Story by Carol Kraal


So it was no surprise that  the Tea family named their 2-storey home – The Chilli Crab. The modern build that has an indulgence of curves both on the exterior and in the interior, follows the unique roof profile, which looks like a crab claw. The home certainly stands out in the neighbourhood.

Family-owned Nic & Wes Builders worked together with Concept Design Architects on The Chilli Crab project, as they sought out an aesthetic and function that tailored to the Tea family’s lifestyle and tastes.

"The Chilli Crab project, like most of the projects that we embark on, begins with a homeowner’s wish list. We appreciated that the homeowner wanted a home that he was proud of and that gave us the chance to build him something that pushed our creativity. This home draws inspiration from the iconic local dish, the Chilli Crab, channelled in the form of its curved shaped roof that resembles the claw."
Brian Kow
Co-founder and Managing Director of Nic & Wes Builders, BUILDERS OF THE CHILLI CRAB
The Tea Family: "The exterior design development of our dream home by their in-house designer, Laisee Mercado, has earned us many flattering compliments from family, friends and even strangers who walk by. Furthermore, their interior designer (Regine Salivio) has always accompanied us patiently to narrow down options – from choosing tiles – to bathroom accessories. After 3 and a half years’ our dream home has become a reality.


Builders – Nic & Wes Builders

Nic & Wes Designers – Laisee Mercado, Regine Salivio, William Tan

Nic & Wes Project Managers (On-Site) – Karuppusamy Somu, Arul Kumar

Architect – Concept Design Architects

The unique roof of The Chilli Crab build follows the profile of a crab claw


Nic & Wes Builders is a Family Affair. Clockwise from top left: Nicole, Wesley, Jude Kow (Advisor) and Brian Kow (Co-Founder and Managing Director). The company was named after the children. Nicole is in the business and marketing department, while Wesley does marketing

Having to deal with so many complex channels when building their home, from shoddy workmanship to design nightmares to lousy quality materials and hidden costs, Brian Kow and his wife Jude decided to start their own building company. They wanted to simplify the process of building and design and put their experiences to good use. In 2002, their company was born, named after their two children.


  1. From money broking to building – What pushed you to make that switch when you started Nic & Wes Builders in 2002?


While money broking provided my family and I with a comfortable life at that time, I felt like there was a piece that was missing. It was a job but it wasn’t a career that fulfilled me. As we began playing an active role in the homes that we resided in over the years, it became a shared passion and avenue to work together with my wife, Jude, who had a keen talent in interior decorating that needed nurturing. I initially saw this as an opportunity to spend more time with the family, or so I thought. Ultimately, it gave me the chance to control my career and future which can be uncertain as an employee in a company.


  1. Like any other venture starting out, getting customers and earning income is tough – Sometimes businesses struggle with only one project a year. How did you attract customers when you had little experience in the building and design business?


It was not money motivation but a strong belief that a simple and reliable system could be an alternative home-build solution for fellow homeowners. It took time and effort to convince clients when I started out in 2002, but I approached it from the eyes of a homeowner which was where I initially came from. It was important to handhold them throughout the entire process, and inform them of what they would expect. In an industry that has its fair share of uncertainties and turbulence, we were able to provide them with reliability and trustworthiness which is ultimately something that we all look for in a service provider. As we went through our projects, we received testimonials from clients on their positive experiences and that helped us build trust in the industry.



  1. Contractors and builders have been in the news for endless complaints and unhappiness against them. How do you avoid getting stuck with a rogue contractor and losing thousands of dollars on shoddy work?


Being on the homeowner’s side of the coin years ago, we picked up hands-on experience with our own homes and were able to understand the weak links. So, when we began Nic & Wes Builders, we decided to take on the role of being our own, as well as other people’s, builders. With about 70% of the work coming from us, we are able to have better control over the projects.


The home-build journey is an intricate process with so many moving parts and we are very fortunate to have a loyal and talented pool of like-minded individuals as part of our internal team, as well as discover good groups of suppliers, craftsmen, and professionals whom we have formed long-standing strategic partnerships with. A successful home-build is not just about one party but a collaborative effort working hand-in-hand with the owner.

  1. What type of design aesthetic do Singaporeans like for their homes these past couple of years? Tell us something about “The Chilli Crab” project.

Generally, many gravitate towards ‘Minimalist Contemporary’, but there is also a growing niche group who requests for more Singapore-themed, colonial-inspired homes and / or Peranakan-inspired fusion homes mixed with a nostalgic essence of present-day living.

The Chilli Crab project – Like most of the projects that we embark on, it begins with a homeowner’s wish list. We appreciated that the homeowner wanted a home that he was proud of and that gave us the chance to build him something that pushed our creativity. This home draws inspiration from the iconic local dish, the Chilli Crab, channelled in the form of its curved shaped roof that resembles the claw.

  1. Focus on urban planning and building today is about sustainability and the environment. How does your company support these initiatives?

Some years back, we embarked on a project that was built with steel structure and solid drywall construction. The methodology was quite different from our conventional home-build process and we learned a lot from that project.

Even with our current building practices, we incorporate a lot of nature into our projects including cross-wind distribution and maximisation of natural light and air ventilation.

Additionally, in recent years, as solar has become more affordable for the private residential sector, we also encourage our clients to install solar as an alternative energy form in their homes.

There are still so many things that can be adopted into residential homes which I would like to explore. This includes better home-building methodologies and design, as well as the use of sustainable materials.

  1. How do you, Brian, and Jude relax after a hard day at work? What Singapore food do you both enjoy?

There is nothing we enjoy more than unwinding in the comforts of our home. Bali is a holiday destination spot that we both love and we wanted that laid-back tropical villa feel in our home. We have been fortunate to create a sanctuary within the walls of our home, and lifestyle living is what makes us yearn to return home every day and spend quality time with the family and our two dogs.

The beauty of Singapore food is variety. Whatever we are craving for is either a walk, a drive, or a delivery away so we are spoilt for choice. 

Ikan Garam Assam

"But if we had to narrow it down, Eurasian and Peranakan food would definitely be some of our favourites as it draws from the nostalgic flavours that we grew up with"- on the family's favourite Singapore foods.

Photographs courtesy of Nic & Wes Builders. Food photo by Godmama Restaurant

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