Singapore Shophouses, Peranakan Pattern and European Tiles.

March 11, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

I love Shophouses and I've got a bit obsessed with looking for new patterns & designs!

The style of decoration is known as Peranakan pattern, a Chinese, Malay, European melting pot of imagery. 
These three second floor windows (below) are from Shophouses in Geylang and Little India.

brightly coloured wooden shophouse window frames, fretwork and Peranakan tiles.Singapore Shophouse windows

The wooden fretwork above the windows would probably have let out warm air from the upper floor rooms. 

Shophouse, Gelyang.1920's Shophouse in Geylang, Singapore. Green painted facade, with white plaster work and Peranakan tiles.

This Shophouse was being gutted ready for renovation. Shophouses in good condition command a premium in the real estate market! You can see an old fridge was about to be moved out and dumped. I chatted to the son about his father (who owned and lived in the house) he let me have a look inside. Shophouses are much bigger inside that you'd think!! The upper floors would have been used to store the goods to be sold.

Falling into dereliction, a crumbling, but still occupied Shophouse near Nicoll Highway mrt, Singapore.Shophouse.That's fallen on hard times!

Repairs and renovations are very expensive, leading to many Shophouses becoming derelict. When I first saw the house above it did have an intact window from on the out wall, now it's just a brick space and plaster is crumbling off the front top of the house.

Original bamboo roll down blinds on a 1920's Shophouse in Little India.Bamboo blinds.

The bamboo and wooden roll down blinds and become a rare sight (above). Exposure to rain, sun, wind eventually damages the blinds beyond repair. The Shophouse above is near Haji Lane.

Window designs, Shophouses in Singapore. Wooden frames, fretwork and Peranakan tiles.Shophouses.Window designs.

More window designs showing the variety of colours, tiles, glass, plaster and wood work that went into creating these beautiful buildings! These photographs were taken in Little India and Geylang.

Round plaster work and ornate window frames in the 1920's Shophouse style. Fruits and flowers decorate the tops of the window frames.Shophouse window, Chinatown

Not round windows, but the carved wood frames and plaster surround gives the illusion of large oval windows. 

The earliest shop houses in Singapore date back to 1840, with several style changes from the simple residential-come-shop, house; to the post war, pared down design that has a few understated functional decorations. 

1940's pre cast concrete Shophouse in China Town. An example of the more austere post war design. The 'Dried Goods Guild'.1940's ShophouseDried Goods Guild.

You can see the development of Shophouse design in this 1940's Shophouse, 'The Dried Goods Guild' in China Town.

Below is another example of the use of precast concrete; Spiral staircases, that are in themselves a Singapore icon! I discovered (while doing some research about the canalisation of Singapore) that these staircases were built so that the night soil collectors could go out their business without having to come to the front of houses.

Precast concrete spiral staircase in Singapore. An icon of Singapore's heritage architecture.Spiral staircases. Geylang.
Arguably, the most photogenic shop houses were those built between 1900-1940. With designs & ornamentation that reflected an increase in wealth & exposure to European fashions & taste.

Four Shophouses in Joo Chiat, Geylang and a classic VW Beetle in the driveway. A lucky photography moment!!Shophouses.Geylang and Joo Chiat.

Towards the end of the 20th Century, Shophouse designs became simpler. Throughout the Deco and post war periods Shophouses began to lose the European decorative features and became quintessentially Singaporean in design. 

Contrasting examples of older more ornate Shophouse fronts and the more contemporary, pared down design of the post 1940's design. Joo Chiat.Changing Shophouse designs.Joo Chiat. Below: The Aisan Arowana fish...if seen, keep your fingers clear of its mouth!!
One of my favourite sets of tiles, on the outside garden wall of a Shophouse in Geylang.

Tiled frieze depicting the mighty Arowana fish, on a garden wall in Geylang.Shophouse tiles.Asian Arowana fish.

All the photographs are my own. Information about Shophouses came from talking to Singaporeans and anyone who was interested to talk to me when I was taking photographs. Information about soil collection in Singapore came from Wikipedia and is a really interesting piece of Singapore social history!

Thank you very much for reading my blog and supporting what I love to do!!

Ruth 😊

Ruth is an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society and has a Diploma in Professional Photography awarded by the Photography Institute. 

Another Shophouse related blog: Penang, Georgetown.

Collage of window designs, Shophouses in Joo Chiat, Geylang, Little India and China Town. Wooden frames, fretwork and Peranakan tiles.Amazing Shophouses!!Joo Chiat, Geylang, Little India and China Town.


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