Designs On Asia: Living Zen In Shizukokoro, A Ryokan-Style Apartment In Singapore

More than a sleeping spot for travellers, ryokans are rooted in the philosophy of Zen – a space where peace breathes and the mind is free of worldly chaos. In one build-to-order apartment in the west of Singapore, this sublime serenity becomes home for a young couple with a love of Japanese aesthetics. Designed by local firm Goy Architects, Shizukokoro – meaning ‘calm mind’ – borrows from the best of ryokan-style balance and simplicity.

Natural materials take center stage in this rustic retreat – stone, fine-sanded timber, pale white oak. This consistent palette calms the eye, while inviting reflections on nature and time. “The grains of timber and stone not only remind us of the beauty nature has given us,” principal architect Goy Zhenru explains, “they also display the accumulation of time and natural history.”

Indeed, the 110 sqm flat is laid out to inspire moments of contemplation – points at which you might pause, smile, and savour the view. In traditional ryokan spaces, Zhenru shares, “beautiful vistas are sprinkled along the spatial journey. We wanted to curate the journey through this apartment in the same way, with vistas and pockets of spatial delight.”

This involves a strategic obscuring of how spaces unfold, allowing guests to come across a framed ‘landscape’ all at once. Stepping into the apartment, a genkan-style entryway gives way to an airy, intimately framed living room. A raised timber platform, complemented by a lowered ceiling, evokes the cosy proportions of a ryokan. From the woven hemp rug beneath the low timber table to the ceramics nestled in a display case, each detail is a subtle tribute to traditional elegance. A single rattan lamp hangs delicately before shoji-inspired windows.

Lighting, Zhenru tells us, was key to curating this serene space. The shoji-style windows are screened with frosted glass, filling the living room with a soft, ambient glow. Besides natural light, the interior lighting is kept low and restful. Only functional planes – the breakfast counter bar, the dining area, the kitchen worktop – are illuminated.

“This variation of brightness,” Zhenru explains, “mimics an outdoor natural environment. It makes the space ‘alive’ rather than still.” The frosted windows throughout the house, moreover, help to screen out the visual ‘noise’ of the city landscape – you could easily forget that you were still in urban Singapore.

This minimalist aesthetic flows throughout the house, turning its inner recesses into a restful sanctum. The master bedroom, in particular, is grounded in a smooth, continuous geometry. Most of its furnishings – the work desk, the bedside table, the austere bed frame, and lamps – are integrated in one simple unit, offering a pleasingly unbroken line to the eye.

No wellness escape to Japan is complete without an onsen experience, and that doesn’t go amiss in this home – the shower aspect, at least. Upon request from the owners, Zhenru and his team added a couple of charming touches in the bathroom – two shower holders along with a low stool, allowing them to sit and wash themselves onsen-style. Talk about a trip to zen after a long day.

This residential apartment is located at Bukit Batok West Ave 6, Singapore. Check out more of Goy Architects’ projects here

All images courtesy of Fabian Ong.

Jolene Hee


Jolene has a major sweet tooth and would happily eat pastries for all meals. When she’s not dreaming of cheesecake, she can be found in the dance studio, working on craft projects, or curled up with a good book.