To many, prime locations are estates like Queenstown, Kallang, or Bishan. But to those in the upper echelons of society, prime locations refer to one of the 39 Good Class Bungalow Areas. Nassim Road, Cluny Hill, and Sixty Avenue are some of the more commonly-known GCB areas in Singapore you might have heard of and read about on the pages of Uchify.
These areas were gazetted back in 1980 by the Urban Redevelopment Authority for the high environmental quality of the large plot sizes. As such, there are only around 2,800 Good Class Bungalow plots standing today; the likelihood of more plots being added is slim to none.
Many of these grand homes command starting prices of $20M, with the occasional listing breaching the $100M mark. One family was lucky to have gotten into the game early as they bought their 600sqm lot way back in 1990 for a fraction of what it would cost today.
More than 30 years later – the last 10 of which was spent renting out the GCB – the family decided to tear down the old building and rebuild it into a new multi-generational home on a scale that is rarely seen in a home, let alone an expansive good class bungalow.
The whole process spanned almost 2 years, with half of it dedicated to planning the layout alone. A fair bit of this journey is documented over at @house_no_6 by Mary, who lives with her partner on the first floor of the house that she shares with her sister, and mother. On one early Friday morning in November, she gave us a peek into what it’s like living in a Good Class Bungalow in Singapore.
Rebuilding the house from the ground up
Image credit: @house_no_6
This plot of land has been in Mary’s family since the 1990s. On it originally stood a colonial, 2-storey house with red-tiled roofs and a white picket fence. After her father passed away, Mary, her siblings, and her mother moved out of their childhood home, choosing to rent it out to families instead as “there were too many echoes of past memories.”
But as tenants gravitated towards condos with gated communities and swimming pools, there was little point in renting out the home. The monthly rent was also barely covering the upkeep of the house. “In short, renting out the home made no financial sense,” Mary told us. The one thing holding them back from selling it was its sentimental value. No offer could match that.
Instead, Mary and her family had a discussion about what it would be like to live together as a family again. She, her sister, and her mother were already living in the same condo complex – albeit in different units and blocks – so it wasn’t a far-fetched idea. They also enjoyed being close while maintaining their own privacy and individual space. So they set out to recreate those vibes, only now they’d all be under the same roof.
No, we’re not just talking about separate bedrooms for each person. Mary and her family essentially split a good class bungalow into three mini “apartments”, each complete with its own kitchen, bathrooms, and living areas. This would have been an easier undertaking but alas, being in a Good Class Bungalow Area has its own regulations.
Each member of the family gets their own floor
Mary and her family’s new digs eschew all the traditions of an ordinary home. Rather than allocating space for everyone to have a big bedroom for privacy, they took it up a notch by giving everyone their own floor to do as they please. Mary got the first floor with the biggest square footage; her sister got the second floor; her mother got the “third” floor or the attic.
As they were located in a Good Class Bungalow Area, they had to ensure that all construction was in line with the regulations and limits. For example, the land had to be at least 15,000sqft (1,400sqm); there can be a maximum of 2 storeys and an attic; only 40% of the plot can be used for the actual house, and the remainder has to be landscaping. The rules are strict.
To ensure they didn’t step out of line with the governing bodies, Mary and her family engaged RichardHO Architects who have had plenty of experience building similar, multi-generational homes. “All I can say is that our architects are superhuman,” Mary said. “It helped that they understood our vision for the home from the very start, and they managed to juggle all our requirements and made an effort to accommodate ‘strange’ requests.”
Mary gave the architects a simple brief for the common spaces: light, modern, and easy to maintain.
The mirror-filled wall of the lift lobby hides the bomb shelter in plain sight.
The living room with the most amazing morning light
Part of the reason why we had such an early call time was because of the morning sun, and it did not disappoint. The east-facing windows let in just the perfect amount of light to drench the space in a soft, warm glow. This also means that the house never gets too hot as the afternoon sun would not be let in.
