Blog : skylight

The Hiên House: A Wood and Concrete Home Full of Balcony and Terrace Ideas

The Hiên House: A Wood and Concrete Home Full of Balcony and Terrace Ideas

/ Da Nang, Vietnam /

/ Story: Kanamon Najaroen / English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: Quang Dam /

This Tropical style house is in Da Nang, a coastal city in central Vietnam famous for its gleaming sand beaches, Buddhist shrines and the Marble Mountains. The beautiful Han River runs through it. The home built of wood and concrete goes by the name of “The Hiên House” for its lively green façades, Hiên being Vietnamese for the semi-outdoor rooms along the outside of the building.

THE HIÊN HOUSE concrete home

The house’s external envelope is simple yet contemporary in style enhanced by verdant balconies and terraces symbolic of homes in the Tropics. Plus, there’s a unique Vietnamese flair to it. As the architects intended, it’s a layout that speaks volumes for a lifestyle that seeks reconnections with nature.

The concept is manifested in the way the ordinary balconies and terraces transform into the proverbial “breathing space” for nature to recover from disruptions. That said, it makes perfect sense to live more sustainably in this day and age.

THE HIÊN HOUSE concrete home

Wood and Concrete House

Situated away from a densely populated urban area, the wood and concrete house occupies the full extent of a long and narrow lot sandwiched between two roads. It’s home to three generations of a family highly skilled in traditional carpentry living in one household.

There are four stories of living spaces, excluding a rooftop deck. By design, the floor plans cater to the needs of different generations and hence vary in size and appearance from one level to the next. To celebrate the family’s distinguished career in carpentry, the architects made woodworking front-and-center concerns in house design and interior decoration.

During construction, the homeowners were also on hand to provide technical expertise at various stages in the process, especially where traditional Vietnamese woodworking skill was needed.

THE HIÊN HOUSE concrete home
The light and airy front entrance is visible from the driveway covered in stone pavers.

To help protect the environment, the design team at WINHOUSE Architecture, a design atelier headquartered in Da Nang, chose to use reclaimed wood instead of newly cut timber from the lumberyard. The recycled building materials used in this project included parts of the staircase, such as treads and risers taken from old homes that had been torn down previously.

Other parts were adapted from old decking, post sleeves, balusters and handrails as well as wooden fascia. They were made suitable for a new use or purpose. And, importantly, they were easy to transport and repair without using specialized tools.

Timber is durable even as it ages. It’s safe to handle and capable of withstanding heat and humidity in the air over a long period of time. Old and weathered wood has a natural appearance that’s beautiful and needs no preservative chemicals to prolong its lifecycle, which translates into big savings and convenience. Using reclaimed wood in combination with local knowledge and modern techniques add a new dimension to construction technology.

THE HIÊN HOUSE concrete home

Balconies and Terraces for Free Air Circulation

What sets the four-story house apart from the rest is its surprising room ideas and lively green balconies that fill up the entire front façade. They are integral to a design that brings natural light and fresh outdoor air into the home. At the same time, they help dissipate heat from the building keeping the interior cool during the daytime.

Elements of design common for Southeast Asian architecture, the roofed open-air platforms along the outside of the building, be it the balcony or the terrace, perform many useful functions. Among other things, they expand the living areas, protect against the elements, and provide space for sitting rooms and passages for walking along.

First Floor Plan / Courtesy of WINHOUSE Architecture
Second Floor Plan / Courtesy of WINHOUSE Architecture
Third Floor Plan / Courtesy of WINHOUSE Architecture
In cross section, a side elevation drawing shows space planning decorated with plants working in tandem with wall openings to admit natural light and fresh outdoor air into the home. / Courtesy of WINHOUSE Architecture
Isometric visuals show reclaimed building materials being adapted to suit new purposes on all four levels of the new home. The message is clear: save the Earth and cut costs. / Courtesy of WINHOUSE Architecture

As is often the case with most houses, the elements of design such as balconies and terraces are built on the outside of the house. But in this particular case, the architects think it wise to incorporate them in the interior as well, sort of like going in the reverse direction. First they put in an inner courtyard at the center of the ground floor plan.

Then, by disposing the rooms around the courtyard, the areas with a faint light, such as the sitting room and workspaces, suddenly become well-lit and well-ventilated. It’s a clever hack to bring the outdoors into the home. The result is a comfortable living space filled with natural light and fresh air that contributes to feelings of relaxation.

THE HIÊN HOUSE concrete home
The kitchen in the farthest room is well-lit and well-ventilated.
THE HIÊN HOUSE concrete home
Going in the reverse direction, the terrace that in most cases lies along the outside of the house is put inside overlooking a lively green inner courtyard.

THE HIÊN HOUSE concrete home

Taking as a whole, the traffic patterns and space design make the long and narrow house plan feel roomy inside. Walk in the front door and you come to a hallway that’s light and airy, thanks to a rooftop skylight illuminating the stairs connected to a foot bridge over the nearby inner courtyard. There is no need to turn on electric lights during the daytime, which translates into big savings.

