempo, soak in the surroundings and celebrate imperfection—these were the aims of this project designed by UPSTRS_. Aptly named The Slow, this bachelor pad in a conserved walk-up in Tiong Bahru is a living space that caters to a simpler, sustainable and meaningful life.

squarerooms upstrs home renovation apartment in tiong bahru urban jungle plant filled flat singapore modern luxury house grey wood stone natural materials oasis entrance overall view

Dennis Cheok, Creative Director of UPSTRS_, elaborated that this approach guided the project to unfold in three ways: “One, drawing deeply from its specific heritage and morphosis; two, restraining our design interventions in parts to complement and layer upon the pre-existing; and three, pursuing an elemental material palette of steel, concrete, stone and natural timber, oftentimes in their raw natural state.”

squarerooms upstrs home renovation apartment in tiong bahru urban jungle plant filled flat singapore modern luxury house grey wood stone natural materials oasis living room shelving storage wall system

In a move that might at first seem at odds with the principle of conservation, the layout of the apartment was flipped 180 degrees—what was public became private and vice versa. “The original layout was a ubiquitous reflection of its time,” Dennis shares. “The ‘guest-facing’ living room was deliberately kept away from the kitchen, then considered to be utilitarian and ‘rear-facing’, unseen by guests and the public.”

squarerooms upstrs home renovation apartment in tiong bahru urban jungle plant filled flat singapore modern luxury house grey wood stone natural materials oasis kitchen dining island table

These days, the kitchen is the true heart of the home, where one spends the most time. Thus, the triangular layout was reworked to reflect this, with the kitchen, living and dining zones arranged in an open-plan style that looks out to a terrace with a view of the picturesque neighbourhood.

squarerooms upstrs home renovation apartment in tiong bahru urban jungle plant filled flat singapore modern luxury house grey wood stone natural materials oasis bedroom artwork painting minimalist

The middle and apex of the triangle are two bedrooms and a study, including the main bedroom which wraps around the building’s central lightwell. At the tip is a door that leads from the guest bedroom to the distinctive spiral staircase found in pre-war blocks in Tiong Bahru, according it privacy and autonomy from the rest of the apartment.

squarerooms upstrs home renovation apartment in tiong bahru urban jungle plant filled flat singapore modern luxury house grey wood stone natural materials oasis bathroom bathtub

No conservation project is complete without alluding to history and with The Slow, there is no shortage of that. Dennis took a four-fold approach, preserving materials, construction experience and style.

The original geometric mosaic tiles on the balcony floor were retained. In the living room, original brickwork was stripped then covered with plasterwork with a “scaffold” framework of metal and joinery placed in front. “We wanted to create a layering of trades to reflect the construction process,” Dennis shares. “First the masonry brickwork, thereafter, plastering, and finally, the skins and bones of woodworking and joinery.”

squarerooms upstrs home renovation apartment in tiong bahru urban jungle plant filled flat singapore modern luxury house grey wood stone natural materials oasis entrance metal door

On his first visit, the designer noticed how the light and shadows filtered through metal mesh ventilation grilles above doorways and windows, and this effect was retained in the final design and enhanced with a lighting strategy.

Wrought iron grilles are commonly found as part of the front door of apartments in Tiong Bahru. Deciding to innovate than replicate, he abstracted their style and imprinted it onto a raw steel door clad over a pre-existing timber door.

Throughout the rest of the apartment, Dennis opted for elemental materials such as steel, concrete, stone and timber, kept in their raw state as much as possible. This dovetailed with his vision to express the inherent beauty of materials and spaces in their most unembellished, natural state. “A localised interpretation of wabi-sabi perhaps,” he quips. From the looks of things, it does most definitely seem to be—best appreciated leisurely, of course.

This post was adapted from an article originally published in the February 2022 issue of SquareRooms.