Dezeen Magazine

31 Blair Road by ONG&ONG

Architects ONG&ONG have completed the renovation of an open-plan house in Singapore.

The project, called 31 Blair Road, involved redesigning the entrance to the house, the interior, and a roof terrace.

The architects intended to merge the interior and exterior spaces and create an airy, continual living space.

A bamboo garden has been installed at the front of the house, inspired by a bamboo pattern on the existing façade.

A first-floor mezzanine has been added, and the roof altered to allow more natural light to filter through the interior.

Extendable screens throughout the house allow the occupants to divide the roof terrace from the interior, and separate the bedrooms from their en suite bathrooms.

The central staircase is constructed from folded sheet steel, while at the back of the house a steel spiral staircase leads up to the guest bedroom and roof garden.

ONG&ONG recently completed another interior on the same road: see our previous story.

Photos are by Tim Nolan.

Here's some text from ONG&ONG:


31 Blair Road.
A Contemporary renovation of an Art Deco style terrace house, results in an austere neutral living space.

Concept- Continuity of spaces eliminate the boundary between inside and outside, in order to create multiple relationships between diverse activities that occur in a residential realm. Austere and Minimalistic with a constant analogy to industrial spaces.

The final scheme is an innovative response to the constraints of a conservation building. A traditional façade embraces a contemporary way of living, that has meticulously achieved a delicate balance between the old and the new. This has created a unique and effective house design, the exterior and the modern approach to the interior has been designed in context with the surroundings.

Conservation aspects

The scheme is an innovative response to the constraints of a conservation house. The beauty of the house is that it has a neutral environment that has been designed to appeal to all tastes, due to its future rental focus.

Conservation of properties in Singapore advocate:
Maximum retention
Sensitive restoration
Careful repair

It was necessary that most of the existing elements of the building envelope were retained, this constraint helped shape the project. Inspiration was taken from the smallest detail on the existing façade (the bamboo motifs).  Subtlety this theme was carried  throughout the project.

The five-foot way leading to the double leafed entrance, typical to shop houses in this area has been sensitively restored to its original condition. This particular property features a forecourt that gives spatial and additional green relief to the narrow plot. The decision was made to populate this space with a dense luscious bamboo garden, in response to the ornate bamboo details that feature on the front façade.

Another key constraint was that the height of the second floor was unable to be altered, to ensure that the front elevation did not change. Inventively the ceiling was raised to accommodate additional space in the roof. Creating a mezzanine space on the second floor.To resolve lighting issues within this new space, a jack roof was created to allow large amounts of light in. A new light and airy space had been crafted.

Monochromatic tone selection was used throughout the scheme to accentuate that the project was attuned to the conservation aspects of the site. It is apparent that the colour pallet used in the project creates a clear connection with the heritage of the site. The subtle choice of natural materials does not draw attention away from the historic aspects of the scheme, only compliments them.

On approach the house looks like any other renovated terrace on the street. Past the thick bamboo front garden the initial impression upon entering is the continuous view through the building. It is spacious for this kind of typical long and narrow terrace plot.A fixed furniture wall running the length and height of the house, allows for an open living space. This creates continuity between all social activities at ground level. The designed furniture wall  functionally accommodates all living necessities and extends to all other floors. Each area is  defined by the use of subtle cove lighting and recesses in the walls that suit multiple atmospheres.

Click on the plans for larger images

An elegant solution

The folded steel-sheet staircase hangs elegantly from a suspended I beam at the top of the house. This sculptural circulation space services the main part of the house. Inspiration is drawn from the bamboo theme creating a key architectural feature in the house. The staircase is a playful addition to the house.

Continuity of space

Each bedroom benefits from an uncluttered en-suite bathroom, that employs sliding doors that tuck away into the walls. This strengthens the continuity of space throughout the house. Materials used like natural teak run throughout the upper two floors encouraging a warm feeling. White terrazzo flooring gives  a spacious ambiance to the ground level and bathroom floors, while white mosaic tiles cover bathroom walls, adding some texture to the spaces. The altered roof allows light to pour through the attic space and to the mezzanine on the first floor. The master bedroom at the top of the house has been designed with a connection with the kids’ room below. This reiterates the concept of continuity between each space, not only horizontally through the house but vertically. Each bedroom has full height window shutters along one wall that are similar to the traditional exterior shutters, this creates a unity in the project and accentuates the concept of continuity and austerity.

A pleasant addition

The rear steel spiral staircase leads up to a guest bedroom and a roof terrace. The BBQ pit could be used to entertain however it is also an ideal space for a quiet evening meal. The contrasting minimal  approach taken on the rear façade complements the ornate decorative front façade. This approach emphasises the detail and craftsmanship of the existing façade. It created an overall unity in the project between the old and new elements. The austere composition of the rear façade is a contrasting solution however maintains the concept of unity and continuity, in creating a neutral residence. By night the roof of the rear stair way acts as a Beacon emitting a warm glow on the roof terrace.

Environmentally thinking

A large internal courtyard bisects the house. This courtyard not only allows for the flexible inside/outside space, which encourages natural ventilation but also allows light to penetrate both sections of the house. This new intervention creates a light and a spacious feeling around the air well.
Potential less energy consumption may be one of the overall ecological benefits owed to the large internal courtyard. This private courtyard is a perfect place to relax outdoors or entertain; the bamboo garden complements the soft tones of the smooth sandalwood stonewall that raises the height of the building.


The overall scheme is an unpretentious solution to the growing constraints of working with conservation properties. It sensitively promotes attention to the historic façade. The new renovation is a responsive contrast to the original façade resulting in a functional house design that should appeal to any tenant in the future.

Architects: Ong&Ong Pte Ltd
Location: 31 Blair Road, Singapore
Design Team:  Diego Molina and Maria Arango. Camilo Pelaez.
Project Team: Diego Molina and Maria Arango. Camilo Pelaez. Ryan Manuel. Linda Qing
House Area: 306 m2
Project Year: 2009