Straight and Narrow

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photos by:
February 26, 2009
Originally published in Born Again!

Behind an unassuming 19th-century facade in Singapore's Joo Chiat neighborhood, Ching Ian and Yang Yeo's renovation of a typical shophouse venerates tradition while looking squarely to the future.

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  “Shophouses brought back memories of our childhoods, of open back doors and neighbors and relatives wandering in and out of the kitchen and cooking and eating and coming and going whether you liked it or not.”—Yang Yeo
    “Shophouses brought back memories of our childhoods, of open back doors and neighbors and relatives wandering in and out of the kitchen and cooking and eating and coming and going whether you liked it or not.”—Yang Yeo
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  Ian and Yeo’s house was uninhabitable when they purchased it in 2002. Three months later, the roof caved in. The translation of the sign above the door of the couple’s renovated house is “peace.”
    Ian and Yeo’s house was uninhabitable when they purchased it in 2002. Three months later, the roof caved in. The translation of the sign above the door of the couple’s renovated house is “peace.”
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  Once inside, visitors are greeted by three ten-foot-tall hand-carved antique panel doors.
    Once inside, visitors are greeted by three ten-foot-tall hand-carved antique panel doors.
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  The dining table, made from a single piece of teak, is a little over 13 feet long and was custom made for the space. It can seat up to 24.
    The dining table, made from a single piece of teak, is a little over 13 feet long and was custom made for the space. It can seat up to 24.
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  Because the house is narrow and long (16 by 68 feet), the design team decided to create a huge open-air space to light the interior naturally. Two retractable motor-driven 
canvas canopies shelter the space during Singapore’s frequent rains.
    Because the house is narrow and long (16 by 68 feet), the design team decided to create a huge open-air space to light the interior naturally. Two retractable motor-driven canvas canopies shelter the space during Singapore’s frequent rains.
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  Yeo descends the spiral staircase that connects the public and private spaces while Ian relaxes on a pair of Cappellini Superlight 750 sofas designed by Barber Osgerby. The Gwapa lounge chair and ottoman in the corner were designed by Marcel Wanders.
    Yeo descends the spiral staircase that connects the public and private spaces while Ian relaxes on a pair of Cappellini Superlight 750 sofas designed by Barber Osgerby. The Gwapa lounge chair and ottoman in the corner were designed by Marcel Wanders.
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  The kitchen was custom made by a local carpenter due to its unconventional scale. The appliances consist of a De Dietrich oven, Amana refrigerator, and Imperial microwave.
    The kitchen was custom made by a local carpenter due to its unconventional scale. The appliances consist of a De Dietrich oven, Amana refrigerator, and Imperial microwave.
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  The cooking/dining space is the heart of the house, and is open to the elements.
    The cooking/dining space is the heart of the house, and is open to the elements.
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  Yang Yeo and his girlfriend Ching Ian relax on the back stoop of their renovated and radically updated Singapore shophouse—an archetypal building type in this busy port city. “Shophouses brought back memories of our childhood,” says Yeo.
    Yang Yeo and his girlfriend Ching Ian relax on the back stoop of their renovated and radically updated Singapore shophouse—an archetypal building type in this busy port city. “Shophouses brought back memories of our childhood,” says Yeo.
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