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Friday, May 7, 2010

House Construction

Here is an approximate 3-D rendition of the house we're building. We've changed the design quite a bit, and I am now working on details such as kitchen layout, window sizes, iron grille designs etc ....

It really isn't as difficult as I thought it would be especially after I faced the fact that I have absolutely no talent in art and aesthetics... but I do have an incredible sense of what is or isn't practical. As long as I am not hung up about how beautiful the house has to be, I'm less stressed.

Armed with confidence in my sense of the practical, I asked to change the 2 wooden kitchen doors (yes... the house has a main kitchen for me, and a mini-kitchen for the in-laws) to sheet metal. I took away the sexy 2-storey glass panel and imposing timber main doors that the architect had proposed ... and I requested for a wide expanse of sliding doors to improve air flow.

I took away shower doors completely. In my experience, if a shower screen is long enough, a shower door doesn't need to do much to keep a bathroom dry... and it's dangerous because when a moveable glass door slams, it will break. And it sometimes shatters by just being there.

I asked for heel-posts at every doorframe because the foot of the doorframe is the first to rot in a house where we mop the floors everyday. I widened all the windows to improve airflow. I asked for iron grilles.

"No one builds houses with iron grilles nowadays" said the architect.

I designed my kitchen with concrete plinths on the floors to hold kitchen cabinets so that the floor may be scrubbed without fear of damaging wood. I included a 3 inch concrete and tile wall separating the sink and countertop area from the wood cabinets so that any splashing from washing dishes won't damage the wood. The sink, the stove top and the oven will be supported by a concrete and tile structure instead of wooden cabinets. And I took away all the parquet.

"No parquet?" said the architect.

I think my poor architect alternates between feelings of incredulity and pity for this woman with so sense of fashion and aesthetics. He first said hesitantly... "Forgive me... but you do realise that your house layout is somewhat 'conventional'?" I think he meant boring but was trying to be nice.

And I said "Yeah... my house will never go out of fashion because it was never fashionable to begin with. It's simple, bland and a bit weird. That way, I won't get sick of it... and I won't have to renovate after 5 years".

Then he said "Since it is a conventional house, it normally has a timber main door. Putting in sliding doors is more the fashion of the post-modernists". I looked at him happily and said "Oh... ok! Then I will have a hybrid house! Rojak!"

Then he said "You want concrete and tile plinths to hold your wardrobes? But... but... but... nobody does that because it constrains you to place your wardrobes at the plinths. Not practical." He won that argument because yeah... it wouldn't be practical.

And then I got anxious and I asked "After you build all that I want Mr A., will I have an ugly house?" And Mr A. was so sweet. He said "It won't be the height of fashion but it won't be ugly after you've grown your plants all over it. But you must grow your plants ok?"

I love my architect.

I do. He is a fatherly gentleman with an eye for the practical too. He is great at managing contractors. He takes the time to listen to me and he was sensitive enough to design a plant roof (a wire grid roof for sweet potato to grow on and give shade)... vertical plant walls (as privacy screens from street view) ... sunlit spots for plants (my Mediterranean herbs)... planter boxes etc...

I think much of what is house design in Singapore hails from the West. It always has. To design a house that is coherent with the weather and lifetyles here, you need to inspire yourself with HDB living, and features from old Peranakan houses and the sprawling bungalows of the 1950s.

The old Peranakan kitchens had concrete and tile structures to hold stoves. So I want those for my house. No Corian thank you! The old Peranakan houses had light wells and airwells and wide wide casement windows. So I want those for my house too. Wide casement windows and skylights.

And I remember the sheet metal kitchen backdoors in my Grandma's house in Joo Chiat... and at Granddad's shophouse in Middle Road. Sheet metal kitchen backdoors last through all the wet and the heat... and they deter break-ins. I want sheet metal back doors too. And remember those old bungalows with tall swing open doors that let help air to flow through the house? I want those too.

I'm not looking for an old-style house. I just think that some of these features are weather and lifestyle friendly. I don't want a kitchen where I have to be careful all the time. I don't want a house that needs 24-hr air con. I don't want timber back doors that rot after 12 months... or marble floors that can't take spills. Gee... when the grandchildren come, they'll pee on the floor ... and I wanna be able to tell them to pee all they like and anywhere too!

It won't be a pretty house but I'll be comfortable there... and then my architect smiles kindly at me and says... "It's only ugly if you think it is."

Yup! I love my architect.

4 comments:

Blur Ting said...

I love all your ideas! I think concrete floor is so nice and all those practical ideas like concrete plinths and widened windows... they all make so much sense.

Architects should work with more people like you. These days, all they think about is aesthetics and many of them do not even do any cooking or cleaning themselves to know what's practical or not!

petunialee said...

Except that I sound like an Ah Soh! Which I am, I guess. Heeeeeeeeeeeee!

Chawanmushi said...

hey Pet..... would really love to see the house after everything is completed ... LOL
Such an exciting project hor .. :-)

petunialee said...

Chawan - Yeah... it's more fun than I thought!