Distressed leather armchair from Ochre Home.
The green landscaping by the patio also helps diffuse the neutral and earthy tones that dominate the living and dining rooms.
Sitting here for a minute or two and we immediately understood why Mary told us that this was her favourite part of the house. “Even though it is large, it still feels inviting, calm and cosy,” she said. “It’s my favourite space for gatherings and having people over.”
Much of the interior styling can be credited to Geraldine and Vincent of Ochre Home. “I found them on Instagram and had been stalking them for a while because I really like the casual ease of their home,” Mary explained about why she went with the couple to help realise her interior vision. “The way things looked thrown together without being overdone or ‘styled’.”
At that point in time, Mary wasn’t 100% sure if Geraldine and Vincent were offering styling services, but desperate times called for desperate measures. After a couple of meetings, the trio felt that their design philosophies were aligned and it was off to the races.
“Rather than forcing their own style on us, they accommodated our ideas and personal items into the home in a way that felt cohesive,” Mary said about Geraldine and Vincent’s working style.
“I also liked that they never rushed us into buying things or ‘completing’ the project, so we could take our time to explore and consider our options thoughtfully.”
Tiny Christmas tree from Cold Storage, golden side stool from Taobao.
The patio with palms & ferns for days
A big component of Good Class Bungalows is the landscaping, and Mary’s home is no different. Being the gatekeeper of the first floor, much of this fell onto her shoulders, but that wasn’t an issue as she has a green thumb and a love for gardening.
With the help of Mandala Landscapes, the patio right outside Mary’s living room was transformed into a lush respite filled with banana plants, palms, and ferns. A “privacy wall” was also put up to prevent any curious eyes and wandering deliverymen from peeking into Mary’s private abode.
The show-stopping kitchen with designer pendant lights
Mary’s love of entertaining and playing hostess clearly shoes in the spaces that deserve it the most – where she cooks and feeds her guests. Her open-concept kitchen by Italian brand Dada Kitchens with its white laminate cabinets frames the star. Well, six of them if we’re counting.
The Tom Dixon Melt Pendant Lights were one of Mary’s first purchases – we’re talking before the house had even finished completion. It helped that the designer lamps were 30% off at XTRA when she bought them during 2021’s Black Friday weekend. But a discount on a king’s ransom is still a pretty penny to pay.
“They have this hypnotic, almost lifelike quality,” Mary said of the lamps in an Instagram post. “Like a modern-day lava lamp.”
Appliances by Miele.
In a contrast to the other hanging cabinets in her home, Mary opted for closed cabinets in the kitchen instead to hide all the clutter as she is admittedly a little particular about mess.
The dining room with a statement… everything
The other half of Mary’s entertaining enclave is the dining room where a red accent pierces through the eggshell walls and ceiling, creating a visually-arresting focal point. But the feature piece here is the dining table made out of a 2.7m-long walnut slab from Grey and Sanders with a live edge. This is also Mary’s favourite piece of furniture.
“I knew from the start that I wanted a live edge wood slab dining table, something that felt organic and natural,” Mary told us. However, a table of that length was a rarity considering most Singaporeans are in the market for something smaller. “It took us a few months, but we finally landed on this slab with unique curvy edges and beautiful details.
“Whenever the morning light hits it, it glows with an unexpected warmth and you can see all the details of the wood grain.”
Another statement piece in the space is the Herman Miller saucer lamp that she bought the same weekend she did the Tom Dixon lamps. While not as flashy as the melting pendants, the simpler classic design complements the other more striking pieces in the space by letting them shine.
Mary also commissioned two paintings by Geraldine to hang by the dining room. Drawing inspiration from the “melting snow at the end of winter”, Geraldine used only white tones to achieve the textured and layered look on the canvas.
The purposeful bedroom with a see-through wardrobe
A bedroom is one of the most intimate rooms of a house, and it’s no different here in Mary’s first-floor sanctuary. A custom-built divider with metal shelves splits the room into essentially two parts in a slightly unorthodox layout.
