Stairway to Privacy – Part I

Well, the term “Stairway to Heaven” had been used too often to describe stairs in homes. I decided to coin a slightly different term. Why “Stairway to Privacy”? A distinct lack of privacy is something that one will not experience when living in big houses in land abundant countries. However, in land scarce Singapore, even big apartments seem small in overseas context. What kind of privacy are we talking about? When you are living with multiple families under one roof, privacy is something that you will miss. For example, if you are married and living with your parents or your siblings, you will most probably long for some form of private moments with your spouse. Interestingly, rather than myself or my wife feeling the need for privacy, its my parents whom I’m staying with wishing for that privacy! How not to love my parents? ๐Ÿ™‚ They are so sensitive and understanding that they felt that some form of privacy will be good for us when we move to our next home.

My recent trip to Australia took me to Melbourne where my brother is currently living in. His house is considered small, by housing standards (bar the city apartments) where he lives in a “modest” 1,600 Square Feet single storey home in the suburbs. Take a look around his neighbourhood and often not, we see double-storey houses or large single storey houses sitting on a huge plot of land. But put it into the Singapore context and you will hear exclamations that a 1,600 Square Feet home is “Huge”! As a Singaporean, I am attuned to the idea that 1,600 Square Feet is big and I am more than happy to get a unit of that size rather than wishing for the impossible 4,000 Square Feet landed property. In Singapore, there are 2 types of apartments that offers the feeling of living on a landed property with the highly desirable “staircase” in the home. One is a commonly known feature in private apartments known as multi-level Penthouses. In Singapore’s public housing context, there is a group of discontinued HDB flats that offers 2 levels of living space in a single apartment. They are known as Maisonettes and they are the best option to privacy. Filial sons planning on staying with their parents after marriage will love this option. ๐Ÿ™‚

Broadly speaking, there are 3 generations HDB Executive Maisonettes in Singapore with several sub-types of designs. Let’s not go into the smaller 5 Room Maisonettes which have only 3 bedrooms and will not be suitable for my need for a bigger home due to my family needs. The term “5 rooms” in Singapore public housing comes from 3 Bedrooms + 1 Living Room + 1 Dining Room. Hence, there are not 5 bedroom units. For Executive HDB Flats (Executive Maisonettes included), there are 4 Bedrooms or 3 + 1 Study/Utility public apartments. Confusing? ๐Ÿ™‚ In my honest opinion, the 2nd generation layout for Executive Maisonettes offers the best space and design for creative re-configurations. A sample of the layout between the 3 floor plans are shown below.

1st Generation HDB Executive Maisonettes are more of a 3 + 1 Utility configuration. The room on the lower floor is just a small utility room and will not be able to fit my needs as my parents prefers staying at the lower floor due to their age. Interestingly though, 1st Generation Executive Maisonette (1,593 Sq Feet/148 Sq Meters) designs are actually slightly bigger in size than 2nd Generation Executive Maisonettes (1,571 Sq Feet/146 Sq Meters). This is due to the bigger living rooms which lost precious space that could be put into making a livable bedroom on the 1st level.

One look at the 2nd Generation Executive Maisonette and I bet that you will see how much more usable space you can squeeze out of a smaller space. Once you look at the double volume ceiling at the balcony space, the first thing that came to my mind is a Loft Area to utilize the rare high ceiling in HDB Flats. I had came across some great examples of covering up the balconies with casement windows to great effects of a Loft.

Take a comparison look between these units’ fully covered windows against their neighbours’ and you will find that there originally exist a double volume ceiling which is an open space balcony. Covering these double volume balconies all the way up produces great effects. I would love to do the same when I get my Maisonette!

This is the 3rd Generation and last of the Executive Maisonette designs that HDB had built in the 1990s. Once again, it had reduced slightly smaller at 1,550 Sq Feet (144 Sq Meters). At least, it had a proper bedroom sized in the 1st level for my parent’s stay. So, it is still in my options. The good thing about this layout is the inclusion of a Service Balcony for your laundry. In the 2nd Generation Maisonette layouts, you will basically need to sun your laundry in your beautifully built double volume Loft! What a dilemma!

With this in mind, I am basically ready to hunt for my abode once the crazy property prices in Singapore starts seeing stabilization.

<UPDATE> I was alerted to the availability of a 4th Generation by one of my blog readers, Wei Choong. They are found mainly in Admiralty and Woodlands where the EMs are newer. They are fairly similar to the 3rd Generation EMs, but with an added bomb shelter. Thanks for the feedback Wei Choong. ๐Ÿ™‚

Gen 4 EMGen 4 EM Floor Plan with the additional Bomb Shelter (Picture courtesy of Cheng Wei Choong)


21 thoughts on “Stairway to Privacy – Part I

  1. Actually,there is the 4th type.of EM,which currently i am staying.Its the one with a bomb shelter acting as a store inside the study room. Actually ,the same layout as the.3rd type, just that the kitchen will be slightly smaller.Only can be found in admiralty woodlands..

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      1. do u have some floor plans design at queenstown mei ling st.,block 147. Its a 4storey blocks.Some of the units have rooms located at the 1st floor where the living and dining halls are at the 2nd floor,quite unlike the tradtional ones.Strange….

      2. Wow. I didn’t know that they have such reversed layout at Meiling St. Thats interesting as such duplex layouts are a new concept which I see in some Australian duplex houses. Either the Australian houses are doing a retro approach or the maisonette at Meiling St are years ahead of their time,
        . ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. I ve managed to find a EM unit in mei ling street,,,the design is strange , with
    the bedrooms all locate below the living hall.
    I think your website will be known as some stairs lead DOWN to heaven.. to post you the pictures…

  4. Hi, I’m actually looking for EMs in D20 (AMK, Bishan, Braddell, Toa Payoh) area and D19 (Serangoon and Lorong Ah Soo only, not Hougang though). I basically need 4 proper bedrooms and preferably two balconies, which ones will suit me better and in which area? Thanks!

    1. Hi Lilian,

      If you are looking for 4 proper bedrooms, Gen 1 EMs are definitely out as their room at the lower floor is really just a small utility room. I will recommend Gen 2 EMs for D20.

      If you need 2 balconies, I can only think of the newer Gen 3 EMs which Have a proper balcony + a service balcony, which I do not think are available in D20. d20 consist of Gen 1 and Gen 2 EMs, as well as a whole bunch of unique EMs such as the million dollar “Sky Terrace” EMs. Over at Sin Ming, which is close to your desired area, they even have a “Loft” EM which have all the bedrooms at the lower floor with a Family Space at the upper floor. The rest of the areas at the lower floor is full double-height ceiling.

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