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Inside A $500K Joo Chiat Shophouse Renovation That Has An Open Courtyard & Glass Roof

5 December 2023 | BY

This gorgeous Joo Chiat shophouse is a beautiful mid-century modern home with plenty of vintage artefacts and an open courtyard.

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Life in a shophouse is undoubtedly a unique experience. After all, not many can say that they own a heritage landmark that is a piece of Singapore’s history. This was the exact thing that drew homeowners Jeremy and Amanda to their @5ftway home in Joo Chiat. On top of that though, the entire shophouse reno cost them a whopping $500K renovation. The result is a gorgeous home that blends mid-century modern sensibilities with the old-school charm.

Corridor airwell with a red brick wall

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One of the most prominent features in this 1,900sqft home is the red brick statement wall along the main corridor. We were told that this wall was a nod to the heritage of this place, being made from the original bricks used in the construction of shophouses in the 50s. Stretching almost the entire length of the 26m x 7m home, this is easily the centrepiece design feature.

What usually impresses the guests though, Amanda tells us, is the amount of natural light being let in here.

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Located in the midst of a row of shophouses, this particular unit initially suffered from a lack of natural light. To remedy this, a glass roof was added to the original design, working wonders to brighten the home significantly and create an illuminated passageway through the home.

The homeowners deliberated left a portion of the roof unsealed for better ventilation through the home.  Since the homeowners prefer to steer clear of air-conditioning, this reno decision was a smart one to keep the home cool and well ventilated.

Whilst this does also mean that rain can enter through the opening, most of the rainfall that does come through lands on the pebble pavement sump. The addition of bamboo chick blinds also work as an extra shield to keep the corridor of the courtyard dry.

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Another intriguing feature are the slim louvred windows positioned along the wall of the bedroom that faces out into the corridor. We’re told that the home originally came with internal windows, but the homeowners redid them in style because they were more aesthetically pleasing.

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On top of paying homage to the shophouse heritage, the house is adorned with an array of vintage items that give it a truly personal touch. A prime illustration is the tasteful wall-mounted double-face clock from Dulton, which stands as just one among several such delightful pieces found throughout the home.

Cafe-style front window

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For the couple though, the large 2mx2m window is one key feature that they wanted for their home. Its distinctive hydraulic design allows it to fold upwards creating an open cafe-style takeout window that gives the home a striking visual contrast to its neighbouring units.

The window’s design also allows plenty of natural light in, and can be adjusted to whatever angle they like. It even has an toggleable opaque screen reminiscent of the ones on LRT trains for when the homeowners want more privacy.

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This area also functions as a minibar with a cement screed ledge for the couple to entertain guests, or enjoy a relaxing evening drink whilst looking out into the neighbourhood.

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The homeowners’ collection of mini bikes outside their front door.mid-century shophouse renovation 9

The living room is comfortably spacious and minimal in design, with little in the way of artificial lighting thanks to the natural light that streams in from the different areas of the home. Jeremy shared that a few of the furniture pieces here are actually vintage items, with some being made as far back as the 50s.

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Although there are 3 bedrooms in this home, only 2 are actually used as such, with the last one being converted into a home office.

media table

Here, we see yet more vintage details, such as this older model Vintage Bang & Olufsen media table that Amanda’s husband, Jeremey, fills with Cantonese vinyl records.

A bunch of interesting little trinkets and baubles line the top of the media table, but what caught our attention was the license plate. Jeremey shared with us that it was actually a souvenir from a trip to Mongolia. It was picked up as Jeremy crossed a river on his bike, and eventually decided to keep after the local guides told him that the combination is considered a lucky number in the country.

Filament biscuit tin light

The room is mostly lit with the warm lighting from this creative light fixture. A product from a local company called Journey East, the combination of the repurposed biscuit tin and vintage-style filament bulb really added character to the room.

Mid-Century Modern kitchen with retro accents

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The kitchen stands out as another stunning section of the home, boasting a beautiful Mid-Century Modern design complemented by several eye-catching furniture pieces. Catering to their frequent gatherings with friends, the dining area showcases a generously-sized 8-seater table made of striking quartzite.

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The quartzite table was unique in the sense that it was made from a block with two types of natural stone having formed together creating this mix of marble veins against a green background.

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The kitchen itself is sleek and neatly organised with plenty of storage space. The kitchen island helps with food preparation and according to Amanda, also helps to conceal additional cooking appliances. The wardrobes and drawers featured both here and in the living room, with their recessed handles, really help give a clean, modern vibe to the place.

kitchen light

One eye-catching detail about this kitchen is the feature light above the kitchen island. Each of these U-shaped lights are hinged, so they can all be individually angled to light the room however you want.

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Yet another souvenir from the couple’s travels, this mini alcohol cabinet was ingeniously crafted from a metal jerry can. Its interior is elegantly lined with leather, while thoughtfully added shelves enhance its functionality, transforming it into a unique storage solution.

Rustic wabi-sabi bathroom with Vitra x Tom Dixon furnishings

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The cement screed walls lend the common bathroom a raw and authentic wabi-sabi vibe while doubling as a minimalist canvas for showcasing the Vitra x Tom Dixon collection of bathroom fixtures.

In jest, the couple refers to it as a showroom for the Turkish brand due to the abundance of these fixtures featured throughout. The organic, rounded fixtures have replaced the original taps, basin, towel and toilet roll hangers, and even the flush button panel. Collectively, these fixtures offer a fascinating visual contrast against the bathroom’s earthy aesthetic, adding a touch of modernity to the space.

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Japanese pine tree in the open courtyard


The rear courtyard boasts a centerpiece: a tree positioned in the middle that catches the eye. Amanda humorously mentions the frequent queries from visitors debating whether the tree is artificial or not. She confirms that it’s indeed a genuine Japanese pine tree purposely planted here, resembling a large-scale bonsai.

This space serves as a mini garage for the couple’s bikes, featuring an exit that provides access to the rear alleyway, allowing them to seamlessly navigate onto the main road.

A $500K Joo Chiat shophouse renovation

While $500K might appear excessive for a renovation, the homeowners explained that a significant portion of the expenses was attributed to addressing crucial issues like plumbing and infrastructure within the home. Surprisingly, the final design was secondary, given the substantial time and resources invested in rectifying the aging piping and utilities.

Nonetheless, the result is an utterly stunning home that aligns perfectly with the needs and personalities of the homeowners. Every detail, despite the challenges faced during the process, resonates harmoniously with their lifestyle.

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Photography by Chan Hui Wen.

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