Pros & Cons of Black and White Living
If you’re new to Singapore, the term ‘black and white’ may conjure up the right-on-trend monochrome look. If you’ve been around this little red dot a while, you’ll know what we’re talking about. Who hasn’t swooned at pics of a majestic old black and white house set behind a little lush jungle and wished it was all theirs? We’ve let you in on the rich histories behind these houses – now find out whether if it’s all it’s cracked up to be.
Elegant old black and whites evoke a refined picture of colonial Singapore. Grand sweeping staircases lead you down to spacious rooms bringing in perfect light through your whitewashed plantation shutters. Enjoy gentle fanning by your very own punkah wallah as you sip on a lazy sling. Your covered verandah captures the essence of tropical chic with its perfect rattan lounges and swaying potted palms. ‘Why, Sir Stamford Raffles! So nice of you to drop by.’
Today, there are only around 500 of Singapore’s iconic black and white bungalows left. These stunning properties command high rents and promise an idyllic lifestyle in ‘the tropics’. Living in a black and white is a bit like living in a Disney castle. Everyone dreams about it but only a fortunate few ever get the chance.
Well, congratulations, Cinderella. You’ve got the keys to your own black and white. But will you live happily ever after?
You have a sprawling sized property (an increasingly rare commodity in today’s market), cleverly designed to cope with Singapore’s tropical climate. Black and white’s enviable soaring ceilings, sky-high windows, mammoth verandas and expansive grounds allow air to circulate easily within the house. It’s even said that these houses are also oriented in such a way that the rooms receive no direct sunlight.
Close-knit ‘black and white’ enclaves like those in Portsdown Rd and Seletar enjoy a pretty sweet life. We’ve heard whispers of raucous all night house parties, trick-or-treating at Halloween, lawn-based playgroup sessions and even an annual Guy Fawkes Bonfire Night.
But, hang on a second. Lets remember these sprawling, stunning properties are also old. Really old. Black and whites do remind us of elegant, colonial times. Sure, except that in elegant colonial times, elegant colonial people lived without aircon, oh, and certainly not enough electrical outlets for a TV and wifi in the same room. Modern plumbing you say? Sorry, Cinderella.
Most black and white houses only come with basic lighting and plumbing. Residents can install air-conditioning units, water heaters, telephone lines, internet connections and swimming pools. But to protect the architectural legacies of these houses, all these new fittings must be removed when a tenant’s lease ends. We know!
Cinderella was always the best cleaning, multi-tasking Disney princess. A good thing too, as she’ll be cleaning out gutters, fixing leaky pipes and painting the house a lot more than Rapunzel in her condo tower. Rapunzel has a gym right at her home! Sure, she may find herself too lazy to actually go after week 11 but it’s still there. She has an in-house mini mart for her cheeky after dinner Magnum cravings and she has a playground (read: no need to arrange play dates for the kids).
But there’s so much room for the family
This is true. There is. Outside. But the bedrooms are so spacious! So spacious that there’s only two of them. Bunks it is, baby!
Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!
Black and white houses are generally surrounded by lush, green jungle. Lush, green jungle has scary things living in it. Most black and whites we know have dealt with not just your standard creepy crawlies, but snakes, rats, bats, monitor lizards and cheeky, thieving macaques in the fruit bowl. Not for faint-hearted Rapunzels.
You have boogie fever? ‘No, I said dengue fever.’
Black and whites are so noble, elevated up on those gorgeous brick pillars. Yes, until you realise whole cities of mosquitoes thrive underneath those pillars. Cinderella! You’ve got some more work to do. Their largely timber structures mean that termites like to live in black and whites too.
So maybe we’re just the teensiest bit jealous of you lucky Cinderellas, but this ugly sister will take a brand new condo with full facilities anytime. How about you?
Images: The Adam Park Project