Apr 24, 2010

Live life on high

Tall ceilings and windows and the unique lifestyle are reasons Singaporeans choose loft apartments

By tay suan chiang

Mr Lawrence Mui and Ms Jeanne Lim's $1.8-million two-bedroom loft apartment at the Icon offers views of the Tanjong Pagar area. -- ST PHOTO: RAJ NADARAJAN

When married couple Lawrence Mui and Jeanne Lim were looking for an apartment in 2007, they immediately fell in love with their loft unit when they were taken to see it.

'I had previously seen pictures of loft apartments in magazines and on the Internet,' says Mr Mui, 34, a sales manager. 'It provides a kind of lifestyle that is very different from living in a regular apartment.'

Their dream home is a two-bedroom loft apartment at the Icon in Tanjong Pagar. They paid $1.8 million for the 1,044 sq ft unit, which was developed by Far East Organization.

In cities such as New York, lofts are expansive apartments with no partitions. But in Singapore, the lofts can be as small as 579 sq ft but with double-volume space and a mezzanine level.

The Muis' bedroom is on the mezzanine level while the second bedroom on the first level is now a walk-in wardrobe.

'The apartment fits the requirement of young couples like us looking for city living,' says Ms Lim, 33, who is in wealth management.

Upmarket property developer SC Global is believed to be the first to introduce loft living in Singapore.

In 2000, it launched The Lincoln Modern near Newton, a 30-storey tower with 56 split-level loft apartments, and every unit boasted double-volume 6m-high ceilings and windows.

The uniqueness of its design was recognised by the Royal Institute of British Architects which conferred on the condo its Worldwide Award for 2005, making it the first residential development in Asia to receive such an accolade.

An SC Global spokesman says: 'The Lincoln Modern was ahead of its time with the introduction of a new concept of space in Singapore that remains unique even today.'

Since then, more developers have introduced loft living in their residential projects. But still not every condo has them.

An industry expert, who declined to be named, says by building lofts, fewer units can be built within a block. He adds: 'And it suits only buyers of a certain kind.'

Indeed, trader C.S. Toh, who bought an Icon loft, says such small lofts are 'most ideal for singles or childless couples. This was one of the reasons we were drawn to the development'.

The 41-year-old lives there with his wife, who declined to be named. They do not plan to have children.

For Mr Mui, it was the apartment's high ceiling that also attracted him.

'We can hang a chandelier from the high ceiling, and the 6m-high window gives us a breathtaking panoramic view of the city.'

Over at The Rochester at Buona Vista, future loft home owners will be able to look out onto lush greenery.

'Our loft apartments overlook the expanse of greenery of Rochester Park. Imagine waking up at the eye level of tree canopies - it will truly be a stunning window view,' says a spokesman for United Engineers, developer of The Rochester.

When ready next year, the 366-unit condo will have 60 loft apartments.

The spokesman says buyers are singles, childless couples and 'creative home-office types' who are working out of the artisan village in the Portsdown area. All its loft units are sold out.

Over at upcoming condo [email protected] Sinaran near Novena, developed by Frasers Centrepoint Homes, nine of its 32 two-bedroom loft units are still available. Prices start from $1,296 per square foot for a 1,432 sq ft unit.

Its spokesman says such units 'especially appeal to the well-heeled trendy professionals and young couples as they offer more creative design options'.

He adds that the pricing for these units is similar to other bedroom types, and it depends on the apartment's size, level and the direction it faces.

While loft units tend to be just one- or two-bedroom units, one developer has gone a step further by introducing a five-bedroom loft unit.

Wing Tai Holding's Ascentia Sky by Tanglin has two mega 3,025 sq ft lofts.

There are three bedrooms on the first storey and two more on the mezzanine level, which also has a family lounge area.

The mega lofts are not yet launched but there have already been inquiries from potential buyers. The lofts are expected to sell for $4.3 million.

Great views but cleaning is a pain

On why such apartments were introduced, Ms Len Siew Lian, Wing Tai's general manager for property, says: 'We have interest from residents at the Tanglin bungalow enclave, as well as those with an extended family, who seek rare, large-sized five-bedroom apartments that can provide them with much needed space to suit their lifestyle needs.'

She adds: 'These mega loft units offer them a landed feel up in the sky, providing premium views of the city and surrounding greenery, and the residents can enjoy full condominium facilities in a premier quality development.'

Wing Tai is also offering potential buyers a choice in customising their apartment, since the lofts are yet to be built. Ms Len says they can configure the upper level into a private master suite or have it designed as separate spaces for children.

Even public housing has caught onto loft living. To date, the Housing Board is offering 281 loft units in three projects - at [email protected], Punggol Sapphire and [email protected]

The Punggol lofts will be ready next year while the Dawson units will be ready in 2015. The HDB loft units range from 1,044 sq ft to 1,603 sq ft.

While double-volume space and high windows are attractive, they do present some maintenance problems.

Icon loft resident Daniel Gan has found it a bit of a challenge to clean his 6m-high windows. 'I use a very tall ladder and improvise with a pole as a duster to clean them and other areas of the unit,' says the 34-year-old, who is a commercial pilot.

Still, that has not stopped bank administrative officer Tan Hwee Siam from buying a loft unit at [email protected] Her apartment will be ready next year. The 41-year-old says: 'I will worry about the window- cleaning later. I want to enjoy the spaciousness of the loft first.'

[email protected]

What is a loft?

Mention the word 'lofts' and images of a spacious apartment with an open- plan concept come to mind.

Launched in 2000, The Lincoln Modern condo (above) is believed to be Singapore?s pioneer in loft living. -- PHOTO: SC GLOBAL

The loft concept was believed to have started in New York in the 1950s, when artists and bohemians searched for spaces that they could work and live in.

Former warehouses and other industrial facilities were converted into living spaces that were very wide and open, with exposed beams and plumbing.

Lofts have now morphed into living spaces that come with a larger lower level and a smaller one upstairs.

Interior designer Peter Tay, who has done loft showflats for local developers, describe such apartments as those that have 'double volume space with a mezzanine level'.

The kitchen, dining and living areas are on the first floor, with a bedroom on the mezzanine.

The first loft apartments to be introduced in Singapore in 2000 were at The Lincoln Modern, near Newton.

Two mega loft apartments (above), each at 3,025 sq ft, will be part of Wing Tai Holding?s upcoming Ascentia Sky by Tanglin project. With five bedrooms, these units are much larger than the usual one- or two-bedroom loft apartments at projects such as the upcoming [email protected] ( next picture) and The Rochester. -- PHOTOS: WING TAI ASIA, FRASERS CENTREPOINT HOMES, UEL

Two mega loft apartments (above), each at 3,025 sq ft, will be part of Wing Tai Holding?s upcoming Ascentia Sky by Tanglin project. With five bedrooms, these units are much larger than the usual one- or two-bedroom loft apartments at projects such as the upcoming [email protected] ( next picture) and The Rochester. -- PHOTOS: WING TAI ASIA, FRASERS CENTREPOINT HOMES, UEL

The Rochester

Mr Daniel Gan and his wife, Elsie, have gone for a sleek, luxurious theme for their loft apartment at the Icon. -- ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG