We’re daydreaming about iconic, heritage black and white bungalows in Singapore (and they aren’t just at 38 Oxley Road).
In a city of shoebox apartments that get smaller (and pricier) by the minute, a black and white house is considered by many as the ultimate dream abode (have you seen stylist Charlie Cameron’s gorgeous pad?). Let’s indulge in a little history lesson on these heritage bungalows and take a peek at these beauties… Just saying: if you land yourself a gorgeous black and white, don’t forget to invite us to your fabulous Gatsby-esque housewarming party!
Blast to the past
Why the term ‘black and white’ you ask? It’s a no-brainer that the building is in fact decked in the monotonous colours, it uses 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 (the first one was built in 1903 at Cluny Road) when they were home to top-ranking government officials, high court judges, and plantation owners. But during the Japanese Occupation from 1942-1945, the houses were left abandoned by their colonial owners and taken over by Japanese soldiers instead.
Did you know?
There are approximately 500 black and white houses remaining, 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
Designed and built by the brains behind prominent landmarks like the iconic Raffles Hotel and the Victoria Memorial Hall, architect Regent Alfred John Bidwell fused Tudor-inspired styles with tropical sensibilities to create one gorgeous pad that retains his English roots.
Drawing inspirations from the Malay style of elevating the house off the ground with pillars and arches, with its ground floor constructed with tiles to maintain nighttime coolness. Timber is used inside to absorb solar radiation less quickly, and the outside’s wide verandas have 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 that draws hot air upwards, providing a well-ventilated space for its occupiers.
Did you know?
The air circulated beneath the elevated house not only cools it, but also prevents attacks from termites, and damages caused by flash floods.
Black and white enclaves worth knowing
Nowadays, 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. Those in Dempsey Hill and Rochester Park are mostly restaurants.
Formerly an enlistment centre in the 1970s, Dempsey Road needs no introduction: it’s a thriving brunch hotspot with the likes of Jones the Grocer, The White Rabbit, PS Café, and House at Dempsey as tenants.
40 black and white bungalows were built in the 1940s to accommodate British soldiers stationed at Pasir Panjang Military Complex. It now houses several bars and restaurants like UNA, One Rochester and Da Paolo Bistro Bar.
Also known as ‘Little Bohemia’, the peaceful neighbourhood of Portsdown is also a flourishing artistic community with black and white walk-up apartments and bungalows, art galleries and photography studios.
Singapore’s very own art cluster, with more than 10 galleries, restaurants, and bars like Timbre @ Gillman and Masons, was formerly a military encampment for the British Army.
A mostly British residential neighbourhood with a grisly past — it was once the battle site between the British and Japanese forces and a Prisoner of War (POW) camp.
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.
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, YOUNGS Bar & Restaurant, and Wheeler’s Estate.
Did you know?
Sadly, the very first black and white bungalow built at Cluny Road no longer stands there, but you’ll still be able to spot some of its famous counterparts, including the Atbara House along Gallop Road which is 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.
Here’s how you can get your hands on one
In 2007, the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) introduced an open-bidding system where black and white houses are leased for two-year terms. Prices are determined by property demand and, given how hotly contested (and rare) these gems are, be prepared to fork out an astronomical sum (the highest ever sum recorded was $36,000 a month for a property in Cluny Road). Equally, as is the case with all property in Singapore (and anything that works on supply and demand), if you’re in the right place at the right time, it is possible to clinch a black and white for a much smaller bid (the lowest was $3,000 a month!).
Be sure to check out the SLA website or SLA’s State Property Information Online portal (SPIO) regularly for a listing of available houses and contact details of the managing agents. Interested parties must then submit their bidding form and a refundable deposit at the SLA office.
Did you know?
The highest ever sum recorded was $36,000 a month for a property in Cluny Road (yikes!), while the lowest was $3,000.