A home with no walls by interior design firm Rooot Studio
Phenomenology in architecture is about developing a narrative through the manipulation of space, material, light and shadow — all with the intention of creating meaningful experiences for the user. This theory is forms the foundation of local interior design firm Rooot Studio, helmed by friends Alex Chua, Shao Jie and Jun Wei.
An integrated design and project delivery service, Rooot Studio focuses on residential, office and F&B projects. Their services include all stages of design construction, from conceptual design and project management to interior styling and even branding for commercial clients.
While functionality and aesthetics are essential hallmarks of good design, the team places equal important to storytelling. They believe that spaces driven by design narrative stand the test of time as they are explorative, emotional and meaningful.
And to help paint a picture, the very first design conversation with every client starts with three simple questions:
What do you need?
What do you desire?
Who are you?
With the boundaries between work and home forever blurred thanks to the 2020 pandemic, their questionnaire has aptly evolved to a few more enquiries into the client’s working habits.
Read on as the three directors of Rooot Studio — Alex Chua, Shao Jie and Jun Wei — walk us through one of their newest projects, titled Huddle Cuddle.
Home tour: a super flexible executive condo with no walls!
There’s more than meets the eye. The “Huddle Cuddle” house, as they’ve christened it, simply has no walls (except for the bathrooms, of course). This cleverly conceived 1,000 sqft executive condo can be configured into various layouts with just a few pulls and pushes. Homeowners have the freedom and flexibility to open the space out or create private rooms, all with smartly concealed solutions.
You’ve created a curious wall-less apartment with an equally curious name: “Huddle Cuddle”. Starting at the beginning, what did the client want out of this reno?
Alex Chua: The client wanted a place that can suit their multifaceted lifestyle where they can sew, exercise, cook, play games and music, and unleash their creative side whenever they wish.
The current layout of a typical EC apartment doesn’t allow for ample space to let the owners configure it to their liking and for their hobbies. Our clients were open-minded on ways we could massage the space and create a personalised living experience for them.
Throwback to when the team convened to get cracking on the activity-based living environment. What train of thought led to this particular design concept?
Alex Chua: We envisioned the space to be capable of transitioning from spacious to intimate and vice versa. The home had to be designed for people and for a person. The idea for the Huddle Cuddle home was created from this aspiration.
Our first intention was to find ways to create infinite possibilities of configuring the space to suit our clients’ lifestyle, and to realise the full potential of its spatial efficiency and flexibility. As they were open-minded to our design solution, we decided to test out the space by removing every available wall, except the bathrooms, to see the possible outcomes.
In the end, we created a large living space which can be segmented into a master bedroom, study/guest room and smaller living space. These rooms are divided by sliding and foldable glass doors to allow flexibility and visuality. Roller blinds are hidden within the false ceilings to give the people who live here the option for privacy whenever necessary — completely reversible, depending on one’s mood and needs.
The wardrobe and storage cabinets are built along the bathroom walls to remove any corridor footprint, allowing for maximum space efficiency. The entire home is decorated in neutral tones of black, dark grey and light grey, as well as a mixture of light and dark wood, to ensure everything remains cohesive and blends seamlessly with one another.
How easy or difficult was it to convince the client to opt for a unique wall-free home?
Shao Jie: It was easy to convince the client to opt for a wall-free house as they were truly open-minded people. After living there for a few months, they shared that they love how the space allows them to have their private time for their own activities — at the same time, the spaciousness allows them to have family and friends over to socialise.
Nobody can deny the cleverness in design at Huddle Cuddle home. Walk us through what’s hidden in the ceiling, behind cabinets and concealed in plain sight.
Shao Jie: The foyer is furnished with black and dark grey walls, with a similar grey but textured floor tiles to add some visual interest in a modern and minimalist manner. Plant places in the niche give the space some life and a pop of colour.
As with the rest of the house, the kitchen boasts an open concept with a custom-made kitchen counter that partially extends out to the living room providing a platform for the owners to display their impeccable culinary skills. It also serves as a spot for socialising and breaking down the barriers between the dining and living areas when guests are over.
Connected to the kitchen counter is a specially made storage space and wardrobe that sits right outside the two bathrooms for easy access. The entrances to these rooms are hidden from view to maximise the use space in this multifunctional home and to include an element of surprise.
How long did this project take from brief to installation? What were the challenges faced and how did you overcome them?
Jun Wei: The design stage — conception, development, material selection and construction drawings — took about two months. Project construction, from start to handover with interior styling, took three months.
The main challenge for this project was the integration of the sliding and foldable glass doors with the existing windows, new false ceilings, storage cabinet and roller blinds. As the place was hacked to its bare condition, site markings had to be done with great precision to prevent any misalignment.
We marked out every element that was required on-site as even one misalignment could become a massive issue. The other challenge is the MEP (mechanical, electrical, plumbing) infrastructure of the space. For example, we had to reroute the entire aircon ducting in the way that it does not lower the ceiling, in the way that a typical apartment will have a lower ceiling at the corridor to run the AC piping. At the same time, it can be concealed well without penetrating into the sliding track of the sliding glass doors.
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All images courtesy of Rooot Studio
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