THE HIÊN HOUSE concrete home
Illuminated by a rooftop skylight, the staircase and foot bridge spanning the void over the inner courtyard make traffic flow easy and convenient.

THE HIÊN HOUSE concrete home
A well-lit foot bridge crafted of reclaimed timber connects the major living spaces in the home.

Climb a flight of stairs to the second floor, and surprise! It’s divided into two separate parts, the front room and the back room linked by a foot bridge that spans the void above the inner courtyard. The same space planning applies to the third floor, except for one thing. The next staircase leading to the fourth floor is positioned further toward the back of the building. The front part holds a bedroom with a balcony decorated with lush greenery.


Cross over the foot bridge, and you come to the back room containing a workspace and sitting room. The fourth floor contains a quiet, more secluded reading room with a bright and breezy small garden for relaxation. It’s a comfortable living space and the light is more diffuse under the canopy of trees.

THE HIÊN HOUSE concrete home
Plants growing luxuriantly make the house façade green and lively.

THE HIÊN HOUSE concrete home

THE HIÊN HOUSE concrete home
Local builders skilled in traditional carpentry reinforce wood beams and pillars for increased load capacities.

In conclusion, the wood and concrete home called “The Hiên House” lives up to its name. All the elements of good judgement in design go to work turning it into an oasis of calm. Everything works out as it should, from a well-lit, well-aired inner courtyard to the plants, trees and small gardens thriving luxuriantly on the balconies and terraces. Perhaps, one word describes it all, salubrious!

Architects: WINHOUSE Architecture

Structural Engineers: Bim City

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NHA BE HOUSE: A Brick Home Infused with Memories of the Good Old Days

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Nha Be House: A Brick Home Infused with Memories of the Good Old Days

Nha Be House: A Brick Home Infused with Memories of the Good Old Days

/ Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam /

/ Story: Wuthikorn Sut / English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: Hiroyuki Oki /

Here’s a beautiful good-sized home with exposed brick walls in subdued orange. It sits peacefully nestled among lush greenery in Nha Be, a suburban district of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. By design, it’s the perfect home size for four sisters who recently decided to come home to care for their aging Mom. A nice place for their family reunion, the brick home is filled with real warmth and memories growing up together back in the day.


Connecting Home and Garden

Designed to fit a long piece of property, the rectangular house plan holds five bedrooms plus a roomy communal space that’s the heart of family life. The architect puts the face of the building closer to the road which passes in front of the house leaving just enough room for a small front yard.

Like so, it allows a huge space for the backyard garden devoted to trees and shrubs and an outdoor sitting room.


Inside, the spacious room shared by all family members lies front and center on the house plan. To bring fresh air into the home, all the rooms are connected to the outdoor spaces in front and back of the building.

The front yard holds a small garden that’s an important factor in curb appeal. The interior is comfortable thanks to double-wall construction. The perforated outer shell performs a dual function protecting the house from heat and glare and serving as privacy screens.

Overall, it’s a design that lets the earthy, woody scents of nature permeate the air. Up front, healthy green foliage transforms the communal area into a calm, pleasant place enlivened by plenty of natural light streaming in through generous openings in the walls.

Open-concept design and floating furniture ideas make the communal room feel spacious, light and airy.
An opening at the center of the house plan connects the first floor with the second, resulting in good visual and spatial continuity. The absence of risers between the treads of the staircase makes the room feel spacious and well-ventilated.

On one side of the floor plan, a flight of stairs connects to the second floor and continues to the room just below the roof that acts as a buffer against the sun and heat. The absence of vertical risers between the treads of the staircase creates visual and spatial continuity, plus good air flow in the interior.

Overhead, a shaft of sunlight streams through the rooftop skylight making the home feel bright and airy all day.

A semi-circle skylight lets sunlight shine through turning the home into a well-lighted place.

Brick the Material of Choice

The two-and-a-half-story brick home, including the room under the roof, is built almost entirely of bricks for the best indoor climate. Needless to say it’s designed for healthy living.

The first floor is a perfect example of communal space with plenty of room for a generous sitting area, dining room and kitchen. It speaks volumes for a culture of caring and sharing that’s the essence of humanity.

A patch of lush greenery in the front yard makes the sitting room feel warm and invitingly comfortable.


For practical reason, Mom’s open-concept bedroom is on the first floor. It’s protected from the sun’s harmful rays by perforated brick walls that form the outer shell. The inside is clear of anything that might be a tripping hazard.

The perforated brick wall forms the outer shell protecting Mom’s open-concept bedroom.


Meanwhile, the four sisters each have their own bedrooms on the second floor. They are equal-sized rooms connected by a balcony overlooking the communal space on the first floor. At the very top, the space under the roof becomes a devotional room for traditional veneration of the family’s ancestors. It has a quiet sitting area with a view of the surrounding landscape.

The bedrooms on the second floor are plain and simple. Windows on the interior walls bring back that peaceful easy feeling.
The top floor under the roof contains a devotional room for the veneration of family ancestors

Taken as a whole, the natural environment is pristine thanks to an irrigation canal that runs past the back of the property. Both sides of the waterway are covered in greenery growing luxuriantly in the wild. It’s easy to get why the architect puts in a backyard garden here, a clever hack that blends perfectly into the lush landscape.


