Once a tailor shop, now a primary residence, this late 19th-century shophouse was renovated by a master carpenter/craftsman and his four-man crew over twenty-two months. During renovations, special attention was paid to retaining/restoring as much of the the structure's heritage character as possible, while at the same time transforming it into a light and airy, contemporary and comfortable home.
At the ground floor, tall timber doors open into large entrance area. Beyond a glass and timber partition, living and dining areas flow into 25 foot-long kitchen anchored by a 19-foot stainless steel counter and freestanding 16-foot workbench topped in marble and wood. Opposite the counter are two tall, wide painted timber shelving units salvaged from a traditional coffee shop in Thailand. Appliances include a 5-burner stainless steel cooker with wok ring, induction hood with booster fan, double refrigerator, dishwasher, a large double sink and smaller bar sink (both hooked to hot water), and clothes washer and dryer. High ceilings with exposed beams, a central air well with retractable roof and indestructible, naturally polished and distressed concrete floor lend a loftlike feel to this level.
From the kitchen, a tall double door leads to a peaceful and private leafy courtyard paved in concrete and granite, with table and chairs and a ceiling fan. Next to the windows, tall heavy timber doors connect kitchen and courtyard. At the back of the courtyard, a steel door leads to a quiet alley. (There is no house immediately behind; neighbours park their cars in the alley.) A full bath (sink, toilet, shower) occupies the rebuilt 'outhouse' in the corner of the courtyard, just steps from the kitchen.
The ground floor is not air-conditioned; a big bank of steel-paned vintage blue-glass windows and the high, wide double door at the back of the house, combined with two windows at the front, 6 ceiling fans running the length of the house, and the air well (when its roof is opened), provide adequate ventilation and airflow.
Beneath the rebuilt (for lower rise and deeper steps) timber staircase are two storage spaces: one pantry-like, with shelves, another with shelves and a deep hollow beneath the stairs. The staircase leads from the air well-kitchen dividing line to the first-floor landing. Directly to the right at the top of the stairs, sliding timber doors open onto a small TV or bed room; the doors can be slid fully back to create an open lounge area. Though this room is interior to the house, its windows open onto the interior air well, meaning that it is accessible to fresh air. This room has an air-conditioner and ceiling fan.
Directly opposite the top of the stairs, original double timber doors open to a large office (or bedroom) illuminated by a wall-to-wall bank of timber-framed windows with translucent glass at the front of the houses. This room features a very high ceiling that follows the roofline's pitch, with exposed beams, and a deep built-in storage closet with shelves. There is are an air conditioner and two ceiling fans in this room.
At the back of the house, original double timber doors open onto a huge master bedroom with structurally sound, rebuilt mezzanine capped off by roof tiles. (The mezzanine is open to view but closed with plexiglass; it could be opened and used as a storage or work space.) A bank of windows at the rear of the master bedroom overlook the courtyard; windows on the opposite wall open onto the interior air well. (Windows have both shutters, for light control, and glass paned windows.) The beautiful stained timber ceiling is very high and follows the roof's pitch. There is a large walk-in closet with sturdy rods and shelving and, above it, a huge storage space. Two ceiling fans and an air conditioner cool this room.
A heavy original timber door at the back of the master bedroom leads to a roomy terra cotta-tiled bath with open shower, toilet, sink and built-in shelving next to the sink and in the shower space. High blue-glass louver windows along two walls give great ventilation, aided by a wall fan, and there is a skylight.
This level is floored with recycled timber planks, lightly stained but unvarnished, to allow the wood's grain to show through. Rooms are partitioned in traditional manner, with timber topped by lattice. Plexiglass over the lattice allows for efficient air-conditioning. All timber shutters and windows are new or rebuilt, stained but not varnished.
The house has completely updated and to-code electrical, with traditional exposed wiring. Each floor has its own fuse box.
New owners may wish to re-plaster part or all of the house (or remove plaster and leave some brick exposed). Current owners have obtained an estimate for this work, on the inside of the house, from the original contractor, whom they recommend without reservations.
To see the house in its original condition, visit the Ah Tong Tailor website.