Repurposing the Historical Shophouse

Singapore, Real Estate and Architecture –

Owner and Managing Director of 8M Real Estate, ASHISH MANCHHARAM, has a passion for Singapore shophouses and transforms them into contemporary spaces with sublime designs

You do business and trade on the ground floor. Residential living is on the upper floors.

The shophouse is an iconic heritage building in Singapore created by immigrants as early as the 19th century. With various architectural styles from various eras, shophouses are laid out in a row with several units fused together with a common 5-foot walkway and clay-tiled roof. You’ll find conservation status shophouses in ethnic neighbourhoods such as Chinatown, Little India, Kampong Glam and Joo Chiat. Many have been repurposed for modern, contemporary use in food, retail and leisure accomodation.

Owner and Managing Director of 8M Real Estate, Ashish Manchharam: We believe in creating properties with staying power which means that we need to secure operators who have concepts with longevity

Ashish Manchharam has a soft spot for shophouses because he grew up in one, spending his young days playing with neighbours in the Kampong Glam alleys. His shophouse restoration projects include Luke’s Oyster Bar & Chop House, Employees Only Singapore and Birds of a Feather in the Amoy Street area.

Luke’s Oyster Bar & Chophouse at Gemmill Lane with elegant interiors by Hassell Studio

8M Real Estate recently unveiled Ann Siang House, a flexi-stay hotel in a 1920s heritage building in Ann Siang Hill. Stylish sunlit interior spaces by Flo Sander of iThink Consulting draw inspiration from the surrounding street scenes of Chinatown and its history.

Ann Siang House is a flexi-stay hotel in a 1920s building in Chinatown
Exterior entrance with its bright blue walls and black and white tiles
Bedroom – Interiors by Flo Sander of iThink Consulting Group draw inspiration from the surrounding Chinatown neighbourhood
Bathroom – Flush with natural sunlight
In-house Italian restaurant PerBacco serves Grilled Squid with Red Onion Jam and Sauteed Spinach
Ann Siang Hill during the 1920s

A Chat with Ashish Manchharam, owner and managing director of 8M Real Estate

Tell us something interesting about the design and dining concepts of Ann Siang House.

We’re very proud of the final product. In line with our vision for the property, it has been transformed through bold enhancements to our facade and a deliberate repositioning realised through the careful selection of dynamic f&b concepts that complement not only our beautifully appointed 20-room onsite lodging but also the neighbourhood vibe. We think we’ve created a space for everyone to relax and enjoy in the heart of oldtown Singapore.

The shophouse is a vernacular architectural treasure in Singapore. Is there a particular era or style that you are fond of, for example early style, transitional style?

One style that’s interesting is from the art deco era mainly due to the clean lines and how we can weave that into the facade with colours and lighting. Unfortunately, many art deco buildings have not been restored and redeveloped unless located within the shophouse districts. We own a few In Hongkong Street and Boat Quay.

What are your fondest memories of growing up in a shophouse in Kampong Glam?

It was a very different time as most of the shophouses then were for retail use on the ground floor and for residential use on the upper floors. It meant that during the day it was full of commerce and at night filled with residents. As kids, we used to hangout at each other’s houses in the neighbourhood often staying for dinner. We would play soccer and cricket in the back alleys, which is today Bussorah Street and Haji Lane.

Who are your architects and designers, and what concepts do you and they focus on when turning a shophouse into a contemporary space?

Over the years, we’ve worked with some enormously talented individuals. Wendy Koh from WK Partners is an authority on restoring heritage properties and has been integral to a number of our redevelopment projects including the much-lauded interior design for our serviced apartments at Hongkong Street property, BASE Residences. To compliment Wendy’s talents, we also work with Flo Sander from iThink Consulting Group whose commitment to excellence, modern aesthetic and eye for detail is an invaluable contribution to breathing fresh life into our heritage properties.

What are your plans for your Keong Saik Road project?

We’ve already commenced the conversion of the ground floor space into multiple f&b units. The Guild by Hongkong craft brewers, Young Masters Brewers, is the first concept to open in May. The opening of the remaining f&b spaces will be staggered in the 2nd half of 2018.

The upper floors are undergoing a massive facelift and will be rebranded and reimagined to offer an approachable, high-quality, design-led lodging alternative on the Keong Saik Road stretch. We are excited to bring a contemporary, flexible stay concept servicing the growing need for such space in Singapore.

What local food do you crave for after a hard day at work?

I love chicken rice, popiah and carrot cake! Always up for that!

Story by Carol Kraal. Photographs of Ann Siang House and Luke’s Oyster Bar courtesy of 8M Real Estate. Heading photograph by Carol Kraal: Early Style (1840s- 1900s) shophouses along north Bridge Road

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