The house is built strong using concrete frame and concrete floor slab construction, while the external envelop is made of bricks in assorted orange hues fired the old-fashioned way. Perforated brick facades enable interior spaces to benefit from natural daylight. Gaps between bricks in the house’s exterior walls admit light and fresh outdoor air into the home.

A material of choice, the vintage style bricks can absorb humidity from the nearby water body, which translates into interior thermal comfort all year round. Plus, they effectively filter out dust and pollution in the air.

The siting of the house in relation to others in the community. — Courtesy of Tropical Space

Apart from protecting against heat and glare, brick walls add a touch of timeless elegance to the home. Perforated facades double as privacy screens that prevent people from looking in and keep the home cool without air conditioning.

The light that shines through is more diffuse, while holes in the brick walls act as engine that drives natural ventilation. Plus, brick walls require little to no maintenance, and they look like new after many years later.

First Floor Plan — Courtesy of Tropical Space
Second Floor Plan — Courtesy of Tropical Space
Attic Floor Plan — Courtesy of Tropical Space
In cross section, a side elevation drawing shows the feel and functionality of the house plan. — Courtesy of Tropical Space

Backyard Garden Made for Relaxation

One of the house’s outstanding features is the backyard garden with an outdoor circular bench capable of seating several people. Built of bricks in subdued shades of orange, it’s the family’s favorite meeting place in the morning and evening.

Because it’s round, it creates more space for family members to come together face-to-face, talk together, walk together strengthening the bonds of sisterhood and relationships made in heaven.

An outdoor circular bench made of bricks in assorted orange hues adorns the backyard garden designed for face-to-face family gatherings in the morning and evening.


An aerial view shows the brick house in subdued shades of orange nestled among lush greenery with a tree lined irrigation canal in the backdrop, a healthy ecosystem that helps cool the environment.

Architect: Tropical Space (

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7 Skylight Design Ideas for Homes

7 Skylight Design Ideas for Homes

/ Story: Samutcha Viraporn / Photograph: Living ASEAN Press Room /

The main benefit of having a skylight is all the natural light you get from it. Nobody likes being holed up in a dark or dimly lit home, especially at night. Well thought-out skylight designs provide your home with extra ventilation and minimize heating, cooling, and lighting costs. Here are some great ideas for energy efficient skylight designs that might interest you.

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Shading your Living Corners



Enchanting Window Design Options
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House with Excellent Rooftop Design in Singapore

House with Excellent Rooftop Design in Singapore

/ Singapore /

/ Story: Ronnapa Nit / English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: Sitthisak Namkham /

In Singapore, people look for creative ways to maximize limited living space, and that includes the rooftop. In doing so, the design team at Formwerkz Architects recently came up with a multiple-floor interior design. They succeeded in creating a special rooftop space for the homeowner. From the outside, the place looks similar to other two-story houses in the neighborhood. Thoughtfully designed, the rooftop deck blends harmoniously with the context that forms the setting of the location.

The rooftop deck is a vista point to capture amazing panoramic views.

Designing the house, they started out on a living room, a dining room, a kitchen, and moved on to the upper floor, where a sitting room, a multi-purpose area, and a rooftop deck are located.

All areas are easy to access and connected. The interior space is lit by outside light shining through fixed windows at the top edge and sidewalls.

Natural is more than enough for a living. No electric light is needed during the day, electricity costs are saved, and the temperature is also lowered.

[left] The pantry is open and connects with the dining room, making the area neat and uncluttered. The scarlet wall contrasts with modern furniture. [right] U-shaped streamlined furniture is built against the wall to maximize the space.
Earth-tone color adds a touch of warmth to the living space on the second floor.

The interior is a combination of simple modern architecture and graphic design creation.

Art Deco style meets modern materials, such as mosaic tiles, terrazzo walls, glass panels on wood, and metal frames.

[left] A work corner in the son’s bedroom. Wooden louver windows and glass panels are used to aid air circulation. [right] The front facade is bedecked with a vertical garden that serves as the natural sunscreens for the master bedroom.
Skylights are installed to let the sunlight reaches the lower floors.
[left] A transparent bathroom painted in white can be seen from the stairway leading to the top deck. Designed to be airy and well-ventilated. [right] The bathroom in white comes with a wall-mounted countertop. A round mirror creates special effects with pinkish lights that make the countertop appears lightweight.
The rooftop deck is equipped with a ramp and a stairway.

The most eye-catching feature is the rooftop deck area. The roof is extended harmoniously from the penthouse roof, like a continuing section from the indoor space.

The alfresco area is a perfect place to relax and unwind on a lazy afternoon or to host an outdoor party.

From the outside, the place is similar to other two-storey houses, its rooftop deck design humbly blends together with the neighborhood.

It is a place built to live in harmony with others.

[left] View From The Rooftop. [right] A skylight on the rooftop deck allows plenty of sunshine to reach all the way to the lower floor.
The four-story house is the height as two-story homes in the area.

Owner: Dr Kelvin Lee

Architect: Formwerkz Architects (

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