"I think the greatest success for this project was in creating and amplifying space," says Dennis Cheok, founder and creative director of Singaporean design studio UPSTAIRS_. "We went beyond the limitations of the floor plan and sought to carve out volumes of space and flood them with natural light. That, in itself, was really half the battle won."
This statement is an accurate portrayal of well-resolved interior schemes, where thoughtful programmatic solutions and considerations of wellness—such as sufficient sunlight—are as important as material tactility and adornment.
For this project, Cheok was challenged to make the 1,700-square-foot apartment more functional for the homeowners, who’d entered a new phase of their lives. Having first moved in as newlyweds, they’d relocated overseas for a work stint and returned with two children in tow.
The clients needed more space—three bedrooms rather than the existing two—and ample storage to house the odds and ends of a larger family. They also requested both wet and dry kitchens and a separate yard.
The original space was decked in moody tones and mirrored surfaces with low ceilings and a long, narrow plan that lacked light.
The homeowners requested a clean, white interior that would make the most of the original, double-volume loft space currently concealed by false ceilings. Cheok removed the latter, thus opening up many possibilities, including a loftier living and dining area.
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Cheok also anchored the social heart of the home with a white box housing the dry kitchen and breakfast bar adjoined to the now-relocated wet kitchen. The top of this box becomes an attic that provides increased floor area. It runs the home’s length to neatly contain services, storage, and other spaces.
"Formalistically, we made use of the archetypal ‘white box’ as a unifying spatial volume within a programmatically complex home," says Cheok. "This helps us anchor the entire apartment, with all spaces either within or planned around it."
Bedrooms are now neatly tucked to the extreme ends of the plan for privacy, with the enlarged master bathroom borrowing space from the original kitchen to include a generous walk-in wardrobe and bathroom.
Apart from the newfound feeling of spaciousness, the house is also now defined by ample light bouncing off the white walls and Teucer skyLUX artificial lighting systems mimicking skylights. Exposed beams travel across the voluminous space, emphasizing the home’s linearity.
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The minimalist treatment enables the appreciation of pure space and reduces visual clutter. Several gray surfaces in the structure, flooring, and furnishings create a layered effect.
Cheok’s background—he studied architecture at the National University of Singapore—has a lot to do with his obsessive manipulation of the interior architecture. A language of reduction governs his oeuvre—color, if used, is purposeful, though a neutral palette dominates.
Sliding partitions are also commonly featured in his projects. In The Loft Box, they effectively expand and portion space to cater to daily domestic routines.
The purity of planes and tones and the addition of moving walls give the house an art gallery–like character. But it is not staid. Cheok retained parts of the existing home rather than starting with a tabula rasa, giving the dwelling personality and depth.
Smooth surfaces with are layered with original, textured brickwork as "a documentation of the marks and shifts of this family home."
Parts of the original timber flooring and travertine tiles were also conserved in line with this attempt at spatial storytelling. Vintage Bakelite switches, salvaged cinema seats from the old Golden Mile Theatre, and pieces of heirloom furniture all find their place in this home.
Above the cinema seats, a lit Exit sign helps form a tongue-in-cheek vignette. Studio Toogood’s skeletal Spade chairs and graphic Flos lighting are sculptural accents against the alabaster foil.