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Pride and joy
IN the early 2000s, Michael Soo was like other trendy home owners who were turning their Singapore addresses into tranquil Balinese villas. More than a decade later, it's a different story: the Balinese look has run its course, and his only son Marcus is about to get married. So the elder Mr Soo felt it was time to rebuild the family home, for a fresh look and start with a new family member - future daughter-in-law Jacinta Lee. "I'm planning for the future," quips Mr Soo.
This time round, he opted for the modern tropical look, and picked no less than Aamer Taher, principal of Aamer Architects to do the job.
"I picked Aamer because he is good. His designs are not so conventional," says Mr Soo, managing director of his own firm, Aquatech Products & Services, which specialises in pool filtration systems and spa pools.
Located in the Tanjong Katong area, the 9,000 square foot house sits snugly on a tight 6,400 sq ft piece of land, yet on the inside, the home feels spacious. Due to flood level planning controls, the first storey has been raised a full floor above the 'basement' entrance, which means that when visitors first enter the home from the road, they are in fact, entering the basement.
But it's not your typical dark and dingy basement, thanks to the clever placement of skylights.
The space has been designed for communal and leisure activities. There is the entertainment area on the right, with a well-stocked bar on the left. "Marcus is usually behind the bar, not me," quips Mr Soo.
Further in, there is a small gym on the right, where Marcus spends his time working out. His mum, Cindy, heads out for Zumba classes, while his dad, plays badminton at the nearby Chinese Swimming Club.
On the opposite end is the steam room, "which is my product," says Mr Soo, with pride. The steam room is heated to 42 degrees Celsius, and regularly used by the family.
"About once a week for 15 minutes each time. It is a good way to relax after an exercise session," says Mr Soo.
Also on this floor is a small cosy space, where the artistic Mr Taher has left his mark. On the wall is a painting of a sakura tree, which took the architect a full day to draw.
Mr Taher constructed the home such that it has a courtyard in the centre, which allows for light and ventilation to reach the basement.
Up on the first floor is where the main living room is, together with the dining area and a small deck which all look out on to a 25 m saltwater lap pool. Mr Soo explains that saltwater is kinder on the skin and hair compared to chlorinated pools. "Naturally, I built the pool's filtration system," he says.
Part of the pool has a glass bottom, which looks into the basement: "It helps to let in more light below." He admits that the pool doesn't get as much use as it should, as the family is more caught up with other fitness activities.
The bedrooms are located on the second floor, one for Mr Soo and Cindy, a second for Marcus, and a third, which will be for the grandchildren. Planters run along the length of the bedrooms, which add greenery to the interior space while providing a soft touch in contrast to the hardwood walls.
Besides the basement, the family also enjoys spending time on the top floor, where there is a study, and a large deck where they sometimes have barbecues.
"It is also a perfect spot to watch the (National Day) fireworks," says Mr Soo.
The family entertains about twice a month, and now with a bigger home, guests have more space to mingle. "We once had about 80 people, and they were free to move about, from the basement to the upper floor," says Mr Soo.
While the home serves the family well on a functional level, it also comes with special architectural features that make it an eco-friendly home.
For example, vertical bamboo screens and creepers on the roof and along the perimeter of the house provide shade and privacy.
The house was built with a natural palette of raw materials, including off-form concrete, timber, and stone. Its central courtyard ensures that all areas of the home get plenty of breeze, and on cool days, there is little need for air-conditioning.
"The space in the home definitely feels much better than before," says Mr Soo.
The home is one of the stops for Architours, a highlight of the annual Archifest, where visitors go around Singapore looking at homes and other landmarks. Archifest, which runs from Sept 23, is a two-week-long festival that celebrates local architecture.
"We are proud of Aamer's work, and are only too happy for more people to view this," says Mr Soo.