Brewin Design Office brings New York nostalgia to Singapore apartment
Brewin Design Office brings a touch of New York nostalgia to Singapore’s Nassim neighbourhood for a minimalist apartment interior design renovation
Ask any architect and they’ll tell you that nostalgia can be a quiet but powerful palimpsest that informs every design decision – from the colour palette and furniture specified, even to the way light is directed to fall on a wall. And in this tranquil apartment interior design located in Singapore’s tony Nassim neighbourhood, memories of its owner’s years in New York are just below the surface. ‘She had just moved back to Singapore,’ recalls Robert Cheng, whose Singapore architecture firm Brewin Design Office was tapped for the renovation work.
‘She showed me images of apartments in uptown Manhattan and Tribeca-styled residential designs, many of which referenced the high quality joinery work that’s so common to North American interior design and fabrication.’
Cheng’s interventions in the ten-year-old property were surgically precise as he inserted a set of triple sliding doors in the foyer, each bijou canopied volume opening up to the other like a pyramid lined with green onyx marble columns – the procession unfurling finally into a lofty living room awash with light streaming in through the balcony, and a floating quality created by the low-slung furniture.
The American vibe, meanwhile, is quietly telegraphed by acres of American walnut, the material cladding every room and view, alongside golden Calacatta marble in the main bathroom, silk and linen wall fabrics, ivory stucco and white oak floors, and a small collection of bespoke furniture by Cheng’s studio.
Scattered through the rooms are chairs by Finn Juhl and Jorge Zalszupin, and spindle-backed furniture by Giuseppe Scapinelli. ‘Their proportions remind me of homes in uptown New York City and townhouse interior design,’ says Cheng, who reserves his grandest gesture for the dramatic, 9m-long, deeply set balcony by covering up the original lap-pool to create a foliaged oasis lined with greenery, handsome breeze-brick walls that sport a modern, stylised profile, and bleached teak flooring.
Cheng – an alumnus of Rhode Island School of Design, and Harvard – cut his teeth at Tsao & McKown in New York before apprenticing with Jean Nouvel in Paris. He is, in other words, no stranger to precision work, but even he was challenged by the bar he and his client had set as he pushed hard for ‘the local contractors to meet Western standards for the joinery detailing. The timber and stone in the bathrooms and foyer, for example, had such minute tolerances.’
The result, though, speaks for itself, the Nassim Park apartment fairly aglow, especially in the soft tropical evenings, in its facsimile of an artfully imagined Manhattan lair. §