Laura. Home Style. September 19th , 2017.
“It is a road where tradition and history together make a brave last stand, where devil-frightener mirrors and yin-yang disc still adorn each door, where ancestor still jealously guard their altars and joss stick holders are tacked onto every pseudo Doric pillar; a road where pigtailed amahs and sam-food housewives squat on the pavement gossiping or lean up against walls of tiles painted with intricate pastel flowers, ducks and peasants…” –Straits Times Annual 1977-
Such is the charm of the curved, inclined Emerald Hill Road which, according to history manuals, was a happy 'accident.' The road was laid out in 1901 and the terraced houses constructed by over 30 individual owners between 1901 and 1925. At a time when good manners in architecture consisted of conforming largely to the established theme.
Harmony, unity, and grace are achieved by the continuous front verandahs, the common elevational treatment and the standard shophouse plan ― with frontages, depths and floor heights all similar. The apparently endless diversity comes in the rich profusion of handcrafted details.
In 1st August 1981, the Urban Redevelopment Authority designated part of Emerald Hill area as Singapore‘s first area conservation scheme. The move prevented owners from altering the early 20th–century facades. What is immediately apparent though, is that the doors and windows of the approximately 150 pre‐war terrace houses have been stripped of paint to reveal the beauty of the wood.
We were pretty lucky to be able to photograph one such terraced house whose exterior has been renovated in a manner which enhances the historical quality of the building. “This house is something we’ve been searching out for every our lives. It has a really important character in history,“ said the American woman who′s lived in it for just a few months.
She has been traveling extensively for the past 15‐16 years. And have lived in Singapore for several years in between stretches of living in the States, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Western Samoa.
Walking through the tall old–fashioned doors that open inwards, one finds the ground floor is completely ′open′ so as to give an overall view of the whole interior. Past the open courtyard to the kitchen and back door, which opens out into an alley.
Windows also doors have been preserved in stained wood with absolutely no glass barriers. The flooring is a pleasant combination of Italian marble, wooden paneling, and concrete tiles spread out over three different levels. And the ceiling structure has been reinforced with armor⁄steel beams covered with stripped wood.
”The original owners were responsible for the renovations,” we were told. The décor itself is a cross between ‘local‘ contemporary also rustic appeal ― hardly what one would expect to find within a house that boasts a typical Peranakan façade. Perhaps that is the attraction and the fact that this is truly a lived‐in home with little corners set aside for mementos from their travels.
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