Home Tour: A Look Inside Singapore's "Stiletto House"
The Stiletto House is playfully named after the slim, trumpet-shaped exterior columns rising from its porch and fanning into circular canopies—structures that look just like the tall heel of its namesake shoe. This fluid architectural language is echoed by the contouring steps at the car porch and the winding floor plates, which altogether make the house appear like a modern sculpture.
Inside, walls flow and circular columns exude grandeur, especially in the double-storey living and dining area. A visit is akin to a museum tour with a learned guide. The owner, retired businessman Robin Yeo, patiently narrates the stories behind the curated melange of iconic and antique pieces in his home—though the house itself, designed by EHKA Studio, is the most significant work of art.
“Curves create a flow, resolve awkward angles and connect spaces and forms; we find curves very useful and appealing as a design element,” says Hsu Hsia Pin, who heads the architectural firm with his wife Eunice Khoo. “Not all clients are willing to explore this free-flowing design language and the owner was very brave to take that risk with us.”
“I am fascinated by curves. I told the architects I wanted undulating walls,” affirms Yeo. His love of curves is omnipresent, even down to the furniture that he selected; he quips that furnishings with right-angled legs are “forbidden” in this house.
In the living area, a white Prado sofa from Ligne Roset and tall planters accentuate the loftiness of this space. A ruby red B&B Italia Serie Up armchair by Gaetano Pesce melds with the wavy, transparent Cini Boeri-designed Ghost armchair from Fiam Italia. Meals are enjoyed around an oval Reef dining table from Cattelan Italia and on shapely white-leathered S chairs by Tom Dixon.
“I like iconic pieces; normal things don’t excite me. Every piece of furniture must have a wow factor,” says Yeo. His collection reads like the design hall of fame, but stops short of becoming a showroom thanks to an impeccable mix of antiques. “I collected a lot of antique furniture in my previous pre-war homes that were not entirely appropriate for this house, so I decided to have ultra-modern furniture here but with antiques on the walls for contrast,” says Yeo.
One such antique is a charismatic, century-old Chinese dragon robe acquired from auction house Christie’s in London 20 years ago. “The burgundy colour is unique, worn (by those from) the hierarchy of princes. I wasn’t sure if it would work in this setting, but it does give character to the space. If everything is modern, it can feel a bit sterile,” says the keen collector. He admires the artistry of these cultural artefacts. In the master bedroom are framed pieces from a dress he purchased in a market in China for just $15 after falling in love with the embroidery. “You don’t have to pay exorbitant prices when collecting antiques. Getting a good bargain is part of the fun,” he adds.
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Above the kitchen, a glass-floored mezzanine offsets the low ceiling beneath. The transparency also enables a mirroring effect—two silver antique prayer mats from Myanmar hang symmetrically above and below the mezzanine floor. This motif recurs with twin Esgrimas consoles from Agrippa, whose legs appear to be on tiptoe just like the exterior columns; the bulbous tabletop also fulfils Yeo’s curve criteria. By the entrance, a spiral staircase twirls vertically through the house, sending natural light into the basement and providing a vertiginous thrill as you ascend the steps.
“There is a lightness in the staircase design through the use of glass, open threads and the colour white,” says Hsu, highlighting similarly formed louvres above the steps. In the basement, offsetting the full-height glass windows from the boundary wall provides even more light, as well as the aural and visual spectacle of water flowing down from the 25-metre lap pool above into the guest room and entertainment den.
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In the bathrooms, black Nero Marquina marble surfaces offset the all-white foil. This results in intimate and sensual backdrops, accented with Hansgrohe Axor Starck Organic twig-like sanitary fixtures and pipe-like sanitary wares.
In the master bathroom, hedges envelop an egg-shaped bathtub on the balcony for a resort-like experience. This greenery continues indoors with ample potted plants. The design is dramatic but still functional, Hsu says. “We wanted the house’s front and side to be as open as possible as they face the east, which is less hot and has better views,” he explains.
Thus, the common areas and balconies are located here. The extended canopies offer shade and shelter from the rain and operable glazed glass doors encourage cross ventilation. On the first storey, fans and an abutting lap pool cool the interior.
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“Stiletto House explores the fusion of sculpture and building, evoking visual delight. Spaces that inspire joy are central to our design ethos,” says Hsu. The homeowner is certainly happy with the outcome, being able to live in a space that fulfils both his creative brief and pragmatic needs, and which constantly elicits wide-eyed reactions from guests and passers-by.