Ministry of Design Morphs Historic Shanghai Home into Expat Haven

Ceramic plates across a wall of the second floor’s living area offer a subtle touch of color and texture, as do the marble side tables from Golden Teak. Photography by Edward Hendricks, CI&A Photography.

When Shanghai developer Figment asked the Ministry of Design to transform a house on the historic Blair Road into a rentable haven for expats, founder and director Colin Seah jumped at the chance, despite the tight timeline and budget.

“When it comes to adaptive reuse projects,” he said in a statement, “the question is always the same: How do we tread the line between the past and the present? Our response was to layer over the existing history with a proverbial blank canvas.”

A neon sign, custom fabricated in single-stroke white and red glass by The SignMakers, illuminates a quartz-topped dining table by P+ Capital, with chairs by Hock Siong & Co. Photography by Edward Hendricks, CI&A Photography.



Blank, but hardly boring: MoD whitewashed almost every inch of the 3,800-square-foot house, including its existing furnishings, but left strategic cutouts to reveal past textures like brick walls and wood floors. “It allowed us to blur the inherent boundaries between the past and present, object and space,” Seah said. And also keep an eye on the future, with a new collaboration with upcycling artist Kang to create three sets of fused-plastic luminaires made of layered and iron cling film, and a custom neon art piece embodying a quote from Thomas Jefferson that feels particularly provocative at the moment: I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.

MoD outfitted the entryway with vintage screens, some with cutout reveals of their original patina. Photography by Edward Hendricks, CI&A Photography.
The living room offers a sofa and rug from Journey East, along with a coffee table, seating, and console from Second Charm. Photography by Edward Hendricks, CI&A Photography.
The Alabaster Suite’s vintage bed seems to cast a shadow across the floor as it rests within a cut-out reveal of the original floor. Photography by Edward Hendricks, CI&A Photography.
The fresh white façade of the heritage shophouse sits in stark relief against its neighbors along Singapore’s Blair Road. Photography by Edward Hendricks, CI&A Photography.

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