One half is where the bed lies in a central, commanding position facing the glorious windows. Hanging pendant lights on each side of the bed act as bedside lamps, and linen bedding from Montauk Style add to that cosy, lived-in vibe.
With no furniture in Mary’s line of sight and no digital devices by her bedside, she feels calm and free of distractions whenever she’s resting here.
Behind those blinds is a raised platform that was originally going to be a balcony for yoga sessions. The platform also prevents any curious onlookers from wandering and peeking directly into her private space. But as time went on, the space got neglected and Mary has been thinking about tearing it down.
On the other side of the divider is a set of his-and-her bathroom sinks. Mary acknowledges that having sinks outside the master ensuite in the bedroom itself might come as a bit of a controversial decision, but she firmly stands by her choice.
Finally, Mary and her partner’s wardrobe by Aran Cucine stands tall by one long stretch of the wall. She opted for glass-fronted doors instead of opaque ones so she can see all her sartorial options at a glance. It also motivates her to keep her wardrobe tidy, as any mess can be easily seen from afar. One trick she has to ensure her wardrobe looks and stays neat is to evenly space out her hangers.
The reflections in the glass also act as a makeshift mirror for her, although there’s an actual one just outside in the corridor.
The guest room with tropicana vibes
While the majority of the house and its mid-century modern aesthetics evoke a minimalistic vibe, Mary’s guest room takes on a different approach; one that lets her guest feel like they’re really living in the tropics.
A vibrant wallpaper filled with palm trees and parrots from Honpo lines the main wall of the room as the central feature. Meanwhile, accessories like cushions, the throw, and even the print hanging on the wall help complement those tropical vibes.
And rather than leave the corner of the room unloved and unused, Mary styled it into a cosy reading nook with a vertical mirror from Commune Lifestyle, a rattan chair from Island Living, and other knick-knacks that would not be out of place in Indiana Jones’ home.
Watercolour paintings from Davi Beschizza.
The home office & music room where a family heirloom rests
The home office and music room in the house was one of the last rooms to be completed as the stylists Geraldine and Vincent had to navigate the work and play elements. But patience is a virtue, and the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow was well worth the wait.
The ceiling is painted in the colour of burnt brick.
Looking into the room while standing in the corridor and you’ll see the home office. A sturdy, masculine study desk stands in the middle of the space. Cable management is done semi-discretely with a power outlet underneath the rug with the cords running up one of the table’s legs.
Leather armchair from Island Living.
The music section occupies the smaller half of the L-shaped room, which is Mary’s domain. A musician at heart, this is where she retreats to make music.
And resting on the ground below the amplifier and piano is a family heirloom that has been around for over 35 years. The vintage Persian rug has obscure origins: no one can be sure if it was bought during a business trip or gifted to the family way back when.
Lights from HipVan.
Building a multi-generational Good Class Bungalow in Singapore
For many, living with their family in adulthood can be a challenge in personal space and boundaries. But for Mary and her family, being under the same roof whilst still having their own spaces to retreat to at the end of the day is a true blessing that they don’t take for granted. Besides, she told us that they hardly run into each other. Sometimes only once a month.
Even though the house looked finished to us, Mary still has a list of things to do for her home with the outdoor patio taking the top priority. But she’s a self-declared “reformed home perfectionist”, where the end-game isn’t finishing a house like a jigsaw puzzle. Instead, she views her home as something that is constantly changing and growing with her.
“Don’t think of your home as static,” she advised. “Be patient with those blank canvases or gaps. They will be filled in time when you see something that speaks to you. And oh, how wonderful that feeling will be when you find it!”
Follow Mary’s home & living journey over at @house.no.6 on Instagram.
Check out more home features on Uchify:
- Aimee Cheng-Bradshaw’s mid-century modern apartment
- Jade Seah on shophouse life
- Jeff Ng’s modern luxe resale flat
Photography by Huiwen Chan.
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