We’re daydreaming about iconic black and white houses in Singapore (and they aren’t just at 38 Oxley Road).
Living in Singapore, where shoebox apartments get smaller (and pricier!) by the minute, a black and white house is considered by many as the ultimate dream abode. So let’s indulge in a little history lesson on heritage bungalows and take a peek into these beauties. Oh, and if you land yourself a gorgeous black and white, don’t forget to invite us to your fabulous Gatsby-esque housewarming party! Just sayin’.
Blast to the past: A history of black and white houses in Singapore
Why the term ‘black and white’, you ask? It’s a no-brainer, ‘cos these buildings are decked out in monotonous colours. They make use of dark timber beams and whitewashed walls influenced by the ‘Tudorbethan’ revival style, the Arts and Crafts movement, and the Art Deco movement.
Built by the British from the 19th century, these houses enjoyed their heyday during the 1920s and 30s. That’s when they were home to top-ranking government officials, high court judges and plantation owners. But during the Japanese Occupation from 1942 to 1945, the houses were left abandoned by their colonial owners and taken over by Japanese soldiers.
Did you know?
There are approximately 500 black and white houses remaining. They’re scattered around the city in exclusive, leafy enclaves like Dempsey Road, Rochester Park, Portsdown Road and Adam Park. Government-owned houses have been conserved.
Let’s talk architecture
The first black and white house was established in 1903 at Cluny Road. It was designed and built by the brains behind prominent landmarks like Raffles Singapore. Architect Regent Alfred John Bidwell fused Tudor-inspired styles with tropical sensibilities to create one gorgeous pad with a nod to his English roots.
These houses draw inspiration from the Malay style of elevating the house off the ground with pillars and arches. In addition, the ground floor is constructed with tiles to maintain nighttime coolness. Meanwhile, the wide verandas outside feature overhanging eaves to reduce direct sunlight. Sold? It gets even better. The high-steeped roofs help control rainfall while doubling as a chimney-like system to provide a well-ventilated space for occupiers.
Did you know?
The air circulated beneath the elevated house cools it. But it also prevents attacks from termites or damages caused by flash floods.
Black and white enclaves worth knowing
These days, many of the remaining houses at Nassim Road, Seton Close, Chatsworth Park, Goodwood Hill and Alexandra Park are either residential properties for expats or foreign embassy offices. However, those in Dempsey Hill are mostly home to restaurants.
1. Dempsey Road
Formerly an enlistment centre in the 1970s, Dempsey Road needs no introduction. It’s a thriving brunch hotspot with the likes of Siri House, PS.Cafe and Min Jiang as tenants.
2. Rochester Park
40 black and white bungalows were built in the 1940s to accommodate British soldiers stationed at Pasir Panjang Military Complex.
3. Portsdown Road
The Wessex Estate cluster is a flourishing artistic community with black and white walk-up apartments and bungalows, art galleries and photography studios.
4. Gillman Barracks
Singapore’s very own art cluster, filled with galleries, restaurants and bars, was formerly a military encampment for the British Army.
5. Adam Park
This one’s a mostly British residential neighbourhood with a grisly past. It used to be the battle site between the British and Japanese forces and a Prisoner of War (POW) camp.
6. Sembawang Park
Located in the north, it was once the location of His Majesty’s Naval Base of the British Royal Navy. The most iconic black and white house there is The Beaulieu House, which is currently a seafood restaurant.
7. Seletar Aerospace Park
The black and white bungalows at the former Seletar airbase were made to house officers from the British Royal Air Force before the outbreak of World War II. Now, you can find them occupied by restaurants such as The Summerhouse and Wheeler’s Estate.
Did you know?
Sadly, the very first black and white bungalow built at Cluny Road no longer stands. But you can spot some of its famous counterparts, including the Atbara House along Gallop Road. It’s the oldest single-storey bungalow in Singapore. Head over to the Botanic Gardens for a glimpse of Burkhill Hall, the only remaining example of an Anglo-Malay Plantation Style House.
How to rent a black and white house in Singapore
As black and white houses have either government or private ownership, there are two ways to go about renting one in Singapore. For government-owned ones, check SLA’s website to browse available properties, pop by for an open house visit, and contact the relevant managing agent for a viewing. Alternatively, hit up Property Guru to hunt down privately-owned colonial bungalows. Next, get in touch with real estate agents if one of ’em catches your eye.
There you have it; all you need to know about black and white houses in Singapore!