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Gadgets & Home Improvement

Outdoor matters

The Oois rebuild their Siglap Road house to make it airy and open.
The Business Times - June 9, 2012
By: Tay Suan Chiang
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Outdoor matters CONNECTINGrn21m-long freshwater lap pool (above) - PHOTO: JOE NAIR

A QUESTION that the Oois often have to answer when visitors come to their home is, "Where is your living room?" There is one - just not the kind you might expect. At the Oois' home off Siglap Road, the living room is an open one - there are no doors or walls enclosing it.

Located just by the driveway, it overlooks a 21m-long freshwater lap pool that runs along the side of the two and a half-storey house. Having an open living room means that outdoor sofa sets have to take the place of pricey leather furniture.

"Visitors think we are bold to have an open living room in this tropical weather, but we love it this way," says housewife Kathy Ooi. The water from the lap pool and a ceiling fan help to keep the area cool.

She lives with husband, Lucien, chairman of the division of surgery at Singapore General Hospital, and their three sons, aged seven to 14.

Since the family moved in two months ago, the living area has become a popular lounging spot for them, especially after dinner.

The couple, who met in Brisbane, love the outdoors and wanted to build a home that would be airy and open.

"One of my requests to the architect was to create as much outdoor space as possible," says Dr Ooi.

The 6,000 sq ft home was designed by CLK Architects and Dr Ooi's youngest brother, Eugene, an interior designer.

What used to stand on this 5,000 sq ft land was a single-storey bungalow, where the family had lived for a year before renovations started. The old house, which was about five times smaller than the present house, was too small to fit the family. "But living in the old house before tearing it down allowed us to better understand the site's environment," says Dr Ooi.

For example, they knew that as the sun's rays would hit the left side of the property, the pool was placed there. "If we had the pool on the right side of the land, it would have been in the shade, and the water constantly too cold," says Mrs Ooi.

One of the major changes made during renovations was relocating the main gate. In the process, a street lamp just outside the property also had to be moved, so that the new entrance to the house could be created. "We had to write in to the authorities to move the street lamp," says Dr Ooi.

While the house doesn't have a conventional living room, it does have a main door. Located behind the living room, it opens to the dining room, dry and wet kitchens and a guest room on the first floor.

On the second storey are three bedrooms for the three boys, who each got to pick their own rooms.

The sizes of all the children's bedrooms are similar, but yet, each is different in design.

Eldest son Joshua's room has a view of the neighbourhood, while second son Daniel's room overlooks the pool.

Youngest son Samuel's room is most unique of the three, as it comes with a loft. "We wanted him to have easy access to our room on the upper most floor, says Dr Ooi.

There is also a family room on this second level, but the only way to access it is via a four metre-long bridge. "This was my way of bringing the outdoors into the home," says Eugene. The house is shaped like an U, with the bridge connecting both ends.

For Mrs Ooi, the bridge is her favourite spot of the house. "This spot is like the command centre. I can see the neighbourhood, and keep an eye on the boys when they are in the pool," she says. On the uppermost floor is the couple's bedroom which enjoys unblocked views of the neighbourhood and the Marine Parade area.

There is an additional room on this level, which Dr Ooi nicknames the romper room. "Some of Samuel's toys are stored here, and there is a sofa bed, where the kids' friends can sleep on during sleepovers," he says. A door in this room opens up to the loft area of Samuel's room.

Apart from the open living room, other features to recreate that outdoor feel include having rainshowers in all the bathrooms. "We wanted the kids to enjoy showering this way, as if they are in the rain, says the doting father.

In addition, there are also two open showers - one in the master bathroom, and another by the pool.

Apart from wanting an outdoor feel for his home, Dr Ooi's other request was for natural materials to be used in the home.

"Natural materials are more calming to the touch," he says.

So Eugene picked materials such as Burmese teak, granite, and stone for the home.

Having his youngest brother help design his home was a natural thing, adds Dr Ooi. "We are close and trust his professionalism and taste."

It is not just the family who love their home. Eugene's two daughters, Faith and Chloe, who are regular visitors, like it so much they have been bugging their father to design a similar house for them.

While Eugene handled the hardware, the family added their personal touches through little items such as paintings done by the kids, and pieces of driftwood that were collected on their travels.

And while the overall feel of the house resembles that of a resort, the family think otherwise.

"To us, it feels like home, which is really what we want," says Dr Ooi.

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