Even before working from home became the new normal, architect William Ng, founder of Studio Wills + Architects was already doing so. In fact, he had designed his three-bedroom apartment at Serangoon Central specifically to accommodate both personal living and work.
He has had this home/office since 2018, which was designed together with his colleague Kho Keguang. “We’ve always felt a studio within a residential setting is appealing and relevant as our works are exclusively residential, be it architecture or interiors,” says Ng. “The apartment is designed for maximum flexibility for different needs.”
On the outside, the apartment looks like its neighbours, and clients who come are often surprised to find a studio in there. The first space that visitors enter is the foyer. “It creates a buffer zone between the apartment and the public corridor, and at the same time enables two separate entry points so that the home and office spaces can operate independently,” says Ng, who lives alone.
At the design stage, Ng mapped out various scenarios in which the space could be used – whether or not to turn the entire space into an office during the day and convert it to an apartment at night, or to split the space into two. “Regardless of the configurations, there is adequate space and services, such as power-point sockets for the entire space to be fully functional.”
The apartment has a 4sqm foyer, and the two separate spaces have an equal footprint of 30sqm each. Ng says that should he decide to sell the space in the future, it can be used by a single family or by two smaller households.
Besides separate entrances, each space has its own bathroom, so that they can function independently.
One door opens up to the studio, which is out of bounds to visitors. Besides work desks, there is also a specially constructed storage and utility timber unit running the length of the studio. The unit functions as a bookshelf and also hides a bathroom, lined with green mosaic tiles as a contrast to the otherwise all-white space.
Due to limited space, the home serves as an office during the day. The living area is a break-out area for the office and reception for clients and while the dining area is used as a meeting space during office hours.
To add some interest to the home, Ng created a tunnel to separate the living and the dining area. The tunnel also hides functional spaces such as the wardrobe and a changing room.
“We wanted a spatial compression as you walk into the tunnel before being surprised by an expansive space when you emerge from either end. The duality of spaces and a route to experience them is a constant feature in all our projects,” he says.
Building a tunnel meant that a loft could be created, and the apartment’s high ceiling also allowed for it. The loft is accessible via a flight of steps with built-in drawers. During the day, it serves as a contemplative space, while at night, the loft converts into a sleeping area when Ng lays out his futon.
From the loft, Ng can look down onto the living and the dining areas, and also into the studio. “We wanted a visual connection between the two distinct spaces and also a point where the studio can be fully appreciated from an elevated perspective,” he says. “A friend once joked that the loft is the ‘supervisor window’ to check on the office.”
To fit into a natural palette, surfaces are kept predominantly white to reflect daylight, with accents of timber for a warm appearance, while green and blue tiles in the bathrooms represent greenery and water. Curtains help create more private spaces.
With clients coming to visit, Ng designed for ample storage space to hide personal belongings. “I have the habit of keeping things in the place they are assigned to and de-clutter from time to time,” he says.
Ng says that because the two spaces are so near each other, he has a tendency to work longer hours.
“But once I’m at ‘home’, the office is out of sight. This is possible because both spaces are distinct in its spatial quality and separated,” he says. “In fact, people inhabiting the two spaces never cross paths because of the foyer and the two independent access points.”
Photos Finbarr Fallon & Khoo Guo Jie
This article first appeared in The Business Times.