How much privacy do we really need? The answer to that question may change depending on the stage we're at in our lives. An open-plan loft may be ideal for newlyweds or empty nesters, but a loft for a family of four? Few designers have cracked that nut.

Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu of Shanghai-based design practice Neri & Hu - who hosted Wallpaper* for our Made in China issue - have had some experience playing around with the loft theme to satisfy a wider demographic. Their Waterhouse hotel, a converted army barracks launched two summers ago on Shanghai's South Bund waterfront, has been lauded for its lofty rooms with peek-a-boo features offering sightlines between the private and common areas.

And now they've taken their knowhow a step further. Neri & Hu recently unveiled a loft-like solution for families in Singapore, a vast highrise apartment that reverses out the standard loft plan and offers more privacy in the process.

The client's mandate was a rare act of emancipation, an invitation for the designers to 'challenge the conventional notion of what a flat should be,' with the only condition that there be three clearly defined bedrooms.

The designers took the bait. They disregarded all the fundamental notions about what makes a house a home, questioned their threshold for privacy and reverted to an empty slate of bare essentials.

Their prevailing layout has the private spaces at the core of the 200sq m space and the common areas literally circulating around them, profiting from the unobstructed natural light.

They classified privacy in three degrees. The outer perimeter became the most transparent territory, containing the kitchen, corridors and casual seating areas. One layer deeper, they erected enormous glass box-within-a-box incorporating the lounge, dining room and three bedrooms, the latter with their own sets of white linen floor-to-ceiling curtains. And within that box are three private zones, floating volumes of stone, copper and wood that house the study and two bathrooms.

Looking at the big picture, it's as open and honest as any parent of two would want, with the capacity to entertain dozens. And yet a teenager can find a space to brood where the stone and wood features block the view - in a Fritz Hansen chair no less.

TAGS: INTERIOR DESIGN, SINGAPORE, NERI & HU