A New Loft Level Upgrades This Luminous Apartment in Singapore
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A New Loft Level Upgrades This Luminous Apartment in Singapore

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By Luo Jingmei
Sliding partitions and added loft space make this minimalist home ideal for a growing family.

"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."

The Loft Box is on the top floor of an ’80s walk-up apartment. The removal of false ceilings allowed Cheok to insert an attic that overlooks the living and dining spaces.

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. 

The original brickwork of the apartment is exposed in some parts to lend texture and a sense of history. The flooring is cement screed.

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 neutral scheme allows furnishings to enrich the spaces.

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. 

At the other end of the plan, the master bedroom is hidden behind translucent wall panels, which amplifies illumination both ways. A sliding book display panel hides away the staircase to the attic when closed.

The original space was decked in moody tones and mirrored surfaces with low ceilings and a long, narrow plan that lacked light. 

Before: The apartment had low ceilings and mirrored walls. The travertine flooring was kept, but treated in an entirely modern manner.

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. 

A long breakfast counter is inserted within the white box, encouraging dialogue between people in the living and dining areas and those in the dry kitchen.

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A "white box" inserted into the home neatly contains various functions and services. It unifies the entire apartment both in plan and section.

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. 

The exposed beams lend an industrial character to the home while emphasizing the linearity of the plan.

"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."

The insertion of an attic makes the most of the apartment’s tall ceilings as well as provides ample space for the family.

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. 

The white palette brings tranquility into the master bedroom. The loftiness of the ceiling continues here, with highlighted beams to continue the industrial aesthetic.

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. 

Opposite the bed is the generous bathroom, accessed through fluted glass sliding doors.

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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.

A new "secret" staircase now lies opposite the entrance, leading to an attic above the "white box" form. It is accessed via an operable bookcase door.

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. 

Three bedrooms, including one for the live-in helper, are tucked at one end of the plan. This neatens the functionality of the home, dividing private and public areas into clearly demarcated zones.

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 powder room is now situated near the entrance. It is clad in panels made of lab-grade, chemical- and water-resistant material.

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. 

At the staircase landing, one is able to feel the textures of the old home more intimately. Rather than being hidden away, the bricks are framed like artwork, highlighted with subtle light fixtures.

Smooth surfaces with are layered with original, textured brickwork as "a documentation of the marks and shifts of this family home." 

Sliding doors give the home an elegant character and enhance the fluidity of the plan.

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. 

A lit Exit sign and salvaged cinema seats decorate the foyer, giving the home a playful feel.

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. 

The use of white unifies the plan and enhances the feeling of spaciousness. Existing travertine and stained timber mark the apartment’s former layout as a nod to its heritage.

Plan of The Loft Box by UPSTAIRS_

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