News Home & Design Architect Revitalizes Social Housing Apartment as Airy Live-Work Space This former two-bedroom unit in Singapore now blends business with leisure. By Kimberley Mok Kimberley Mok Twitter Writer McGill University Cornell University Kimberley Mok is a former architect who has been covering architecture and the arts for Treehugger since 2007. Learn about our editorial process Published August 2, 2022 02:00PM EDT Fact checked by Haley Mast Fact checked by Haley Mast LinkedIn Harvard University Extension School Haley Mast is a freelance writer, fact-checker, and small organic farmer in the Columbia River Gorge. She enjoys gardening, reporting on environmental topics, and spending her time outside snowboarding or foraging. Topics of expertise and interest include agriculture, conservation, ecology, and climate science. Learn about our fact checking process Share Twitter Pinterest Email Never Too Small News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices News Archive Working from home has gained considerable traction during the last two years, largely due to the public health constraints brought on by the global COVID-19 pandemic. But even before that, plenty of people recognized the environmental, mental and physical health benefits of working from home—all of it no doubt playing a significant part in the growing trend of people striving for a better work-life balance. For some, a better work-life balance might mean digitally unplugging for one day a week, while for others it might mean eliminating the daily commute to work. That might translate to incorporating one's office with one's living space, as seen with this Italian architect's modern home-office hybrid, or this intriguing multigenerational live-work space in Japan. In Singapore, architect William Ng of Studio Wills + Architects takes this crossover approach in redesigning a 645-square-meter (60-square-meter) apartment to function as both his home and as office space for his employees. We get an enlightening tour of this unique space via Never Too Small: Located in the residential town of Serangoon, the live-work space called Project #13 is actually part of a public housing block dating back to the 1980s. Interestingly, the history behind Singapore's public housing model, where housing is a social asset rather than a financial one, has led to relatively high homeownership rates and allows for owner-occupants to renovate them extensively, as Ng has done. At its base, Project #13 is a reinterpretation of the traditional Singaporean shophouse, which had shop-owners living above their storefronts. In this case, however, the architect chose to split the existing two-bedroom unit down the middle, with the office occupying one side, and Ng's living spaces on the other. Never Too Small That middle split is filled out with a wooden multipurpose piece of built-in furniture that Ng calls a "space marker," and which serves as a mediator of sorts between these two zones. Multifunctional solutions are used throughout to maximize functionality and the limited amount of space. As Ng explains on Dezeen: "The design really started just as two distinct and autonomous spaces under one roof that can be used independently and/or interchangeably. One part eventually evolved as a home for me, as it minimizes time spent commuting between work. [..] "[The space marker] creates a 'buffer zone' between the public and private domains, and at the same time enables two separate entry points, allowing the spaces within to operate independently." After walking up the stairs in this low-rise building, guests and clients are welcomed in a compact entry alcove that includes a bench, storage, and a photocopying machine. Never Too Small This area serves as a filter of sorts, as it offers access to both the more public area of the office and the private home, via two different sliding glass doors. Never Too Small If one turns right, one enters the living room, which includes a sofa that can convert in a guest bed. Never Too Small The "space marker" in the living room manifests as a set of stairs ... Never Too Small ... which offers access to the cozy sleeping loft above. Never Too Small This is also where one finds a clever window that pivots to open up a view of the office space on the other side. Never Too Small Back downstairs, and still on the residential side, we come into a storage zone that has been carved out of the wooden "space marker." Never Too Small Past this storage area is the dining room, which can also function as a spillover space for the office for client conferences, or quiet Zoom meetings. The table here can seat up to six people, and the addition of a sink, washing machine, and a giant mirror makes it more domestically inclined than a typical office kitchen. Never Too Small The door at the rear leads to a small bathroom, equipped with a toilet and shower, with the sink and vanity located outside. Never Too Small On the other side of the kitchen, we have a series of cabinets and a nook for the coffee machine, mini-refrigerator, and microwave. Never Too Small On the other side of the "space marker" we find the main office space. Due to the high ceilings here, and by pushing all the shelves, storage, and artwork to the sides, it ends up feeling quite spacious. A long work table allows the firm's members to work efficiently, with everything like books, samples, and architectural models within sight—and within easy reach. Never Too Small The oak-clad "space marker" makes its presence felt here as a place to store things, in addition to nooks for a larger refrigerator, and yet another tea and coffee station. Never Too Small At the very rear of this space, there is a separate kitchen island with a built-in sink, a gas stovetop, and a microwave oven. This zone provides a space for employees to have lunch or an informal chat. Never Too Small There is a hidden door in the "space marker" here that gives access to the office bathroom, which includes a toilet, sink, and shower. Never Too Small Though one might claim there are a couple of programmatic redundancies (such as having two bathrooms and two coffee stations), this clever revamp really does work in keeping the work environment relatively separate from the private spaces for living, with an eye to interconnect them in surprising ways, explains Ng: "Our small space design philosophy in this project is to create a co-sharing environment that is space-saving, and opens visually and physically to the environment." To see more, visit Studio Wills + Architects and their Instagram.