Heritage Stories III: Homecoming - A transformation

Homecoming is a single word, and we use it to describe a single event. But true homecoming requires more time. It seems to be a process rather than a moment. Perhaps we come home the way the earth comes home to the sun. It could be that homecoming is always a return and our understanding of home deepens with each encounter.
— Christie Purifoy

Throughout the Heritage Stories Series, we’ve explored Singapore’s iconic heritage hotspots, delved into the deeper meanings of “home”. Now for the finale, we’re wrapping it up with the most glorious experience we encounter at the end of every day: coming home.

There's nothing better than that.

The inspiration for this installation came to us one evening, as we were packing up to leave our studio in Joo Chiat : a sensory of sights and sounds, we viewed Joo Chiat, our home, in a different light. We yearned to learn the stories our neighbours hold dear, the inspirations behind their beautiful spaces and the identities that mould the heart of this vibrant place.

In a conservation shophouse district in the secondary settlement areas of Joo Chiat and Katong, we came across an inspiring abode that used to be The Lucky Bookstore, a retail space with history that dated back to the 1920s.

Before restoration: a reminder of what the shophouse used to be after Lucky Bookstore closed.

Before restoration: a reminder of what the shophouse used to be after Lucky Bookstore closed.


Now, nearly a century later, the building is home to a couple who had been working overseas, and have decided to return to the very neighbourhood they’d grown up in. The couple actually patronised Lucky Bookstore in their youth, and they bought the space with fond memories of the store. It hardly looked like a home back then - but then, the magic began.


The couple chose to work with Chang Architects to realise their vision. We spoke with Yong Ter, Founder of Chang Architects, on the process of renovating a building at a conservation district, and from turning a retail space, into a home.

What was the main reason for the owners to have this particular shophouse restored?

Yong Ter: They grew up in Joo Chiat, and they even went to Lucky Bookstore; the couple has particularly strong sentiments and fondness for this place, and for this neighbourhood.

What are your thoughts with regards to conservation of such heritage structures?

Yong Ter: As we modernise and progress in the name of development, there is an importance in understanding our roots and our evolution, in terms of space, time, and values. 


Only if we are able to understand our past, are we able to chart a future that is relevant.

Juxtaposition of old and new: (left) the front facade refreshed with a coat of paint; (right) the contemporary rear view of the same shophouse. 

Choo Yilin Heritage Stories: Lucky Bookstore in Joo Chiat revamped into a contemporary home

Interior photos of the dining area, with the original bricks of the shophouse structure.


The highlight of this project is how the old and the new are able to relate to each other so harmoniously.

All photographs of before-and-after shophouse restoration:  Chang Architects

All photographs of before-and-after shophouse restoration: Chang Architects


And it is quite the magical mix, this harmonic divergence of design styles. The successful combination of history and modernity is a means of keeping heritage alive across generations. It is perhaps why Shophouses remain such important icons to Singapore - they’ve housed our ancestors, they’ve overcome our nation’s struggles, and they’ve seen new generations arise.


Our brand was also born in Joo Chiat and from this very neighbourhood we’ve grown and expanded to a flagship in Mandarin Gallery. But we too, wanted a strong reminder of who we are and where we began - we wanted a tangible metaphor of that unadulterated comfort of returning to a place you know so well.

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Shophouse Jade II

Our latest collection, The Shophouse Jade II Collection emerged from a transformative process of bold design, unique jewellery cuts and sleek metalwork. Inspired by the the long, angular silhouettes of Shophouse timber windows and doors, the Collection comes in a soft palette of pastels combined with strong lines for an edgier, contemporary appeal.

Choo Yilin Shophouse Jade Collection
Choo Yilin Shophouse Jade II Bangles
Choo Yilin Shophouse Jade Bangle (Heritage inspired jewellery for your wedding and special moments)
Choo Yilin Shophouse Jade Trinity Ring

We invite you to experience what home feels like  with Choo Yilin. View the Shophouse Collection online or in store at our Choo Yilin Mandarin Gallery Flagship Boutique. Unwind and discover your own wearable and special memento of homecoming.