In High-Rise Happy Singapore, a Luxury Single-Family Home Bucks the Trend | Kanebridge News
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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


Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

Americans now think they need at least $1.25 million for retirement, a 20% increase from a year ago, according to a survey by Northwestern Mutual

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Designing Dreams: David Charette’s fascinating Spaces for Children’s Adventures

David Charette has teamed up with CIRCU Magical Furniture to design spaces that capture the essence of childhood wonder.

Tue, May 21, 2024 4 min

This collaboration between David Charette, founder and principal of Britto Charette, and CIRCU Magical Furniture aims to stimulate the imaginations of children, encouraging them to invent their own tales of adventure. Drawing on his extensive travels, Charette believes that journeying through different cultures can spark creativity in young minds.

His latest venture uses a mix of luxury elements and magical themes, incorporating products from CIRCU, Covet House, and other vendors to create unique, enchanting children’s rooms. These spaces are designed to reflect the excitement and mystery of exploring new worlds.

The Sleeping are:

David Charette has transformed a Montreal residence into a magical sleeping area where time seems to pause, and adventures await. Known for its long, cold winters and short days, Montreal served as the perfect backdrop for Charette’s vision of a space that remains warm and bright throughout the year.

Central to the design is the concept of “light and bright,” brought to life using de Gournay‘s hand-painted wall coverings in fresh mint, decorated with flying butterflies. These elements beautifully complement the original shapes of the KOKET Nymph Wall Lamp and the organic curves of the CIRCU Tristen Bed.

Charette’s attachment to the Tristen Bed stems not only from its youthful appeal but also from its ergonomic design, which makes it easy for children to climb in and out of, enhancing both its functionality and charm.

The Bed:

Charette paired the modern lines of the bed with the unique design of the Boca do Lobo Wave Nightstand and the funky style of Delightfull’s Billy Table Lamp. By blending these contemporary pieces with the classic elements in the decor of this luxury kids’ room, Charette has crafted a unique space that breathes a natural breeze of inspiration into any child’s environment.

This combination not only adds aesthetic appeal but also stimulates the imagination, making the room a perfect sanctuary for creativity and dreams.

The seating area:

The room also includes a cozy seating area perfect for young readers. Centred around the CIRCU Dainty Armchair, this space is tailored for kids, with the chair’s delicate structure and elegant design enhancing the room’s charm. Its pink velvet upholstery adds a vibrant pop of color, enriching the room’s palette. To distinctly separate this reading corner from the rest of the sleeping area, Charette chose the Boca Do Lobo Gold Folding Screen from Covet House, which not only adds an element of privacy but also contributes a touch of sophistication to the space.

The Play and Study area:

David Charette aimed to create a space with an “Out of Africa” vibe to spark a child’s imagination and inspire a passion for lifelong adventures and travels. Drawing from fond memories of camping during his own childhood, Charette incorporated a Teepee Tent into the room’s design, allowing children to feel as they are camping in a forest right within their own bedroom.

This nature-inspired theme is beautifully complemented by the Fornasetti wall coverings from Cole & Son and the Filigree Cricket Wall Lamp, which are insect-shaped sconces by Boca do Lobo.

Adding to the ambiance, Charette notes, “The clouds on the ceiling further the idea of camping (in this case “glamping”) and dreaming, and the Circu Cloud Suspension lamps add to the dreamy camping vibe.”

To maintain this adventurous theme, Charette selected the CIRCU NODO Suspension Chair. It not only brings a hint of outdoor fun indoors with an elegant flair but also offers a comfy spot for kids to unwind and lose themselves in their favorite stories.

In his design, David Charette, of Britto Charette, focused on enhancing the sense of freedom and sparking children’s imaginations in their own space. He chose one of his favorite pieces from CIRCU, the Sky Desk, for its playful design and inspirational form. Shaped like an airplane, this desk not only becomes the central feature of playtime but also transforms homework into an exciting adventure. The unique design aims to captivate and motivate young minds, turning everyday tasks into a flight of imagination.

David Charette designed this luxury children’s room with the hope that it would inspire children to dream, play, and develop a deep respect for nature as they embark on their own adventures.

He crafted the room to be “transitional,” capable of evolving with a child from toddler years into adolescence. This design approach not only aims to create a lasting, imaginative space for children but also to show parents the value of investing in unique, high-quality pieces like those from Circu. These carefully chosen items stand out from mass-produced children’s designs, offering both aesthetic appeal and long-term utility.


Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

Americans now think they need at least $1.25 million for retirement, a 20% increase from a year ago, according to a survey by Northwestern Mutual

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