HOME IDEAS: The Natural Palette in Design

· Thinking of Selling

Designing Your Home

Things to Consider

With growing urbanisation and its associated stresses and anxieties, retreating home to a tranquil and private space is gaining demand with homeowners. Research shows that nature has a healing effect on our overall health and well-being, giving us the much-needed rejuvenation.

How can we introduce the natural palette into our homes and living environment? Two award-winning architects — Han Loke Kwang, director of HYLA Architects and Yip Yuen Hong, director of ipli Architects — share their design philosophy and strategies behind this natural approach.

“Being natural means being true and authentic to the innate properties of the materials, their contexts and conditions, and the lifestyle of the occupants,” says Yip.

Han adds, “In addition, it also means understanding the design’s harmony and balance with its natural surrounding as well as the choice of material palette, which plays a complementary role to the process.”

Material selection

Authenticity means to respect the materials’ physical characteristics. Yip says the materials must be allowed to obtain their patina through time and weathering. Beauty expressed in the process of ageing is part of the essence of natural materials. For instance, Yip advises homeowners to keep external timber decking unpolished and uncoated to allow natural weathering. “It turns into a silvery grey shade, just like driftwood,” he says.

“Big splashes and accents [used in interior design] are tiresome after a while,” says Han. “That’s why we keep to two to three primary materials that are subtle and harmonious, rather than loud and attention-seeking.” He adds that in selecting a soothing and calming palette, the choice of materials is usually from the complementary spectrums of the colour wheel, rather than contrasting poles.

Keep external timber decking unpolished and uncoated to express the patina of materials.

Filtered light

Owing to its proximity to the equator, Singapore’s natural lighting is more harsh and glaring compared with temperate countries, where it is more diffused in nature.

“The idea is to get just the right amount of light into the building, so that the occupants can move around the house without difficulty,” says Yip. “But, essentially, we want to create a cave-like environment to shield the home from harsh exterior conditions, where the occupants can rest away from the stresses of their daily lives.” One of Yip’s latest project, 7 Namly Hill, uses a recessed building envelope to achieve this effect. HYLA’s work often features the use of light wells and screens that double up as privacy panels. They allow filtration of light and casting of shadows into the interior space, reflecting the surroundings and creating an introspective private experience. “We let light and space do the talking,” says Han.

A harmonious palette of landscape, materials and light creates a soothing living area

Landscape as natural ally

According to Yip, the strategy is to use local tropical plants and let them be slightly wild and unkempt. On one hand, it allows for easy maintenance. On the other, it allows the natural characteristics of the plants to present themselves. Yip advocates that the house and landscape be seen in unison in a symbiotic relationship. “The landscape grows on to the house and the house grows out into the landscape,” he says.

“Landscaping is your natural ally,” says Han. “Using the bathroom as an example, it is a space where you need good ventilation and natural light, but at the same time, it must be as private as possible.” Landscaping allows all three criteria to be met. In addition, it gives users a resort-like living, remarks Han.


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