SINGAPORE (EDGEPROP) - The owners, who wanted to be known as Marina and Roger, experienced love at first sight upon entering the 2½-storey conserved terraced house at Blair Road in 2015. The couple was so captivated by the house's interior that Roger promptly proposed to Marina, asking, “Shall we buy this house?”

They had searched for a conserved terrace along Blair Road for two years. The couple sought a spacious property within a close-knit community with convenient access to the CBD. “We didn’t want to buy a condo and live with expats only. We wanted to be surrounded by the local community in a quiet area,” Marina says. “We know all the neighbours, and everyone here supports each other. We also share the same love for conserved shophouses and terraces.” Based on caveats lodged, they bought the house for $5.2 million in March 2015, which translates into $3,486 psf.

The couple had viewed conserved houses in different areas, such as Joo Chiat and Emerald Hill. However, Blair Road in Tanjong Pagar caught their attention because of its tranquil atmosphere, minimal traffic and closeness to the city.

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The neighbourhood has become more community-centric, boasting trendy cafes and gyms nearby. Situated on the north-western side of Blair Road, the house is just a short walk from Outram MRT Station. Its excellent accessibility will be further improved with the upcoming Cantonment MRT Station, expected to be completed in 2026.

The most impressive feature of the house, according to the couple, is its size. The revamped, conserved terraced house covers a total floor area of 3,789 sq ft and offers a roomy 2½-storey design. The couple tailored the house to fit three bedrooms, with the possibility for more with additional renovations.

On the ground floor is an indoor pool, a guest room, and a small room currently utilised as an exercise room by the owners. On the second floor is the master bedroom with an en suite bathroom and a junior en suite bedroom. Finally, the third floor features a spacious living and dining area and a kitchen that opens onto an attached outdoor patio.

Heavy renovation

The house underwent an extensive nine-month renovation in 2016, during which the couple partnered with RichardHO Architects. Known for its expertise in working with conservation units and other architectural projects, the firm helped revitalise the house by incorporating new elements while preserving its rich heritage features.
A significant alteration involved adding a pool on the ground floor. This required the insertion of 12m deep pillars to support the pool, leading to the demolition of the floor to accommodate the heavy piling equipment inside the house.

The staircase was also knocked down, changing its position to make way for the pool. Marina recalls that when the pool was being installed, she could hear the noise of the piling works from the end of the street. The flooring on the first storey was replaced with lava stone from Bali, which is also used for the kitchen on the third storey.

Despite the significant changes, not all fixtures in the house were demolished. Owners of residential properties in conservation areas must comply with URA’s conservation guidelines during renovations. For instance, preserving existing ornamental panels and vents on the house's exterior is required.

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The couple also made personal decisions to retain some traditional features of the house, even though they had the option of tearing them down. This includes its original brick wall and Peranakan doors, which they dismantled and reinstalled at the doorways on the second floor. The choice to preserve the doors was to conserve and enhance the house's value. “These features are part of the original design of the house. As owners or custodians of the house, we feel we are responsible for conserving Singapore’s heritage,” Roger says, adding that the renovation costs $1.5 million.

The Government gazetted the Blair Plain conservation area where the terrace resides on Oct 25, 1991, to conserve the area's two- and three-storey shophouses and terrace houses. The area, developed before the end of the 19th century, is home to properties with unique architectural designs inspired by Chinese, Malay, and European influences.

Unique heritage elements

Inspired by their travels in Southeast Asia, the couple incorporated various regional heritage elements into the house, enriching its unique status as a conserved terrace. They installed authentic, traditional Balinese wooden doors and furniture that were intricately carved and imported from Ubud, Bali. They also sourced teak wooden floors from Malaysia to cover the upper levels of the house.

While refurbishing the terrace, the couple had the option to renovate the walls, yet they deliberately decided to preserve the original red-brown brick wall that extends throughout the entire length from the first to the third floor. This distinct design choice upholds the property's original character, further contributing to conservation efforts and breathing life into the house.

“We wanted to stay connected to the local DNA of the house. So that’s why we kept the Peranakan-style, the original bricks. We wanted to keep the soul of the house. It’s very special. But at the same time, we wanted to bring more elements of the Asian region like in Bali,” Marina says, adding that the Balinese features bring the house a relaxing, holiday-like feel. “Sometimes people here say it feels like a spa.”

The couple has decided to sell the house as they plan to relocate abroad. Before enlisting Knight Frank to oversee the property sale, several potential buyers had already expressed interest in viewing the house. Sharon Lee, executive director and head of auction and sales at Knight Frank, oversees the sale. The couple desires a buyer who truly appreciates the house's unique beauty.

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“I think the critical thing is they come here, and they love the house because of its soul and look after it as a part of Singapore’s heritage,” says Roger. Marina agrees, adding that it is a privilege to live in the house.