Singapore's Peranakan culture gets a modern interpretation in the fit out of this shop house restaurant.
While the sentiments of conserving Singapore's remaining shop houses are admirable, the finished results are not always a success. Sometimes a designer struggles to shoehorn a modern function into an antiquated structure. In other cases, the design of the new interior seems to clash with the old facade.
When designer Ed Poole was working on the shop house conservation of the restaurant illustrated on these pages, he was determined to reflect a real sense of local history.
'We wanted to take the building back to what it might have looked like originally', says Poole. 'When tourists walk down the street, we aimed to give them a glimpse of the past. However, the idea wasn't to create a museum piece'.
The turn-of-the-century building is one of the large block of shop houses lining Tanjong Pagar Road in Chinatown. Although the building was freshly renovated, Ed Poole says it still required some major changes to make the fitout sympathetic with the setting.
'We basically had to gut the building again and rebuild the facade', he says.
'This included moving the entrance to the center to make the facade symmetrical, and changing the size of some window panes to make them authentic for the period'.
Inside, the Blue Ginger Restaurant has been given a Peranakan-style decor. Peranakan culture dates back to turn-of-the-century Singapore and evolved from the intermarriage of migrant Chinese male workers and local Malay women. (see articles on the following page)
One of the restaurant's owners, Susan Teo, says a feature of Peranakan culture is a love of colorful mixes and colonial styles.
'On Peranakan buildings this can be seen especially in the use of traditional tile designs - usually imported from England - and in the colonial light fittings', she says.
However, the restaurant owners didn't want a pure Peranakan look. This comes down partly to budget - genuine pieces are now hard to find and so are used sparingly in the fitout.
Instead, Ed Poole has used traditional design elements but given them a modern twist. The tiles are represented by a metallic finish on the lower part of the exterior, and they also inspired the leather checkerboard pattern on the back of the banquette seating.
The flower-shaped light fittings have the same type of glass as traditional fittings, but were custom designed and fitted with halogen bulbs. Groupings of five pendant lights replace the customary chandelier that would have hung over a dining table.
The Venetian mirrors are recognizable Peranakan features, but the paintings are contemporary works by local artist Martin Loh.
And the exterior color scheme is from a combination found on Peranakan pottery.
'We also wanted a design that would appeal to both young and older customers', says Susan Teo.
Traditional use of timber gave a heavy look in Peranakan homes and this could have been a bit imposing in the small spaces of this shop house. So for the restaurant, Ed Poole has lightened the timber effect with shades of cream such as lemon yellow, sugar cookie and butter mint.